Evan Vucci, Associated Press
Mitt Romney.

It's been 40 years since the Des Moines Register has endorsed a Republican, so this one makes news. The last time was preceding Nixon's re-election against George McGovern.

Iowa remains a key state, with razor thin margins in the polls. So the Register's endorsement of Romney on Saturday made noise.

While the impact of newspaper endorsements is often doubted, this one may be different.

Hints of the endorsement might have been found in the cover of Friday's paper, which seemed to reflect tension with the Obama White House over agreeing to release the interview transcript.

On Oct. 23, Register editor Rick Green wrote a very strong open letter to the White House, urging it to make the transcript of the president's interview with the Register's editorial board public.

Green appealed to the "transparency all voters should demand from the candidates. They want more than just repetitive sound bites on the campaign trail or rehearsed one-liners from debate stages."

The next morning, the White House relented, but damage had been done. In a week where the president went out of his way to do a softball interview on MTV, his continuing avoidance of direct encounters with serious reporters clealy had rankled the Des Moines Register.

"This isn't the first time the Obama campaign has run afoul of the press this election cycle," reported the Huffington Post. "In August, the president took heat when members of the White House press corps — including ABC News' Jake Tapper and NBC News' Andrea Mitchell — complained that he had avoided formal answers to reporters' questions for more than two months.

On Thursday, the paper's cover raised eyebrows around the country as it featured a smiling Romney and a weary, looking-over-his-shoulder Obama in dueling photos, with headlines that linked Romney to "optimism" and Obama to "criticism."

So it was not altogether surprising, given the rough week that Obama had with the Register, when it announced its endorsement of Romney Saturday evening.

In a lengthy commentary focused on Romney's managerial chops, his economic vision, and his ability to reach across the aisle, the paper concluded, "Voters should give Mitt Romney a chance to correct the nation’s fiscal course and to implode the partisan gridlock that has shackled Washington and the rest of America — with the understanding that he would face the same assessment in four years if he does not succeed."

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.