PELLA (Iowa) • The Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in Iowa, announced on Saturday night that it had endorsed Senator Marco Rubio in the Republican caucus race and Mrs Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race.
With the caucuses less than two weeks away, the paper's once highly anticipated backing might be less meaningful than it previously was, in an age of reduced print circulation and the hogging of the news cycle by a candidate whose tweets reach nearly six million followers and whose rallies are covered live on TV.
That candidate, Mr Donald Trump, was never in contention for The Register's embrace. Its editorial board called last summer for him to drop out of the race after he belittled the Vietnam War record of Senator John McCain, the Republican party's 2008 nominee.
The paper's endorsement of Mr Rubio echoed that sentiment once again. "Republicans have the opportunity to define their party's future in this election. They could choose anger, pessimism and fear. Or they could take a different path," the editors wrote. Calling Mr Rubio his "party's best hope", the paper praised his bid to welcome Hispanic voters and called him "whip-smart" after meetings with editors.
Endorsing Mrs Clinton, the paper wrote that "she is not a perfect person", but noted, "the presidency is not an entry-level position" .
THE FIRST PRIMARIES
Date: Feb 1
Poll standings: Republican: Donald Trump (29%), Ted Cruz (26.4%), Marco Rubio (11.4%). Democrat: Hillary Clinton (47.9%), Bernie Sanders (41.5%)
What to look out for: The first big test for Mr Trump. Who finishes third among the Republicans will signal who the establishment favourite is. It will also show whom the Republican evangelical base supports.
Date: Feb 9
Poll standings: Republican: Trump (32%), John Kasich (13.4%), Cruz (11.4%). Democrat: Sanders (51.6%), Clinton (39.8%)
What to look out for: Mrs Clinton is likely to lose and observers will be looking at how she bounces back. On the Republican side, whoever finishes third in Iowa needs to back that up with a strong showing here.
Date: Feb 20 (Republican), Feb 27 (Democrat)
Poll standings: Republican: Trump (35%), Cruz (20.5%), Rubio (11.5%). Democrat: Clinton (64%), Sanders (25%)
What to look out for: Some Republican candidates will have dropped out. The first southern state to vote, it will be a bellwether for the southern bloc that is very important to Republicans. For Democrats, this could be where Mr Sanders' weakness with minorities is laid bare.
Jeremy Au Yong
It praised her experience and qualifications to deal with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and work with foreign leaders.
It praised Mrs Clinton's chief rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, for injecting the issue of income inequality. But it hesitated over the difficulty Mr Sanders would face in getting his revolutionary programmes through Congress.
Meanwhile, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York City, has told his aides to draw up plans for an independent campaign for the US presidency, according to a source. Mr Bloomberg has advised friends and associates that he would be willing to spend at least US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) of his own money on a campaign for the November election.
Mr Bloomberg, 73, has given himself an early March deadline for entering the race, the source said, after commissioning a poll last month to see how he would fare against front runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
No third-party candidate has ever won a US presidential election. But Mr Bloomberg, who has close Wall Street ties and liberal social views, sees an opening for his candidacy if Republicans nominate M Trump or Texas Senator Ted Cruz and the Democrats nominate Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the source said.
NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS