Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won the endorsement of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, the top official in the state that holds the third contest in the 2012 Republican presidential nominating race.
Haley, a Republican favorite of the Tea Party movement, announced her support for Romney today on Fox News Channel ahead of accompanying Romney to her home state later today.
“I think it’s huge,” Romney said when asked about the endorsement after a campaign event at a steel manufacturing company in Sioux City, Iowa. “It’s great.”
Romney and Haley appeared together later today at a firehouse near Greenville, South Carolina. That state’s primary is Jan. 21, after the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses and Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary.
“I wanted someone with proven results,” Haley told a cheering crowd of about 500, standing on a podium with Romney and their spouses. “I wanted someone who knew how to run a business.”
Support from Haley, who was elected last year with backing from anti-tax, small-government Tea Party activists, may help Romney as he confronts challengers appealing to voters who consider him too moderate.
Romney, 64, who has fallen behind former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich in state and national polls, said in a statement that he and Haley have much in common.
“As a successful businesswoman who entered public service so government could better serve the people, Governor Haley’s career-long efforts to reform government, make government more accountable to the taxpayers, and fight wasteful spending should be examples for leaders across the country,” he said. “These conservative principles of smaller government are what I am fighting for in my campaign.”
All of the major Republican presidential candidates had courted Haley for her endorsement.
Speaking to reporters today in Sioux City, Representative Michele Bachmann said she would have “loved” to have had Haley’s endorsement.
“She’s a marvelous woman and a terrific governor and I respect her choice that she made today,” Bachmann said. “I think we will do very well here in Iowa and that will be a cannon shot into South Carolina.”
Bachmann started a bus tour today that is scheduled to take her to all 99 Iowa counties by Jan. 3.
She continued to attack Gingrich, after asserting herself in last night’s debate in Sioux City as Gingrich’s most aggressive critic.
In the debate, she criticized him for the $1.6 million in consulting fees he received after leaving Congress from Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage company.
Gingrich, who said he now advocates breaking up Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, insisted his work involved no lobbying while defending his fees as legitimate compensation for a private business person.
“What she just said is factually not true,” he said of Bachmann’s attacks. “I never lobbied under any circumstance.”
Bachmann, 55, also said Gingrich, 68, hasn’t taken strong enough anti-abortion stances to be the Republican nominee. She focused her criticism on his stated willingness while a congressional leader to campaign for Republicans who supported what she called the “barbaric” procedure of partial-birth abortion.
Gingrich yesterday defended his anti-abortion voting record by saying it was close to 100 percent during his 20 years as a House member. He also said that, while he was opposed to partial-birth abortion, he hadn’t been in the business of trying to decide which members of his party to “purge.”
Bachmann told reporters today she was tired of being lectured by Gingrich, a former college professor.
“I am not a student of his,” she said. “I’m a serious candidate for the presidency and I think it’s important that I be treated as an equal on that stage.”
Bachmann demurred when asked whether Gingrich was being sexist in his treatment of her.
“People looking at that would have to make that observation if that is so,” she said.
Bachmann also said Gingrich isn’t a true conservative.
“I don’t think that his record is one of being a conservative,” she said, before reprising her description of the front-runners as “Newt Romney.”
“I was looking at both of their records and there really wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between either of them,” she said. “They’re both moderates.”
Gingrich stepped off the campaign trail today, traveling from Iowa to Washington. His next scheduled campaign events are Dec. 19 in Iowa.
To contact the reporter on this story: John McCormick in Sioux City, Iowa, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at email@example.com