Santorum Endorses Romney Via Email, Offers Political Advice

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  May 8, 2012 at 9:05 AM EST

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney debate in February in Mesa, Arizona. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum finally endorsed presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, but he made clear he wants to have a say in the direction of the campaign. Santorum’s email to supporters late Monday made the case for Romney but also revealed that the bruises from the tough primary fight had not fully healed.

After 11 victories and a late surge during the primary season, perhaps no candidate in the race leveled sharper attacks against Romney than Santorum, who in late March called the former Massachusetts governor “the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.” Santorum’s move on Monday represents the latest sign that the conservative base of the party is coalescing around Romney, despite their previous disagreements.

In his email, Santorum dished on his private meeting with Romney, calling the Friday huddle in Pittsburgh “candid, collegial and focused on the issues that you helped me give voice to during our campaign.” He said that during the meeting he “felt a deep responsibility to assess Governor Romney’s commitment to addressing the issues most important to conservatives, as well his commitment to ensuring our appropriate representation in a Romney administration.”

Santorum said that Romney “listened very carefully to my advice” on making the nation a manufacturing “superpower” once more. “[W]hile our policy prescriptions differed, he clearly expressed his desire to create more opportunities for those that are feeling left behind in this economy,” Santorum wrote.

What’s more, Santorum said he “strongly encouraged” Romney to “add more conservative leaders as an integral part of his team” as he puts together his staff.

But the ultimate message of the email was the one that will get the attention: The long primary is over, and Santorum embraced Romney as the nominee.

“The primary campaign certainly made it clear that Governor Romney and I have some differences. But there are many significant areas in which we agree: the need for lower taxes, smaller government, and a reduction in out-of-control spending,” Santorum wrote.

Santorum listed other areas of agreement such as abortion and marriage policy, as well as preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Santorum said that while he had “concerns” about Romney’s ability to make the case against President Obama’s health care law, he was confident Romney would work with Republicans in Congress to repeal the measure.

Santorum added: “Above all else, we both agree that President Obama must be defeated. The task will not be easy. It will require all hands on deck if our nominee is to be victorious. Gov. Romney will be that nominee and he has my endorsement and support to win this the most critical election of our lifetime.”

In a postscript at the end of his email, Santorum also promised he’d soon make “another big announcement” about his own political future.

ELECTION-O-RAMA

With the GOP nominating fight a done deal, Tuesday’s voting drama rests with a veteran Republican senator in Indiana, a fight between labor voters over which Democrat will face GOP Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin’s recall next month, and an amendment to the North Carolina constitution that would ban same-sex marriage.

Lugar, a six-term Hoosier State senator and the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, has had more than a year and all of the financial and organizational advantages of incumbency to prepare for this moment.

But the 80-year-old senator is poised to be unseated by state treasurer Richard Mourdock, who has the backing of Tea Party groups, Santorum and other conservative figures. Last year, few thought Mourdock had a chance, and his fundraising was lackluster at best. But the most recent poll in the state found Mourdock topping Lugar by 10 points.

David Catanese writes in Politico that Lugar would be just the sixth incumbent Republican senator to lose in a primary in three decades.

Rep. Joe Donnelly is the Democratic candidate, and should Mourdock be victorious Tuesday, expect the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to take a closer look at the Hoosier State to try and flip the seat this fall.

Don’t miss Gwen Ifill’s April piece on the race.

We’ll also be closely watching the amendment in North Carolina and the Wisconsin primary contest.

THE RON PAUL COUP

There hasn’t been a primary for two weeks and Romney has been declared the presumptive GOP nominee, but Texas Rep. Ron Paul continues to pick up delegates, Katelyn Polantz reports.

The strategy is simple: Separate from pledging a vote, Paul asks supporters to pledge participation as a delegate. Then, they’ll try to capitalize on fans’ rabid enthusiasm (especially compared to Romney’s backers) to harness power at the convention.

Paul’s strategy isn’t just to win a delegate here and there. Instead, he collected support from almost all delegates in Nevada by focusing on the state delegate conventions rather than the popular vote. Jon Ralston of the Las Vegas Sun described the Paul-controlled delegates as being in a “frenzy.”

In Maine, Paul supporters dominated the state’s at-large vote over the weekend.

Paul’s surge in delegates won’t win him the nomination, but supporters hope that it will give his political platform more sway in Romney’s campaign and within the party. Paul wasn’t allowed to speak at the convention in 2008, but it will be hard to see Romney denying him time at the podium in Tampa this year, given the numbers he is slowly collecting.

