EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Mitt Romney lent a hand to a Tea Party-backed Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock, in Indiana today, campaigning with him at a barbecue stop here this afternoon to urge voters to elect the state treasure this fall.
"We got to get this guy elected in the U.S. Senate, you know that," Romney said to applause from patrons seated at tables in Stepto's BBQ Shack. "He has proven as the treasurer that he knows how to make sure to balance books. He's also proven as a campaigner that he can take his message to the people of Indiana. They'll support him."
At a stop that had the feel of the Republican primary events held in small restaurants across the country earlier this year, Romney, campaigning with Mourdock for the first time, discussed the common vision he shares with the Indiana Republican to cut spending in Washington.
"You can't keep spending massively more than you take in without putting America in peril. And so a treasurer knows that, a governor knows that. It seems that everybody in America knows that in their households, businesses know it, families know it," Romney said. "There's only one place in America that doesn't seem to understand that you can't keep spending massively more than you take in every year and that's Washington."
Romney has recently touted his bipartisan work as the former governor of Massachusetts and said he's capable of "burying the hatchet" in Washington, but the Tea Party, which backed Mourdock in the Senate primary race, often maintains a contentious relationship with part of the Republican Party and some expressed hesitation during the primaries about nominating Romney to the Republican ticket.
Mourdock, 60, overwhelmingly beat Sen. Richard Lugar, a six-term senator, in the Republican primary in May. Romney remained neutral in the primary while other Republican notables, such as Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum, threw their backing behind Mourdock over Lugar. Mourdock will face Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., in November.
"It's funny, my opponent, Joe Donnelly, doesn't want to be seen with their candidate," Mourdock said to the crowd of President Obama.
Romney has not campaigned in the battleground state of Indiana as extensively as other swing states this election. Barack Obama won Indiana in 2008 by 1 percentage point against Sen. John McCain, for whom Romney campaigned in Evansville four years ago.
"Four years ago you were here in Evansville, Indiana, and I had that opportunity to introduce him," Mourdock said of Romney. "And understand in 2008 Governor Romney had begun that trail down the presidential primary route and ultimately when the Republicans went a different direction, it was Governor Mitt Romney who was one of the very first to step forward to support our party's nominee, John McCain, and he came to Evansville to fire up the troops to make sure we would not see a Barack Obama presidency.
"He is back and he's here in part because he is the ultimate team player, and politics is all about being a team. This is not a solo sport. And for that purpose alone, governor, thank you so much for coming here and supporting our candidacy today."
Romney ordered a chicken sandwich before heading to a fundraiser in Evansville slated for later in the day.