Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry… (Lawrence K. Ho/ Los Angeles…)
When Mitt Romney kicks off the final weekend of the presidential campaign with a rally in West Chester, Ohio, on Friday evening, it will be with a couple of old nemeses at his side. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, will be on the stage, along with more than 100 other elected officials.
Most of Romney’s primary-season antagonists have rallied around the Republican nominee during the general election campaign, though libertarian maverick Ron Paul has gone his own way and Rep. Michele Bachmann has been too tied up with a surprisingly close reelection bid in Minnesota to offer as much support as she might.
Perry and Santorum will be closest to the action in the final days of the campaign, beginning with the Ohio rally and then fanning out to battleground states over the weekend.
They represent a continuation of the bygones-be-bygones tradition. That means Perry putting aside his criticism of a year ago that Romney demonstrated “the height of hypocrisy” by employing an undocumented worker at his home, while saying he would push immigration reform. Long forgotten, too, will be Santorum’s zinger last spring that Romney would be the “worst candidate to go up against Barack Obama” because Romney’s healthcare reform in Massachusetts was too much like the national health law he claimed he would oppose.
(Romney insisted it was his lawn company who employed an illegal worker, and he said he would fight Obamacare as hard as any Republican, insisting it had no relation to his Massachusetts law.)
The conservative Santorum and his Patriot Voices PAC have been focusing on defeating same-sex marriage proposals on the ballots in Maine, Washington and Maryland. After the Ohio rally, he will fly to Iowa for five stops Saturday in the state where his victory in the January caucuses suddenly made him a viable challenger to Romney.
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The thought among GOP operatives appears to be that Santorum will be more effective among the large bloc of conservative evangelicals in the Hawkeye state than he would be in his home state of Pennsylvania. After two terms in the Senate, Pennsylvanians threw Santorum out in 2006, delivering a whopping 18-percentage point victory margin to Democrat Bob Casey.
That will leave Lone Star Gov. Perry to fill in as a Romney surrogate over the weekend in Pennsylvania. Perry has three stops scheduled Saturday in Pennsylvania. Democrats have carried the state in the last five presidential showdowns, even as Republicans have made late pushes each time and claimed they had victory within grasp.
Where will the rest of the GOP road crew from 2011-12 be in the final days?
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich spent Friday morning as a “celebrity pumper” at a gas station in Arlington, Va., part of a campaign by the New American Energy Opportunity Foundation to promote more domestic energy production.
Newt’s gas went for $1.84 a gallon, the price when President Obama took office. Republicans blame the doubling of costs at the pump on Democrats. Obama said gas was depressed in 2008, along with many other products, because of failed economic policies of President George W. Bush.
Former pizza company executive Herman Cain has spent the last couple of months touring the country with the “Job Creators Solutions Truth Tour.” The tour’s website claims it has hit 30 cities, where Cain and Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus have met with 2,000 business owners and 4,000 students.
Cain doesn’t mention Obama in a video but removal of the president is clearly the goal. Of the students he has met, Cain says, “They now know that hope and change is nothing but smoke and mirrors.”
Congressman Paul apparently will remain on the sidelines as Romney wraps up the campaign. Although the two men became friendly during a long run of primary-season debates, Paul declined to speak at the Republican National Convention. He said he wouldn’t live with a Team Romney demand to vet his remarks in advance. The maverick lawmaker said at the time that he couldn’t “fully endorse” Romney.