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Key newspaper nods go to McCain, Obama, Clinton

  • Story Highlights
  • The Des Moines Register and The Boston Globe endorse John McCain in GOP race
  • On the Democratic side, the Register backs Clinton, while the Globe picks Obama
  • Both newspapers are influential for voters in Iowa and New Hampshire
  • The Iowa caucuses are January 3; New Hampshire's primary follows five days later
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From Rebecca Sinderbrand and Paul Steinhauser
CNN Washington Bureau
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(CNN) -- Two of the most influential papers for voters in Iowa and New Hampshire -- the first two states to weigh in at the polls in 2008 -- both endorsed John McCain in the Republican presidential race, but differed in their choice in the Democratic contest.

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The Des Moines Register backs Hillary Clinton, while The Boston Globe picks Barack Obama.

The Des Moines Register backed Hillary Clinton, while The Boston Globe picked Barack Obama, in excerpts of Sunday's editorials posted on their papers' Web sites Saturday night.

The Iowa caucuses are January 3, and New Hampshire's primary follows five days later.

The Globe's editorial board dismissed concerns over the Illinois senator's relative lack of Washington experience.

"It is true that all the other Democratic contenders have more conventional resumes, and have spent more time in Washington," the board wrote.

"But that exposure has tended to give them a sense of government's constraints. Obama is more open to its possibilities."

But the Register's editorial board -- which noted that Obama "demonstrates the potential to be a fine president" -- still gave the edge to the senator from New York, saying it made the nods in both parties' primaries based on competence and readiness to lead.

"When Obama speaks before a crowd, he can be more inspirational than Clinton," the board wrote. "Yet, with his relative inexperience, it's hard to feel as confident he could accomplish the daunting agenda that lies ahead."

The Iowa paper's endorsement is widely viewed as a major boost for Clinton, and a blow to the campaign of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, whose Register endorsement during the 2004 race was followed by a surprisingly strong showing in the state's Democratic caucuses.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told CNN's Mike Roselli that the campaign was "not surprised" by the Register's decision, adding "that it was a bigger surprise to get the Globe's," and noting that the Des Moines paper "said good things about us."

Obama told CNN, "I think we are doing pretty good. We split it today between the Globe and the Register."

The Clinton campaign immediately sent out a news release containing the full text of the paper's endorsement, which took Edwards to task for recent campaign trail rhetoric, writing that "We too seldom saw the 'positive, optimistic' campaign we found appealing in 2004."

"Obama, [Clinton's] chief rival, inspired our imaginations," the Register board wrote. "But it was Clinton who inspired our confidence."

Clinton spokesman Mark Daley told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux that the campaign is incredibly pleased and honored.

"But we know we have a few weeks left to go before the caucuses and a lot of work to do," Daley said, adding that after Clinton's Thursday debate performance, her Friday endorsement by Iowa's Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell and Saturday's Register nod, "we feel good about our campaign heading into the final weeks."

The three Democrats are battling for the lead in Iowa, placing within just a few points of one another in most recent state polls. Video Watch a report about who might win in Iowa »

On the Republican side, the Register's board wrote that the endorsement went to the senator from Arizona because "time after time, McCain has stuck to his beliefs in the face of opposition from other elected leaders and the public.

"The force of John McCain's moral authority could go a long way toward restoring Americans' trust in government and inspiring new generations to believe in the goodness and greatness of America," they wrote.

Meanwhile, the Globe's board passed over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, saying that while McCain's views might differ from theirs, his "honesty has served him well."

"As a lawmaker and as a candidate, he has done more than his share to transcend partisanship and promote an honest discussion of the problems facing the United States," the board wrote.

In 2004, the newspaper stuck with the native son on the ballot, giving the nod in the Democratic primary to Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who went on to win the New Hampshire primary.

The Boston Globe's endorsements are influential in neighboring New Hampshire, especially the southern part of the state, where many residents make the daily weekday commute to work in Boston.

And the endorsement weighs even greater with Democratic voters there, since the state's main newspaper -- the New Hampshire Union Leader -- has a conservative editorial board and makes only one primary endorsement, which is almost always a Republican.

McCain's Globe endorsement follows a recent nod from the New Hampshire Union Leader.

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Political pundits almost left McCain for dead this summer, after his campaign nearly ran out of cash and hemorrhaged staff, and the candidate sank in the polls. Now, the senator is in second place or tied for second in the most recent Granite State polls.

McCain won New Hampshire's Republican primary during his 2000 presidential run. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux and Mark Preston contributed to this report.

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