It started in Iowa; will it end there?

The Des Moines Register has endorsed Mitt Romney for president. This is the first time that paper has endorsed the Republican presidential candidate in the general election since 1972.

The fact of the endorsement, coming as it does in an important battleground state, is more important than the reasons for it. Nonetheless I suspect that the portion of the Register’s reasoning set forth below reflects the views of a great many independent voters this year:

American voters are deeply divided about this race. The Register’s editorial board, as it should, had a vigorous debate over this endorsement. Our discussion repeatedly circled back to the nation’s single most important challenge: pulling the economy out of the doldrums, getting more Americans back in the workforce in meaningful jobs with promising futures, and getting the federal government on a track to balance the budget in a bipartisan manner that the country demands.

Which candidate could forge the compromises in Congress to achieve these goals? When the question is framed in those terms, Mitt Romney emerges the stronger candidate.

The former governor and business executive has a strong record of achievement in both the private and the public sectors. He was an accomplished governor in a liberal state. He founded and ran a successful business that turned around failing companies. He successfully managed the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Romney has made rebuilding the economy his No. 1 campaign priority — and rightly so.

The nation has struggled to recover from recession for the past 40 months. Still, the economy is growing at an unacceptably anemic rate of around 2 percent a year and could slip back into recession depending on what happens in the European Union and China.

The workforce is still 4.5 million jobs short of the nearly 9 million that were lost in the recession. Longer term, looming deficits driven by Social Security and Medicare pose the single greatest threats to the nation’s economic security.

The president’s best efforts to resuscitate the stumbling economy have fallen short. Nothing indicates it would change with a second term in the White House.

Indeed.

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