(CNN) -– Mitt Romney scored the closely watched endorsement of the Sioux City Journal in Iowa on Saturday, further boosting his campaign in the state that holds the nation’s first nominating contest on January 3.
In the endorsement, the Journal writes that Romney “stands out as the candidate who is best prepared through experience, skills and qualities to lead the country.”
The newspaper’s editorial cites the skills Romney developed as both a businessman and as governor of Massachusetts, saying “Romney understands economics and fiscal principles in a real-world way. In other words, he's walked the walk. In this year's Republican field, he is the candidate most capable of not only articulating a blueprint for a stronger economy and the restoration of fiscal sanity in Washington, but of assembling a high-caliber team of advisors, forging consensus within Congress and rallying the nation in support of it.”
The board also noted Romney’s ability to win a general election campaign against President Barack Obama, writing “If as a Republican your No. 1 priority is the defeat of Obama, consider this: Romney is the candidate within this field who is best-positioned to win general election votes from not simply Republican voters, but from the all-important Independents in the middle, as well as from moderate Democrats on the left.”
Romney has begun in recent weeks to amplify his campaign in Iowa, including opening his state headquarters in Des Moines and sending direct-mail advertisements to voters in the state.
On Thursday, Romney went up with his first television advertisement in Iowa, highlighting his business world experience. His campaign spokeswoman said then that Romney has always planned to compete in the state.
"In the closing weeks before the caucuses, we will continue to make the case that Mitt Romney is the best candidate to beat Barack Obama. Mitt Romney has always said that he would campaign and compete in Iowa. He looks forward to participating in the two upcoming Iowa debates," campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
An American Research Group poll taken in mid-November put Newt Gingrich at the top of the 2012 GOP pack in Iowa, with 27% of Republican respondents saying they backed the former House Speaker.
Romney followed in second with 20%, Ron Paul with 16%, and the remaining candidates polling in the single digits.
The Sioux City Journal – which serves a rural section of western Iowa - backed Romney four years ago ahead of the 2008 Iowa caucus, saying at the time Romney “combines an outsider's new face with a proven track record of success as an executive in both the private and public sectors.”