Des Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren

Iowa's largest newspaper backs Warren as "the president this nation needs."
Image: Elizabeth Warren
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 19, 2020.Patrick Semansky / AP

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By Ali Vitali and Maura Barrett

DAVENPORT, Iowa — The Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest newspaper, endorsed Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren as their pick in the Democratic caucuses Saturday night, calling her the candidate who "will push an unequal America in the right direction."

The editorial says that Warren's positions and policies "are not radical. They are right. They would improve life in America, and they are generally shared by the other Democratic candidates, who bring their own strengths to this race."

"At this moment, when the very fabric of American life is at stake," the editorial concludes, "Elizabeth Warren is the president this nation needs."

Asked by NBC News at a campaign event minutes after the editorial was published, Warren said, "I just heard and I am delighted. It really means a lot to me. I’m very happy."

The paper's endorsement comes days before Iowans are set to participate in the state's presidential caucuses and amid a polling surge from the other progressive senator in the race, Vermont's Bernie Sanders. It’s Warren’s second major newspaper endorsement in as many weeks, the first coming last Sunday from The New York Times editorial board, which also co-endorsed Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Warren, along with the other three senators who are running for president, has been off the campaign trail this week to sit as a juror in President Trump’s impeachment hearings. This at a time when Warren trails several of her rivals in the state, where she hasn’t led in a poll since September.

While the tangible importance of newspaper endorsements overall can be debated, The Register’s endorsement does have a track record of spurring support. In past races, a DMR-nod has helped the chosen endorsee by three points, according to 538's Nate Silver. In a race as close of this one — with polling showing a consistent jumble of four candidates — those points could mean a great deal.

That said, the paper has a mixed record in correctly siding with Democratic caucus winners and the party’s eventual nominee since it began endorsing in 1988. While they have not endorsed in every presidential cycle since then, when they have weighed in on the Democratic side of the contest, the DMR’s endorsement has only matched the eventual nominee once: in 2016, with Hillary Clinton.

Still, in pushing for Warren as “the best leader for these times,” the paper argues that while progressive, “her ideas are not radical. They are right. And they would improve people’s lives.” Warren has run as a candidate “with a plan” but her support has ebbed and flowed in Iowa.

Just over a week out from Caucus Day, a New York Times poll shows Iowa voters are split in what they want from a nominee. While 42 percent of voters say they want a candidate who “brings politics in Washington back to normal,” 51 percent want a candidate who “promises fundamental systemic change.”