The Des Moines Register is Iowa’s largest and most influential newspaper, so there was a fair amount interest in which Republican presidential candidate the paper’s editorial board would endorse. This morning, the DMR announced its choice:

Sobriety, wisdom and judgment.

Those are qualities Mitt Romney said he looks for in a leader. Those are qualities Romney himself has demonstrated in his career in business, public service and government. Those qualities help the former Massachusetts governor stand out as the most qualified Republican candidate competing in the Iowa caucuses.

After having watched Romney for quite a while, I haven’t the foggiest idea why objective observers would consider him a sober and wise man of good judgment. But the paper’s editorial board didn’t ask me.

In any case, the obvious next question is whether the endorsement is likely to make a difference. For Romney, who pretends to be ignoring Iowa while quietly making an aggressive effort to win the caucuses, it certainly doesn’t hurt. But does the candidate who picks up the coveted DMR endorsement generally do well in the caucuses? Looking back at the Register‘s recent track record just doesn’t tell us a whole lot.

1988: The paper backed Bob Dole, who won the caucuses fairly easily.

1996: Dole again won the DMR endorsement and narrowly won the caucuses.

2000: The Register endorsed John McCain, who came in a distant fifth in the Iowa caucuses.

2008: McCain again won the paper’s endorsement and came in a distant fourth.

I’d go back further, but the DMR only started making endorsements in 1988.

(In case anyone’s curious, the track record among Democrats is also mixed. In 1992, the Register endorsed Bill Bradley, who was soundly defeated in the caucuses. In 2004, it backed John Edwards, who came in second, and in 2008, the DMR supported Hillary Clinton, who finished third in Iowa.)

As for Romney, today’s endorsement editorial, noting the former governor’s habit of flip-flopping on practically everything, said, “Voters will have to decide for themselves whether such subtly nuanced statements express Romney’s true beliefs or if he’s trying to have it both ways.”

We’ll have a much better sense if Iowa Republicans agree with the paper’s conclusion two weeks from Tuesday.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.