The San Antonio Express-News isn’t rooting for the home team. On Sunday, the newspaper’s editorial board passed over Governor Rick Perry and Congressman Ron Paul to endorse Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential primary.

But not the Texas Republican presidential primary, exactly. As the paper wrote:

The legal wrangling over Texas redistricting has pushed the primary back to April 3, a date so late in the schedule that it is unlikely to play a role in determining the nominee. But that doesn’t mean Texas Republicans won’t play a role in the selection process with campaign donations, by volunteering to work for candidates in other states, and with other expressions of support.

That is why the Express-News Editorial Board is taking the unusual step of endorsing a GOP presidential candidate now — three months before the Texas primary — while it still matters. For Republicans who want to nominate a viable candidate who can present a credible conservative alternative to President Obama, the clear choice is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

“Haha. Rick Perry can’t even get an endorsement from the San Antonio Express-News,” tweeted Matt Gully, a Washington, D.C. public relations account executive who seems to favor former Utah governor Jon Huntsman. A tweet from the Express-News‘ own editorial page editor, Bruce Davidson, spun it the same way: “Texas paper snubs Perry, Paul: Romney is the clear GOP choice.”

But in truth the Express-News‘ choice is not all that surprising: its board endorsed Kay Bailey Hutchison over Perry in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary and Bill White over Perry in the general election (though it had endorsed Perry in both 2002 and 2006). In 2008, the paper supported John McCain and Barack Obama in the presidential primaries and Obama in the main contest. 

The editorial’s only mention of Perry (and implied mention of Paul) came in these two passages:

A series of alternative candidates have risen to the top of the Republican field, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry None of them have been able to withstand public scrutiny and the media spotlight as confidently as Romney…

Other GOP candidates hold more appeal for social conservatives. But they are too extreme or carry too much ethical baggage to unite the Republican Party and attract enough independent voters to mount a serious challenge to President Obama.

The paper did have one major reservation that it wouldn’t have about our governor: Romney’s “willingness to pander to nativists on immigration.”