The Austin American-Statesman has become the fourth of Texas’s five major newspapers to endorse Democrat Paul Sadler in the U.S. Senate race.

“Sadler’s experience will serve Texas well,” reads the paper’s (optimistic) headline.

The editorial notes that since defeating Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst in the Republican primary run-off, Ted Cruz has become a “rising star in national politics,” but “Texas needs a capable legislator.”

For the Statesman, that is Sadler, who, as the editorial notes, was known for his role in bipartisan education reform (as well as his presence on the Texas Monthly “10 Best” list) while serving in the Texas legislature.

The editorial acknowledged that:

We endorsed Cruz over Dewhurst in the Republican primary because we found his passion for policy and his willingness to engage on the issues refreshing. Cruz is sharp; he keeps you on your toes. We respect his role in the debate over the size and power of the federal government. But we disagree with him on many issues

Among them: immigration and the border, Cruz’s lack of public support thus far for fellow Texan John Cornyn as a potential Senate whip, and the fact that Cruz “sides with those who fear the United Nations will take away American golf courses and roads.”

“Texas doesn’t need a senator who will stick to extremes to win invitations to the Sunday morning talk shows,” the editorial concluded. “We need a senator whose best work takes place on Capitol Hill paying attention to the hard details that go into representing the needs of a growing state and strengthening our nation’s future.”

The Statesman has yet to endorse a candidate for president.

Original post: October 24, 8:16 a.m.

Recent history and all the polls say that Republican Ted Cruz is certain to become the next U.S. senator from Texas, but there’s one survey Democratic candidate Paul Sadler has an edge in: that of the state’s biggest newspapers, where three of the four editorial boards have endorsed the former state legislator over Cruz—including two papers that picked Republican Mitt Romney for president.

With Texas early voting underway this week, the Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Houston Chronicle, and San Antonio Express-News have all published endorsements in the race.

Only the Chronicle, which endorsed Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the Republican primary, got behind Cruz, the Tea Party hero, former state solicitor general, and local boy.

The endorsement called Cruz “one of the shooting stars of the 2012 election season … young, smart, telegenic and Hispanic. We favored Dewhurst in the GOP primary, but the general election in November is a very different race.”

For the Chron, the fact that Sadler can’t win matters (“well-meaning, but an exercise in futility,” the endorsement says of his campaign). Its editorial board predicts (fantasizes?) that Cruz the elected official will be more conciliatory than Cruz the candidate, writing:

Cruz will be schooled by the examples of previous senators from Texas, beginning with Hutchison and continuing with Lloyd Bentsen and Lyndon B. Johnson….We respect the GOP candidate’s principled views on limited government. He’s in sync with many folks in this very red state. But there are situations in which ideology must yield to the real-world interests of Texans and the state’s economic needs.

The Chronicle also endorsed Romney.

Meanwhile, its sister paper in more liberal-leaning San Antonio, the Express-News, put its support behind both President Obama and Sadler.

“Unequivocally the right choice … Despite the fact that Democrats have not won a statewide race in Texas since 1994, the party’s nominee is a strong, able candidate,” the E-N endorsement said.

It added that Cruz “is touting troubling policy proposals that would not serve the state well,” including a border fence, and abolishing five federal agencies.

But the Metroplex is where the endorsement scorecard gets particularly interesting.

In the Republican primary, the Dallas Morning News endorsed Dewhurst, while the Fort Worth Star-Telegram opted for third-place finisher and former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert.

Now they’re both endorsing Sadler, while still shunning President Obama.

The Morning News’ s endorsement focused on the history of the seat itself, suggesting Cruz could not fill the shoes of its current occupant, Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, nor her longtime predecessor, Democrat Lloyd Bentsen, both of whom “provided consistent constituent aid as well as leadership on national and state matters.

“We believe Democrat Paul Sadler, 57, is the best person to uphold this legacy of service to Texas and to keep our state relevant where it matters most,” it continued:

Texas needs a senator who can govern from the middle. If elected, perhaps Cruz will end up there someday, but he’s not looking for that position at present. Contrast that with Mitt Romney’s general election campaign: Romney offers the chance for middle-ground conservatism that Cruz does not.

On the other hand, Sadler’s actions exemplify the “muscular middle:” constructive debate, bipartisan collaboration, the application of private-sector principles to public problems and, when necessary, government involvement. We also see him trying to persuade Democratic colleagues to govern from the center, something Bentsen championed, but which, regrettably, President Barack Obama has not.

The DMN specifically praised Sadler’s 1995 work in the Lege with “two Republican leaders, then-Gov. George W. Bush and then-State Sen. Bill Ratliff, to modernize the Texas education code.”

So did the Star-Telegram, which argued in its endorsement that Sadler was better-equipped to succeed Hutchison as “another problem-solver who understands the state’s needs and can meet those needs in a capital too oten choked by divisiveness.”

Conversely, Cruz would be “oil on water” in a Senate that is likely to remain held narrowly by the Democrats.

“[Cruz] now says he wants to bring people together, but it sounds as though he’s after allies who see things his way,” the Star-Telegram editorial continued. “That approach is not a formula to get Washington moving again.”

As Texas Monthly‘s Brian D. Sweany noted in a tweet, the DMN endorsed Democrat Bill White over Rick Perry in 2010, after having picked the Governor over Democrat Chris Bell in 2006. The News also endorsed Republican John McCain for president in 2008. 

“Given how everyone expects Cruz to win easily, it strikes me as a pretty strong statement of just how outside the mainstream Cruz is,” blogger Charles Kuffner opined of Sadler’s 75 percent success rate with the major papers.

Cruz has fared better outside of the bigger cities, though, scoring endorsements from such papers as the Bryan-College Station Eagle, the Galveston Daily News and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

The El Paso Times, meawhile, has opted for Sadler.

The Austin American-Statesman, which was the only major newspaper to endorse Cruz over Dewhurst in the Republican primary, will publish its pick on October 28.

For more from Texas Monthly on the two Senate candidates, read editor Jake Silverstein’s interview with Cruz and Sweany’s “exit interview” with Hutchison from the October issue, as well as Sweany’s recent Q&A with Sadler.