Why did Mike DeWine, Ohio’s Republican attorney general and a former U.S. senator, shift his endorsement from Mitt Romney to Rick Santorum? “When I endorsed Governor Romney, I thought he was the best candidate to beat Barack Obama. As this campaign has played out, it is abundantly clear he is not, and I believe he [would] lose in November,” DeWine told THE WEEKLY STANDARD in a phone interview. “It’s abundantly clear that Governor Romney’s campaign is no better than it was four years ago.”
DeWine says he worries most about Romney’s electability, particularly in appealing to blue-collar voters and the traditional “Reagan Democrats.”
DeWine initially endorsed Romney last October, but he tells TWS he’s had “little” interaction with the Romney campaign since then. Romney has campaigned several times in Ohio over the last few months, though the former Massachusetts governor never met with DeWine.
On a conference call, Romney surrogate John Sununu said that DeWine's switch was likely explained by an ad from Romney’s super PAC Restore Our Future that criticized Santorum’s support for a bill to restore voting rights to ex-felons—a bill that DeWine also strongly supported during his time in the Senate.
“I do understand that the criticism that has been levied on this vote, restoring voting rights to felons, by some of the supporters of the Romney camp is one of the reasons, if not the biggest reason, why Mike DeWine has decided to now be a supporter of Senator Santorum,” Sununu said. DeWine says he’s never seen the ad.
Sununu also downplayed suggestions that Romney’s argument that he’s the most electable candidate has been tarnished by Santorum’s recent rise in the polls nationally and in key swing states like Ohio and Michigan.
“We’ve always said, right from Day One, even when we’re winning aggressively, like in New Hampshire and in Florida, that this is a long slog,” Sununu said. “It’s earning and winning 1143 delegates, and it’s not going to be decided early. Nothing has changed in terms of strategy or tactics as we move forward. And the fact that the Governor is so far ahead in delegates means that so far he’s demonstrated he’s the most electable.”