March 31 (Bloomberg) -- Mitt Romney was endorsed for the Republican presidential nomination by U.S. Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as both men teamed up to urge solidified support for the front-runner and attack President Barack Obama’s economic record.
Ryan, the Budget Committee chairman whose home state holds its primary on April 3, appeared in Appleton with Romney yesterday. He is the latest prominent Republican to rally behind Romney and call for an end to a primary contest that threatens to drag on for months, potentially leading to a delegate fight on the floor of the party’s national convention Aug. 27-30 in Tampa, Florida.
“In this man, we have a person of conviction,” Ryan said at Lawrence University before Romney gave a speech panning Obama’s economic record. “We have a man with the right kind of experience. We have the right kind of leader we’re going to need to get this country right, and to get this country back on track.”
Earlier, Ryan said it would be “counterproductive” for the race to last much longer. “It’s important that we coalesce as conservatives around Mitt Romney and focus on the big task at hand, which is defeating Barack Obama in the fall,” he told Fox News.
Romney, 65, increasingly pivoting to an anti-Obama message as his grip on the nomination tightens, debuted an overhauled stump speech in which he contrasted his own vision for an “opportunity society” with the “government-centered society” he accused the president of creating.
“Instead of doing everything possible to promote the power of the free-enterprise system to create jobs and get us out of this crisis, Barack Obama has promoted the power of government - - and the results have been predictable and dismal,” Romney said. He called the president part of a group of “out-of-touch liberals” who “say they want a strong economy, but they really don’t like businesses very much.”
“It’s like saying you love omelets, but don’t like eggs,” he said.
A former Massachusetts governor and second-time presidential candidate, Romney portrayed Obama and his allies as power-hungry, ready to attack anyone who challenges them. “And, as we see each day, they will fight even more fiercely to hold on to that power,” he said.
A Tough Campaign
At a fish fry in Milwaukee, Romney promised as the nominee to run a tough campaign against Obama.
“We’re going to focus our campaign on President Obama,” he told voters gathered at the American Serb Hall. “Get him out of the White House and restore American principals to our country.”
Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman, accused Romney of “misleading rhetoric that has become par for the course for him,” saying he had ignored economic progress during the president’s term.
“From 24 straight months of private-sector job creation to a thriving automobile industry that is creating hundreds of thousands of jobs to lower taxes for every working family, the president’s decisive actions over the past three years have begun to pay off,” Smith said in a statement.
Even as Romney pushed toward a confrontation with Obama -- mentioning four times during his speech the Nov. 6 general election date -- he was still working to hold off challenges from within his own party.
In a NBC News/Marist poll of likely Wisconsin primary voters released today, Romney held an advantage over his closest challenger, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, 40 percent to 33 percent. Representative Ron Paul of Texas was third with 11 percent, and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia was last at 8 percent.
The telephone poll of 740 likely voters in the state’s Republican primary was conducted March 26-27 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Santorum said in an interview with CNN that he planned to take his candidacy “all the way,” regardless of whether he wins in Wisconsin next week. He said a Romney nomination would deprive Republicans of the upper hand in debating the health-care law that’s the centerpiece of Obama’s domestic agenda, given Romney’s prior backing for a Massachusetts statute that contained a similar mandate that everyone purchase medical insurance.
“Frankly, I think he’ll be destroyed by President Obama on this issue come the fall,” Santorum said of Romney.
At the same time, the Ryan nod provided the latest boost to Romney’s effort to persuade his party’s base to unite behind him as the candidate best positioned to defeat Obama.
Former President George H.W. Bush endorsed Romney this week, joining his son, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who announced his backing March 21. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida did so on March 28.
While all three have had flattering things to say about Romney in their endorsements, they have put special emphasis on the need to end party infighting to focus on ousting Obama.
Following his endorsement in an interview with Fox, Rubio told the Daily Caller that there were “a lot of other people out there that some of us wish had run for president -- but they didn’t. Mitt Romney would be a fine president, and he’d be way better than the guy who’s there right now.”
Rubio also called Romney “plenty conservative enough to defeat Barack Obama and do a much better job.”
The elder Bush, sitting beside his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, in his Houston office this week, cited the country song “The Gambler” in saying Romney’s rivals should “know when to fold ‘em.”
“It’s time for the party to get behind Governor Romney,” he said.
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