GOP presidential candidate John McCain has won the endorsement of the Detroit Free Press, which said the Arizona senator’s consistency makes him the choice for Michigan Republicans in the primary.

“He’s a straight shooter, sometimes to his detriment in the political world, where McCain also loses points for persistently championing needed campaign reforms and criticizing pork-barrel spending that benefits special interests,” the newspaper said in an editorial published Sunday.

The newspaper noted that it endorsed McCain eight years ago. McCain won Michigan’s 2000 GOP primary and could draw blue-collar Democrats in this year’s election, since many of the Democratic candidates are not on the Michigan ballot.

“McCain is, again, the best candidate to carry the GOP banner into the fall,” the newspaper said.

The editorial also weighed the candidacy of Michigan native Mitt

Romney, saying he has “morphed into what he seems to believe is the perfect conservative Republican in pursuit of the presidential nomination.”

On Thursday, McCain won the endorsement of The Detroit News, which cited McCain’s fiscal conservatism and strong grasp of military and foreign affairs.

A poll conducted in mid-December by EPIC-MRA of Lansing for The News and television stations WXYZ in Southfield, WILX in Lansing, WJRT in Flint and WOOD in Grand Rapids showed Romney and Mike Huckabee fighting for the lead in Michigan, with Romney at 21 percent and Huckabee at 19 percent. Rudy Giuliani had 12 percent and McCain had 10 percent. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Although he is behind in the polls, McCain is expected to do well in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary before heading to Michigan, which could give him some momentum coming into the state. Michigan votes Jan. 15.

The Free Press, like The News, did not endorse a Democratic candidate. Only Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dennis Kucinich, Chris Dodd (who has since dropped out of the race) and Mike Gravel were running in Michigan. John Edwards, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson and Joe Biden took their names off the ballot to satisfy Iowa and New Hampshire, which were unhappy Michigan was challenging their leadoff status on the primary calendar.

The Free Press said the Democratic primary “has been reduced to practical irrelevance by the refusal of most of the hopefuls to participate in it, or even campaign here.” But the newspaper encouraged Democrats to vote.

“If Michigan Democrats turn out in strong numbers, they’d show the national party how committed and engaged they are in the process, even in the face of such horrific disrespect,” the newspaper said.

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