Is The Des Moines Register’s Endorsement the Kiss of Death in 2016?

FBN Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio

Over the weekend,  Iowa-based newspaper The Des Moines Register officially endorsed Republican candidate Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for their parties' presidential nominations.

The newspaper said, "We hope Marco Rubio and his party take a different path, one that can lead to the opportunity and optimism he so eloquently articulates." The endorsement also called Hillary Clinton a "thoughtful, hardworking public servant who has earned the respect of leaders at home and abroad. She stands ready to take on the most demanding job in the world."

With only a week left before voters head to the polls for the first-in-the-nation caucus, will the editorial support actually help a candidate’s race?

“Newspaper endorsements are never going to affect the hard core supporters of any candidate, they don’t really care about them because they’ve already decided. Endorsements work at the margins, they get you to pay attention to somebody that you haven’t paid attention to before especially when there are this many candidates,” said Arthur Sanders, political science professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Paying attention to the other Republican contenders besides the top two, billionaire businessman Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, could pose a challenge. In a recent Fox News poll out Sunday, Trump has a commanding lead in Iowa with 34% of support from Republican caucus-goers. Cruz is in second place with 23% and Marco Rubio comes in third with 12%. These poll numbers show a significant shift from just two weeks ago where Cruz led the GOP field with 27%, Trump had 23% and Rubio was in third place with 15%.

Sanders says the editorial endorsement could signal a select group of voters that do not fall under the Evangelical or Tea Party caucus electorate.

“If you are a mainstream Republican and you don’t want Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, you don’t feel strongly about any of the other candidates, this endorsement might make you say maybe we should coalesce around Marco Rubio,” said Sanders.

Historically, The Des Moines Register’s endorsement hasn’t sealed the deal for winning the Iowa caucus or the party nomination for either party. In 2008, the newspaper endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton but the Iowa caucus win and eventual party nomination went to then Senator Barack Obama. On the Republican side, the newspaper endorsed Republican candidate Senator John McCain, while he won the eventual parties’ nomination, the caucus win went to Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

“The Iowa caucuses are too early in the process and the caucuses are more helpful to narrow the field then they are to ‘pick a winner’,” said Sanders. “What they are saying is here is someone you ought to vote for.”

Sanders says The Des Moines register is considered to be a liberal Democratic paper which is why the endorsement’s significance is more important to Democrats than Republicans.  He says it may not do much to move the scales for undecided voters, but it does boost the candidates’ image.

“The real risk for Hillary Clinton was they were going to choose someone else, she is not going to win any more votes because of the endorsement but would rather have the endorsement than not because that means somebody else didn’t get it,” said Sanders.

In a recent CNN/ORC poll, Bernie Sanders is in the lead with 51% support from Democratic Iowa caucus-goers compared to Hillary Clinton’s 43%.

The Des Moines Register started endorsing candidates in the 1988 election. There have been many hits and misses over the years, proof that anything can happen in an election cycle. Here is a look back at past caucus endorsements, winners and nominees:


Endorsed Republican: Bob Dole

Caucus winner:  Bob Dole

Nominee: George Bush

Endorsed Democrat: Paul Simon

Caucus winner: Richard Gephardt

Nominee: Michael Dukakis


None endorsed


Endorsed Republican: Bob Dole

Caucus winner and nominee: Bob Dole


Endorsed Republican: George W. Bush

Caucus winner and nominee: George W. Bush

Endorsed Democrat: Bill Bradley

Caucus winner and nominee: Al Gore


Endorsed Democrat: John Edwards

Caucus winner and nominee: John Kerry


Endorsed Republican: John McCain

Caucus winner: Mike Huckabee

Nominee: John McCain

Endorsed Democrat: Hillary Clinton

Caucus winner and nominee: Barack Obama


Endorsed Republican: Mitt Romney

Caucus winner: Rick Santorum

Nominee: Mitt Romney

Iowa caucus voters will cast their ballots next Monday, February 1. Fox News will host the final GOP debate before the caucus this Thursday, January 28.