Bloomberg News

Santorum to Beat ‘Aloof’ Romney: Ohio’s DeWine

March 03, 2012

Rick Santorum at his primary election night party on Feb. 28, 2012, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Photographer: Eric Gay/AP

Rick Santorum at his primary election night party on Feb. 28, 2012, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photographer: Eric Gay/AP

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said pro-Mitt Romney television advertisements airing in his state are “distorted” yet won’t stop Rick Santorum from winning the Republican presidential primary there on March 6.

“The Romney forces, they’ll do anything,” DeWine said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “It’s all attack, attack, attack.” He cited pro-Romney automated telephone calls and ads paid for by Restore Our Future, an independent super-political action committee backing the former Massachusetts governor.

A onetime U.S. Senate colleague of Santorum, DeWine, 65, switched his support from Romney to Santorum on Feb. 17. DeWine cited the “likability factor” as a reason Santorum would do well in Ohio (BEESOH). He said voters in the state describe Romney as “aloof,” while Santorum comes across as “human” and “sincere.”

“There is a real connection between Rick Santorum and average people in Ohio,” DeWine said.

DeWine, like Ohio Governor John Kasich, supported the federal automobile company rescue plan, which benefited Ohio as a major auto-manufacturing state. DeWine refused to criticize Santorum or Romney for their opposition to the bailout.

“Reasonable people can disagree about how you, how you would have approached that and what you could have done,” DeWine said.

Television Ads

The Restore Our Future ads that DeWine said are “a little distorted” and “out of place” have aired 1,793 times across Ohio between Feb. 15 and March 1, according to Kantar Media’s CMAG, a New York company that tracks political advertising.

Both ads highlight Santorum’s vote with then-Senator Hillary Clinton, a New York Democrat, to let convicted felons regain voting rights and his vote for Alaska’s so-called bridge to nowhere, which became emblematic of congressional earmarks.

“It’s ludicrous and so funny to think of Governor Romney, who has flip-flopped on so many issues, that he is trying to get to the right of Rick Santorum,” DeWine said.

In an e-mailed response, Brittany Gross, a spokeswoman for Restore Our Future, said DeWine “doesn’t know his candidate’s record.”

“There is nothing distorted or out of place about those claims,” she said.

Job Creation

DeWine said Ohioans want to hear about a candidate’s plan to create jobs and boost manufacturing.

The Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States index shows Ohio’s economic health, when compared with other states, fell 6.3 percent between the first quarter of 2009, when President Barack Obama took office, and the third quarter of 2011, the most recent data available. Still, even as its economic health decreased, Ohio fared better than every state except Vermont (BEESVT), Michigan and North Dakota (BEESND), according to the index, which tracks such areas as personal income, home prices and tax revenue.

DeWine said Santorum has voiced economic themes along with continuing his criticism of what Democrat Obama has “done in regard to religious freedom” and “Obamacare,” the president’s health-care program.

Santorum leads Romney in Ohio 35 percent to 31 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday. Among likely voters with household incomes between $30,000 and $50,000, 34 percent support Santorum and 29 percent Romney. Romney has narrowed the gap with those voters, and with Ohio voters overall, since a Feb. 27 survey by the university.

Other Senators

DeWine is the only one of 78 Republican senators who served with Santorum to back his presidential bid. Santorum, 53, was a Pennsylvania senator from 1995 until losing his re-election bid by 18 percentage points in 2006. DeWine lost by 12 points in his re-election contest that year.

Asked why Santorum’s peers aren’t coming out for him, DeWine relayed his own story of first endorsing Romney, 64.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t respect Rick or like Rick, but I didn’t think he had any chance at all,” DeWine said.

“He was at 2 percent in the polls, had no money. I bought into the conventional wisdom that Governor Romney, you know, was the best candidate in the fall,” DeWine said. “But I changed my mind as this campaign has played out. It’s clear to me that Romney is not the best candidate.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Bykowicz in Washington at jbykowicz@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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