THE POLITICS OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

On Monday, Gwen Ifill spoke with Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage and former Clinton adviser Richard Socarides about the politics of the same-sex marriage debate, in light of Vice President Joe Biden’s comments over the weekend on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Socarides urged President Obama to complete his evolution on the issue. “I think, unfortunately, some of his advisers have made a political calculation that this position where he’s evolving, whether he neither supports it nor is against it, is somehow politically advantageous between now and the election. But I think there’s no question, based upon all the things that the president has done to advance the cause of gay and lesbian civil rights, that, you know, he believes in equality,” Socarides said. “You have to have full quality. And full equality means equal rights.”

Brown said he agreed with Socarides that the president’s decision was motivated by political considerations.

“Time after time, the administration has refused to do anything to protect marriage, while, at the same time, President Obama continues to say that he believes marriage is the union of a man and a woman. And, clearly, that’s because of the political reality that strong numbers of Democrats oppose redefining marriage,” Brown contended.

You can watch the segment here or below:

(Mark Leibovich has more in the New York Times about Biden’s uneasy role on the national stage.)

A Gallup poll released Monday found 50 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriage should be legal, down from 53 percent last year. Forty-eight percent of Americans said they opposed legalizing gay marriage.

An amendment to ban same-sex marriage is expected to pass in North Carolina, but with smaller margins than have been seen in other states over the last few years.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Scott Wilson writes in the Washington Post that the anti-incumbent message found in Europe’s elections should be a “political warning” for the president. (Watch the NewsHour’s segment on the elections here.)

  • The Obama campaign plans to tweak Romney on Tuesday for a comment he made about student loans in Ohio. The campaign is hosting a conference call with its press secretary, Ben LaBolt, and Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer before Romney’s event at Lansing Community College in Michigan. The push is timed to coincide with Congress’ return and the president’s drumbeat on the student loans bill. “If students at Lansing Community College are wondering what Mitt Romney has to say to them today, the message is clear: you’re on your own,” the campaign said in a release.

  • A woman at Romney’s rally in Cleveland in Monday said the president “should be tried for treason” for “operating outside the construction of our Constitution.” The presumptive GOP nominee did not rebuke her charge with his initial response, but following the event said he disagreed with her statement.

  • The Teamsters union endorsed Mr. Obama on Monday with fighting words for his challenger. A press release called Romney a “vulture capitalist.”

  • Nicholas Confessore reports for the New York Times that “major liberal donors including the financier George Soros are preparing to inject up to $100 million into independent groups to aid Democrats’ chances this fall” after spending months waiting it out. The plan is to focus on “grass-roots organizing, voter registration and Democratic turnout,” he writes.

  • What happens when you roast a donkey low and slow? The Democratic Party’s convention organizers are selling BBQ sauces in a new fundraising effort.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • A source tells the Morning Line that the Democratic House Majority PAC will spend $340,000 over three weeks on an ad targeting Republican Jesse Kelly as “extreme” in the Arizona special election to replace former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

  • Roll Call’s Joshua Miller on what’s expected to be an “ugly” GOP primary between House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica and freshman Sandy Adams in Florida.

  • Fox News’ Chad Pergram on Rep. Charlie Rangel’s return to Washington this week.

  • Terry McAuliffe, former Democratic party chairman and top adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton, may try a second time for the Virginia governorship. Again, Sen. Mark Warner’s name finds its way into talk of the 2013 Virginia governor’s race.

  • Former Rep. Gary Condit is back on the campaign trail, reports the Washington Post’s Emily Heil. His son is running for Congress in California.

  • Another bit in North Carolina’s sexual harassment settlement: The state Democratic Party moved almost $10,000 to a secret legal defense team this year.

  • Stephen Colbert’s “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, which has almost $794,000 in its treasury, spent a paltry $28,000 in March. In contrast, it spent roughly $130,000 in January of this year,” reports Rachel Leven in The Hill.

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., issued a statement praising Beastie Boys rapper Adam “MCA” Yauch, who died on Friday.

  • The NewsHour’s Spencer Michels looks at the incredible, edible … bug? Yes, you read that right.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama visits the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering’s Albany NanoTech Complex at the State University of New York at 12:10 p.m. and gives remarks on the economy at 1:25 p.m. He later returns to Washington and delivers the keynote address at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies 18th Annual Gala Dinner at 5:55 p.m.

  • Vice President Biden delivers remarks at the Rabbinical Assembly’s annual convention in Atlanta at 10:45 a.m.

  • Mitt Romney attends a campaign event in Lansing, Mich., at 12:35 p.m.

  • Ron Paul has no public campaign events scheduled.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz and @indiefilmfan.