U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received potential boosts to their presidential bids in Iowa by winning the endorsements of the Des Moines Register, the dominant newspaper in the state where the Feb. 1 caucuses will start the 2016 nomination voting.

“Rubio has the potential to chart a new direction for the party, and perhaps the nation, with his message of restoring the American dream,” Iowa's largest newspaper said in an endorsement of the Florida Republican published on its website Saturday evening. “We endorse him because he represents his party’s best hope.”

In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Rubio called the newspaper’s backing an “affirmation” that he’s running a “serious campaign about solving the problems before this country.”

“We feel very positive about the momentum that’s gaining as we get closer to the caucuses,” Rubio said. Recent polls have shown Rubio in third place in Iowa among likely Republican caucus-goers, according to an average by Real Clear Politics. 

On the Democratic side, the newspaper's editorial said this of Clinton: “No other candidate can match the depth or breadth of her knowledge and experience.” Hearing about the endorsement on a campaign stop in Davenport, Iowa, Clinton said: “I'm very pleased.”

The editorial made note of Clinton’s top rival, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and the emotional appeal he’s generated in the party: “In the final analysis, Iowa Democrats will have to choose between the lofty idealism of Bernie Sanders and the down-to-earth pragmatism of Hillary Clinton. For some, this will be a choice of whether to vote with their hearts or their heads.”

Register endorsements are often used by candidates in radio and television ads during the final week of the Iowa campaign. They tend to carry more weight on the Democratic side because of the Register's reputation for an often liberal-leaning editorial board.

Hillary Clinton meets with Des Moines Register editorial board on Sept. 22, 2015.
Hillary Clinton meets with Des Moines Register editorial board on Sept. 22, 2015.
Photographer: John McCormick/Bloomberg Politics

The board met with all the major Democratic and Republican candidates, with the exception of billionaire Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. While the two Republicans whom polls show vying for the lead in the state declined invitations for interviews, the Register said that didn't disqualify them from consideration.

In 2012, the Register endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who narrowly lost the Iowa caucuses to former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Romney went on to win the Republican nomination, before losing to President Barack Obama.

 Four years earlier, it backed Clinton over Obama, then the junior senator from Illinois. Obama won the caucuses in 2008, a victory that launched him on the road to the White House.

On the Republican side in 2008, the newspaper's editorial board backed Senator John McCain of Arizona, who went on to win the Republican nomination after finishing fourth in the caucuses.

(Contributing: Jennifer Epstein and Kathleen Miller)

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