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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Iowa Newspaper Scolds White House for Off-the-Record Caveat

President Obama and his campaign have been diligently working to win the endorsements from newspapers in battleground states, which is why he placed a call to The Des Moines Register on Tuesday.

While Mr. Obama will not learn until this weekend whether he will receive a second-term endorsement from the editorial page of Iowa's largest newspaper, he was handed an outside-the-Beltway lesson when an off-the-record conversation requested by the White House spilled into public view.

The editor of the newspaper, Rick Green, shared an account of the presidential telephone call with his readers in a blog post on Tuesday evening. He said that Mr. Obama “made a genuine and passionate case” for why he should be elected to a second term.

“Unfortunately, what we discussed was off-the-record,” Mr. Green wrote. “It was a condition, we were told, set by the White House.”

The White House invited Mr. Green and the newspaper's publisher, Laura Hollingswor th, to join a “personal call” with the president. Mr. Green said he was told that the “specifics of the conversation could not be shared.”

They accepted the call, but shared their concern with readers about what they characterized as a lack of transparency. But they said it “won't play a factor” in the editorial board's endorsement decision.

“That would be petty and ridiculous,” Mr. Green wrote. “We take far too seriously what's at stake this election and what our endorsement should say.”

The newspaper endorsed Mr. Obama in the 2008 general election, after backing Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Iowa caucuses following a prolonged period of courtship.

Mitt Romney met with members of the newspaper's editorial page earlier this month during a visit to Iowa. The interview drew attention when Mr. Romney said that he had no plan to pursue specific legislation on abortion.