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Iowa Paper Endorses Rubio, Clinton; Says Sanders Is Unrealistic

Hillary Clinton at a campaign event in Davenport, Iowa. Clinton has seen the race in Iowa tighten but is hoping for a boost from the endorsement of the state's largest newspaper.

With a little more than a week to go until the Iowa caucuses, the Des Moines Register endorsed Democratic former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in the 2016 presidential race. The Hawkeye state's largest paper tweeted its choices Saturday night.

The paper's editorial board focused on Clinton's resume in its endorsement, highlighting her experience, knowledge and skills as reasons why she is the "one outstanding candidate deserving of [Democrats'] support.

"No other candidate can match the depth or breadth of her knowledge and experience," it wrote. However, they also criticized her on several counts, including how she handled questions over her private email server.

On the Republican side, the board praised Rubio as "whip-smart," framing him as the choice for voters who want to see the GOP be "the party of opportunity and optimism." But they also seemed to imply that he was the choice, in part, because the party had drifted too far from the mainstream.

"We endorse him," the paper said, "because he represents his party's best hope."

Though the Register chose those two candidates, it still made a point of praising other candidates in the race. For example, the editorial board praised Vermont Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders as "a man of courage and principle who has the ability to rally others to his cause" — though they also pointed out that his policies are unlikely to pass Congress.

"A successful Sanders presidency would hinge on his ability to remake Washington in his own image," it wrote. "It's almost inconceivable that such a transformation would take place."

The Register likewise praised three other Republican establishment candidates — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — for their "executive experience, pragmatism and thoughtful policies."

Meanwhile, there was no mention of the two GOP candidates leading in Iowa polls by a long shot, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Both of those candidates are framing themselves as anti-establishment figures in this race.

The paper said its picks are "not predictions, but recommendations." Indeed, the Register has in recent years ended up choosing candidates who didn't go on to win. Since its first endorsement in 1988, the Register has never endorsed a Democrat who has gone on to win the caucus or become the party's nominee. On the Republican side, the paper last endorsed the caucus winner with George W. Bush in 2000 and the nomination-winner with Romney in 2012.

It's not clear how much sway the Register's endorsements hold among Iowans. But this year, Iowa's caucusgoers could very well choose a winner different from the paper's picks. Rubio is in third place in Iowa right now, firmly behind Cruz and Trump, according to RealClearPolitics' polling average. (Though third for Rubio would be a solid result for him.)

Sanders, meanwhile, is within striking distance of Clinton in recent polls.

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