Santorum sting to hurt Romney for some time

Written by Bloomberg | Washington | Updated: Apr 12 2012, 08:03am hrs
Mitt Romney will continue to feel Rick Santorums presence even as the former Pennsylvania senator exited the Republican presidential race, effectively assuring the front-runners nomination.

Santorum, who made his announcement yesterday, spent much of the last four months portraying Romney as a phony while offering himself as the candidate who best understood the needs of the lower middle-class. Democrats already have recycled some of his material, seeking to portray Romney as an out-of-touch elitist.

The only thing missing from Santorums speech was the mention of the likely Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, said Jen Psaki, a Democratic strategist who worked on President Barack Obamas 2008 campaign and in his White House. It may be because as recently as the last couple of weeks, Santorum called Mitt Romney completely out of sync with America and uniquely disqualified to lead the party against Barack Obama.

Santorums shadow will loom over Romney as the former Massachusetts governor focuses on selecting a running mate and turns his attention to rallying the evangelical Christians and anti-tax Tea Party voters who fueled his rivals insurgent campaign. Those voters typically the Republican Partys most active supporters will be crucial to his showing in Novembers general election.

Theres some hard feelings among conservatives, said Richard Viguerie, a Republican strategist who has been advising Santorum. Such attitudes, he said, stem from the millions of dollars Romneys campaign and its allies spent on advertising to crush Santorum in the race. Hes got a mountain to climb, Viguerie said of Romney.

Although Santorum may not be a strong contender for the vice presidential slot in part because of hostile campaign exchanges between the two in recent months Romney could come under pressure to choose someone who, like his rival, appeals to voters motivated by their opposition to abortion rights, gay marriage and other social issues.

That would please conservatives, said Viguerie.

Romney and his aides already are reaching out to elements of the party that have been cool to him. He will have an opportunity to demonstrate his pro-gun rights credentials in an April 13 address to the National Rifle Associations annual meeting in St Louis.

With Santorum out of the race, Romney also can more easily appeal to independents who may decide the general election, said Frank Donatelli, chairman of the national Republican advocacy group GOPAC.

Santorum, who called Romney before his announcement, didnt endorse him or even utter his name during his 13-minute exit speech. He highlighted his rise from a minor candidate given little chance in the Republican field to his emergence as Romneys main challenger, and said he planned to keep fighting for those he had met along the campaign trail.