The Detroit Free Press
Thursday endorsed Mitt Romney in the Michigan Republican presidential primary, calling him “the only one who has the combination of résumé and bearing to occupy the Oval Office.”
The Free Press nod to Romney followed a similar endorsement Wednesday from the Detroit News, making the former Massachusetts governor, who trails Rick Santorum in some polls, the choice of the state’s two largest news organizations.
But the Free Press endorsement did not come without criticism, aimed primarily at what Romney’s GOP rivals have described as his “flip-flops” on a number of issues. The paper called on him to “re-embrace his long record of level-headed, steady leadership.”
“This endorsement should be a slam dunk for Mitt Romney,” the Free Press editorial began. “His record and history — his term as governor of Massachusetts, his rescue of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, even his time as a venture capitalist and management consultant — make him far more qualified to represent the Republican Party in the 2012 presidential race than the other candidates.
“But for the past 12 months, Romney has been refashioning himself as something other than what his record suggests,” the Free Press continued. “He has made gestures toward economic and social radicalism, and eschewed the common sense of cooperative governing that made him a success in Massachusetts.”
The paper, reminding voters of Romney’s background as “a native Detroiter” whose father George W. Romney was “a successful and popular” Michigan governor, also accused Romney of being “dead wrong when he opposed government bailouts for the auto industry.”
Just as disturbing, the paper said, was his “recalcitrant and, at times, revisionist defense of his position in the face of overwhelming evidence that the bailouts he opposed were necessary.”
Still, the paper said Romney was hands above his rivals in achievements and stature and sought to excuse some of his positions as “essentially” having to play down to the party’s conservative core.
“No doubt, much of Romney’s shifting owes to the nature of the GOP primary, which has been dominated by the party’s furthest right elements. . . . He is chest-beating and straining to prove his ideological bona fides (recently, he called himself “severely” conservative), rather than focusing on the nuanced, sophisticated strength of his record,” the Free Press said.
“That’s a mistake he will need to correct if he becomes the GOP nominee and hopes to even compete with President Barack Obama in the fall,” the paper continued. “But Romney, unlike the zealous Rick Santorum, the impulsive Newt Gingrich and the backward-thinking Ron Paul, is preferable to the rest of the field.”
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