McCain, Clinton Win Big Endorsement in Iowa

The Presidential hopefuls from both parties have been spending a lot of time and a great deal of money campaigning in Iowa. And with the Iowa caucuses now less than three weeks away, the state's biggest newspaper has endorsed John McCain on the Republican side and Hillary Clinton for the Democrats.

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

With less than three weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, the news from the presidential campaigns today is about endorsements from The Des Moines Register. The state's biggest newspaper backed Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and from the Republican field, John McCain.

NPR's Don Gonyea has been crisscrossing the state today and joins me now from Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Don, Senator Clinton's camp must have been pleased with The Des Moines Register endorsement. I mean, she's in a pretty tight three-way race there.

DON GONYEA: Right. And she's actually behind Senator Barack Obama even though it is essentially a dead heat. This gives a campaign that has been struggling a bit across Iowa a boost. And speaking at a high school in Council Bluffs, she - Senator Clinton talked about how the endorsements said, while this is a strong field of Democrats, she is the one who was tested. She is the one who has the experience to face the daunting challenges that the next president will face.

Here's the senator.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): Who is ready to be president? And who is ready, willing and able on day one to do the job that we need done.

SEABROOK: Don, did you hear any response from Barack Obama or his campaign? I mean, he's actually ahead of Clinton at least a little bit in some of those Iowa polls.

GONYEA: They make the same argument that they've been making since day one that his experience as a community organizer, as a state legislator, is all very, very relevant. The other thing, too, is that they found a lot they like in this endorsement even though, ultimately, The Des Moines Register endorses Hillary Clinton. There is plenty of praise for Barack Obama in this endorsement. So they're sending up the quotes that they like and e-mails to reporters.

SEABROOK: Hmm. What's the significance of The Des Moines Register endorsing John McCain? I mean, he's polling in the single digits in Iowa. Do Iowa Republicans really look to The Des Moines Register for guidance?

GONYEA: He's also in something like fifth place. And he is a guy who has stood up. I've seen him on stages in Iowa and says something they do not like to hear. And one of the key issues he opposes ethanol subsidy, ethanol, of course, fuel that comes from corn. And he says it shouldn't be subsidized by the federal government. It seems that this endorsement is not so much something that's really going to help John McCain here, at least not in Iowa. But that's something that - it's almost like it's a slap ad at Mitt Romney who has really worked hard here to portray himself as the candidate who can win in November.

And also, the endorsement speaks to Mike Huckabee who is now leading in Iowa by a sizeable amount. But it seems to be saying, too, that he is perhaps not as serious enough of a candidate.

SEABROOK: Speaking of this, or other Republicans, Mitt Romney has an ad out now that's taking aim squarely at Mike Huckabee who's overtaken Romney, and is now leading in Iowa. Let's listen to that.

(Soundbite of Mitt Romney's political ad)

Unidentified Man: Two former governors, two good family men, both pro-life, both support a constitutional amendment protecting traditional marriage. The difference: Mitt Romney stood up and vetoed in-state tuition for illegal aliens, opposed driver's licenses for illegals. Mike Huckabee? Supported in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrants.

SEABROOK: Hmm. Pretty tough talk there, Don. Do you thinkā€¦

GONYEA: Indeed. The gloves are really off there. And you can see it in this ad. A few weeks back, everybody was ignoring Mike Huckabee. He was just one of those also runs down in the pack. So Mitt Romney, who always expected to do really well here, has worked here hard and has made plenty of visits here, really, really does need to go after Huckabee in a very aggressive way. We're seeing in that ad and we're seeing it in speeches as well.

SEABROOK: Hmm. The plot twists and turns. NPR's Don Gonyea in Council Bluffs, Iowa, thanks very much.

GONYEA: To be continued. Thanks.

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