(CNN) - A newspaper in a battleground region of Florida cast its endorsement Wednesday morning to Mitt Romney, calling him a "steady and competent leader for these divisive and turbulent times."
Romney received the support of the Orlando Sentinel, which in 2008 endorsed Sen. John McCain and circulates in the demographically diverse central area of the state.
CNN LIVE: Tune in Thursday at 8 p.m. ET for the CNN/Republican Party of Florida Debate hosted by Wolf Blitzer and follow it on Twitter at #CNNDebate. For real-time coverage of the Florida primary, go to CNNPolitics.com or to the CNN apps or CNN mobile web site.
Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @politicalticker
The paper defended Romney from criticism related to his tenure at Bain Capital and the health reform legislation he signed when Governor of Massachusetts.
"They've blistered him for passing a health-care-reform plan as governor," the Sentinel said. "We give Romney credit for working with lawmakers in his state to solve a problem without waiting for Washington to dictate a solution, which is exactly what happened."
Romney's leadership experience differentiates him from the remaining GOP field, the paper said, leveling a harsh assessment of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"We admire his intellect, but when it comes to leadership, anger doesn't trump a diverse and successful record," it read.
The paper dismissed Texas Rep. Ron Paul's "radical anti-government agenda," and said the leadership of Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, would be distracted because he is "preoccupied with divisive social issues."
Romney's list of endorsements in Florida includes the Tampa Bay Times, the state's attorney general, and several influential Cuban-Americans.