“Regrettably,” say the editors of the Indianapolis Star newspaper, Hillary Clinton “has pandered more to voters” than Barack Obama.

But Indiana’s largest newspaper did not regret the pandering — which included a lengthy visit with the editorial board of the Star, a conservative paper that is likely to endorse Republican John McCain in the fall — so much that it was disinclined to urge voters in Tuesday’s Indiana primary to vote for the senator from New York.

The Star, Indiana’s largest newspaper, is seen by some as providing Clinton with an important boost in the final days before a primary that most polls suggest could go to either candidate. But the Star’s Republican record means that many Indiana Democrats see an endorsement by the paper of one candidate as a cue to vote for the other candidate.

In it’s Friday morning endorsement editorial, the paper’s editors offered a “ya-think?” assessment of the challenges facing whoever has to clean up George Bush’s mess — “[One] thing is clear: The next commander in chief will take office at a time of extraordinary risk for this nation, both at home and abroad. The challenges — including those posed by a sagging economy, rising energy and food costs, the gap in health care, wars in two countries and threats from Iran — are complex.”

Then, based on its interviews with both contenders, the conservative editors came to the conclusion that: “On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is the better choice, based on her experience and grasp of major issues, to confront those challenges.”

The bottom line: “As impressive as Obama appears, he is still in his first term in the U.S. Senate, and only four years ago was serving as an Illinois state senator. His inexperience in high office is a liability. Clinton, in contrast, is well prepared for the rigors of the White House. She is tough, experienced and realistic about what can and cannot be accomplished on the world stage.”