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Romney and allies make plea for party unity following Santorum exit

April 11, 2012|By Maeve Reston
  • Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at a campaign event Tuesday in Wilmington, Del.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at a campaign event Tuesday… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

MENDENHALL, Pa. -- Within hours of Rick Santorum’s withdrawal from the presidential race Tuesday, leading Republicans were focused on the difficult task ahead: uniting a fractured party behind Mitt Romney.

That work got underway in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night shortly before Romney’s appearance at the Chester County GOP dinner where the state’s junior senator made a plea to members of his party to set aside their loyalties and get behind the former Massachusetts governor.  

“He can’t do this alone. He needs us to help make this happen for him," Patrick  J. Toomey  said at the party gathering in Mendenhall. “He needs this party, the Republican Party, to unite now, to pull together from all different strands, and different thoughts and different areas of the state and the country — to come together now, to unite behind a man who is so well equipped to handle this job, to win this race.”

Romney did his part with a warm tribute to Santorum on his “spirited and energetic” campaign. He told the crowd that they had talked about their personal lives during a telephone conversation Tuesday morning, including the recent medical difficulties of Santorum’s daughter Bella, who was released from the hospital Tuesday. Romney vowed that he and Santorum would “work together to make sure we take back the White House and the Senate, and we keep the House.”

“He will remain, without question, a major spokesman of our party, a leader of our party, he has earned that,” he said.

Romney had largely ignored Santorum in recent weeks as his rival slid in the polls in upcoming primary states of New York and Pennsylvania, which he represented as a senator. And during his stops in Pennsylvania and Delaware on Tuesday, Romney kept his focus on framing the general election race ahead as a battle to keep America from becoming a “government-centered society” like those in Europe.

He argued in Mendenhall that “freedom and opportunity” would be on the ballot in November: “Are we going to remain a free nation where free people can pursue their course in life, where opportunity reigns, where people believe if they work hard and get a good education, have good values, maybe have a little good luck, that they may be able to achieve great success.… Will we remain that nation?” he asked. “Or will we instead become a nation dominated by government?”

Seeking to shore up a major weak spot in his campaign — his position among moderate and independent female voters — his theme for the day in both states was the struggles among working women under what his campaign likes to call “the Obama economy.” After meeting with a dozen female business owners in Delaware — who became his backdrop for his question-answer session with voters — Romney told the crowd that he “spent his life doing what these women are doing” and would work to make government the ally of jobs.

In Pennsylvania, Romney mocked Democrats and the president for accusing Republicans of waging “a war on women," charging that “the real war on women has been waged by the policies of the Obama administration.”

He argued that women have suffered because of the administration’s policies, which he said have made the recession “worse and longer.” “This administration has some explaining to do, as Ricky Ricardo used to say” — he said, referring, to the star of the sitcom “I Love Lucy” --  "to point out how it is that they think they deserve credit.”

Obama’s campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said Romney was trying to compensate for his sinking poll numbers among women by resorting to “misleading attacks on the President’s record.”

“He may try to pretend that the economic crisis never happened to justify why he supports the policies that created it in the first place, but it won’t change the fact that the economy was hemorrhaging 750,000 jobs a month when President Obama took office,” Smith said in a statement Tuesday night. “The President has worked every day to help restore women’s economic security.”


maeve.reston@latimes.com

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