Another prominent Republican climbed aboard Mitt Romney’s bandwagon Monday, as former senator Rick Santorum’s bid for the nomination continues to tank. Former senator and attorney general John Ashcroft of Missouri came out for Romney one day before the Super Tuesday primaries in Ohio and nine other states in what appears to be a coordinated effort by senior Republicans to end the acrimonious and politically destructive GOP presidential campaign.
“After working with [Mitt Romney] on the 2002 Winter Olympics, I know that he is deeply committed to serving our country and protecting its citizens, and I look forward to his counsel over the coming months,” said Ashcroft in a statement. “I admire Mitt’s record of fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, and defense of traditional values,” added Ashcroft.
With polls showing Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and business executive, regaining the lead nationally, a handful of prominent conservative Republicans – most notably House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma – came out for Romney over the weekend. Ron Bonjean, a Washington political strategist and former Republican congressional aide, said the fresh round of endorsements appears to be well coordinated by the GOP and the Romney camp on the eve of the crucial Super Tuesday contests. With 66 delegates at stake, Ohio is the biggest prize and looms as a must-win state for both Romney and Santorum.
“The GOP establishment is trying to give Romney a push over the top to convince voters in Ohio that he is the best candidate that we can elect to take on President Obama,” Bonjean told The Fiscal Times today. “I think they put their cards on the table for Romney because the polling was trending Romney’s way, and it is very tight.”
“Ohio can be seen as a turning point for the Romney campaign,” he added. “They can say, ‘Look, we’ve been able to get Michigan and Ohio, we’re competing in battleground, Rust Belt-type states,’ in an attempt to create a snowball-type effect.”
Former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., told MSNBC today, “I think at the end of the day it will be a race between Obama and Romney, and it’s going to be on what are the conditions of the country, what are gas prices, what’s happening in the Middle East.”