Now that Rick Santorum—who hadn’t been endorsed by any member in the Texas congressional delegation—has suspended his long-suffering campaign, Republican leaders are pleading with the final hold-outs to get behind Romney in a rare display of party unity before the general election really starts heating up. Meaning now.
Last week Mitt Romney secured the endorsements of Texas congressmen Pete Sessions, current chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, John Carter and Mac Thornberry in anticipation of the May 29th primary. The trio joins four other Texans who were already backing the former Massachusetts governor: Reps. Kay Granger, Mike Conaway, Pete Olson and Lamar Smith. A founding member of the Tea Party Caucus, Smith was an early adapter, being the first to endorse Romney. His Longhorn PAC contributed to the Romney campaign last May before Rick Perry even had a chance to announce his candidacy. Smith later said that his endorsement did not “lessen his regard” for Perry. Except for the fact that he didn’t think Perry could hack it as president. No offense.
Sessions, who had originally endorsed Perry, was expressing concern as early as last October when he appeared on C-SPAN: “It has been an interesting ride. [Perry’s]…having to get his footing, he’s having to enunciate himself in a group of 5, 6, or 8 people.” He had a tough time “enunciating himself”? That should have been your first clue.
For his part, Perry, who congratulated Santorum for his “tireless and hard-fought campaign,” is sticking with his first choice, Newt Gingrich, and has no plans to switch to Romney (unless, perhaps, he gets $10,000 for it). When asked by the Dallas Morning News last week whether it was time for him to support Romney, Perry played it coy, saying he was going to “pass on that one.” And on Wednesday Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan said in a statement, “As a former U.S. military officer and a proud Aggie, Rick Perry puts a premium on loyalty and therefore today remains a Newt Gingrich backer.” This is probably a good thing for Romney considering that an endorsement from Perry is not so much an endorsement as it is the kiss of death. (See: Rudy Giuliani, 2008.)
Rep. Michael Burgess, who supported Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the last gubernatorial election, and Rep. Joe Barton are also staying with Gingrich. In an interview with the Texas Tribune last year, Barton described Gingrich as “the brightest and most creative thinker of all of our candidates.” Are you kidding? Not even Gingrich is sticking with Gingrich anymore. On Fox News Sunday the former speaker admitted that Romney is the “likely nominee” and that he is at peace with it. In fact, Gingrich is so at peace with his arch-nemesis that he will be taking his candidacy and handful of delegates all the way to the convention. As is Ron Paul, who considers himself (still!) the last real conservative alternative to Romney.
Not that everyone’s giving up on Rick Perry. Reps. Michael McCaul, Jeb Hensarling, John Culberson, Kenny Marchant, Sam Johnson and Ralph Hall—who proudly backed Perry “from day one”—have not endorsed Romney, perhaps to maintain their tea party cred. Announcing his support for Perry, Hall said that he’d “vote for any Texan.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. And apparently Louie Goehmert continues to hope that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann will unsuspend her campaign.
You’d think that Culberson, Marchant, Neugebauer and somewhat tepid Perry supporter Ted Poe would be rushing to Romney’s side since they still question whether Obama is an American citizen. Even if they don’t want Romney in the White House, they should at least want an American in the White House. Especially Poe, who compares illegal immigrants to “illegal grasshoppers.”
If Romney is hoping that his new allies will help him with women and Hispanic voters, he’s out of luck. Sessions enlisted in the “War on Women” years ago while throwing fundraisers at strip clubs in Vegas, and Smith never met an anti-sanctuary city bill he didn’t like. A few weeks ago he suggested that detention centers for illegal immigrants are more like cushy resorts than facilities. Because access to basic health care for immigrants is just like a hot stone massage.
Just last week Texas was seen as a critical state in the Republican primary, but now we’re little more than another notch in Romney’s belt. It was fun while it lasted.