Asserting its position as the leading voice of the liberal Democratic establishment, the New York Times today strongly endorsed Hillary Clinton for nomination as the Presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. The Times’ support comes as Iowans prepare for Monday’s caucuses, launching the primary season. As all the potential candidates from both major parties saturate the airwaves with radio and television ads touting their visions for the country — or attacking the competition — the former New York Senator and Secretary of State is in a statistical dead heat with the Vermont Senator in Iowa polling. Candidate Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland,  is a  distant third.

On the Republican side, The Times endorsed Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, calling him “the only plausible choice for Republicans tired of the extremism and inexperience on display in this race.” Further explaining the board’s choice, the Times wrote that “Mr. Kasich is no moderate. As governor, he’s gone after public-sector unions, fought to limit abortion rights and opposed same-sex marriage. Still, as a veteran of partisan fights and bipartisan deals during nearly two decades in the House, he has been capable of compromise and believes in the ability of government to improve lives.”

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O' MalleyMaking the case for Clinton, the Times editorial acknowledged that Sanders, “a self-described Democratic Socialist, has proved to be more formidable than most people, including Mrs. Clinton, anticipated. He has brought income inequality and the lingering pain of the middle class to center stage and pushed Mrs. Clinton a bit more to the left than she might have gone on economic issues. Mr. Sanders has also surfaced important foreign policy questions, including the need for greater restraint in the use of military force…In the end, though, Mr. Sanders does not have the breadth of experience or policy ideas that Mrs. Clinton offers.”

The editorial concludes that a Clinton candidacy offers Democrats an opportunity to present “a vision for America that is radically different from the one that leading Republican candidates offer — a vision in which middle-class Americans have a real shot at prosperity, women’s rights are enhanced, undocumented immigrants are given a chance at legitimacy, international alliances are nurtured and the country is kept safe.”

Watch for the impact of the Times endorsements to be a key subject of debate on the Sunday morning Beltline programs.