Endorsement Wars: Romney Announces Pawlenty Support, Perry Answers With Jindal Endorsement

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney duked it out Monday as they each revealed major endorsements for their presidential bids. Mitt Romney rolled out the endorsement from    onetime rival Tim Pawlenty Monday morning, but his big news was quickly trumped by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s endorsement of Texas Governor Rick Perry.

“Rick Perry is the candidate who can lead our party to victory in 2012,” Jindal said in a statement. “His record on job creation simply cannot be beat, and the 1 million jobs he’s helped create as governor is a stark contrast to the 2.4 million jobs lost on President Obama’s watch. President Obama promised hope, but he simply hasn’t delivered. Rick Perry will bring our country more than hope.  He’ll get America working again.”

Jindal, who is considered  a rising GOP star, will accompany Perry to the CNN/Tea Party Republican Presidential Debate and will serve as a surrogate in the “spin room” Monday night in Tampa, Fla.

The two Southern governors, whose states border each other and the Gulf of Mexico, have worked together through the Republican Governors Association and have confronted similar problems during their governorships —  from hurricanes to  the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. During Hurricane Katrina, Texas took in thousands of refugees from its neighbor state of Louisiana as it waited for the waters to recede and the coastal land to recover.

Perry has praised Jindal’s work in Louisiana, most recently on the Laura Ingraham Show, saying he is one of the “bright capable governors” who is finding the best ways to implement health care in their states. In his book “Fed Up!,” Perry categorized Jindal as part of a group of “younger upstart conservatives … showing signs of establishing a new generation of Republicans eager to lead the nation on principle.”

Jindal is the first sitting governor to endorse a presidential candidate, and there are still some major governor endorsements up for grabs – Haley Barbour of Miss., Chris Christie of N.J., Mitch Daniels of Ind., Nikki Haley of S.C., Bob McDonnell of Va. and Scott Walker of  Wis.

While Perry picked up the endorsement of a sitting governor, Romney received an endorsement from a former governor and rival who once painted Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts as “Obamaneycare.” But Pawlenty pointed to Romney’s economic experience as the key reason for his endorsement.

“Mitt Romney is fighting for the same things I fought for as governor and during my campaign for president,” Pawlenty said today. “As a former blue state governor, I appreciate what Mitt was able to do in Massachusetts. He created jobs and balanced his budgets without raising taxes, even with an over 80 percent Democrat legislature. That ability to get things done is what we need in our nominee.”

“In addition,” Pawlenty continued, “he has a background which is unmatched – his understanding of the private sector proves he knows how jobs are created, which will be critical in turning our economy around. I am proud to endorse his candidacy for president of the United States.”

Just as there are multiple sitting governors whose endorsements will be influential, there are several former governors whose endorsements could boost the candidate’s presidential bids. An endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who is still undecided on a presidential run of her own, would carry heavy weight in Republican circles, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee continues to remain relevant in the influence game. Though he has yet to endorse a candidate, Huckabee suggested Monday that Romney might be the most “electable” candidate.

“What Tim is looking at is the fact that Mitt may be the most electable Republican,” Huckabee said Monday on Laura Ingraham’s radio show. “We’ve got good candidates that aren’t getting enough airtime. I was keeping count. Rick Perry got 15 questions posed; Rick Santorum and Herman Cain got five. I’ve been in that situation when you’re stuck out on the edge of that platform and you’re given token opportunities to respond, and it’s very difficult to break out when the press decides who is going to be in the game and who isn’t.”

“Rick likes to come across as the straight-shootin,’ blunt talking guy, and that works very well in Texas, and it will work very well in what I call the hardcore center of the Republican primary. But when you have to branch out and get to those younger voters and general election voters, I’m not sure how it’s going to play out,” Huckabee said.

In the 2008 presidential race, Perry endorsed Rudy Giuliani over Huckabee.

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