Mitt Romney's Surrogate Headache: Can't Live With 'Em, Can't Live Without 'Em

Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, surrogates sometimes say the darndest things.

ByABC News
February 22, 2012, 6:04 PM

Feb. 27, 2012 -- intro:Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, surrogates sometimes say the darndest things.

Romney boasts more endorsements from current and former elected officials on the local, state and national level than any of his Republican opponents, but as his campaign has learned, there's a fine line between an asset and a liability.

Take one of Romney's most high-profile backers, Chris Christie. The outspoken New Jersey governor endorsed Romney back in October and he has been a committed surrogate since then. But Christie, who is known for his brutal honesty, has, at times, been a little too candid.

In an interview with Don Imus on the Fox Business Network last week, Christie called Romney "one of the more reserved people I've ever met."

"I don't think he lets people see how passionate he is about wanting to be president and the things he wants to accomplish," he said.

And with the Republican Party still seemingly unenthused about its presidential prospects, including Romney, Christie even left the door open to a contested convention in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday.

"Is there a possibility if Governor Romney were to lose Michigan for a contested election -- contested convention?" Christie said. "Sure, that's a possibility."

But it's not just Christie's loose lips. Whether it was deploying a senator to attack rival candidate Rick Santorum on raising the debt ceiling when the senator voted to do the same or governors who haven't been able to deliver their home states for Romney, they just don't seem to make endorsers like they used to.

Here's a look at some of the Romney campaign's surrogate headaches:

quicklist: 1category: Surrogates Gone Wildtitle: Paul Babeutext: In the span of about two days, Arizona's Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu went from boosting Romney's clout with border security hawks to tainting his Arizona image with a high-profile scandal.

A little more than a week before Arizona's Feb. 28 primary, Babeu resigned his post as the Romney campaign's Arizona co-chairman after accusations that he threatened to deport his ex-boyfriend if the former lover ever made their relationship public. Babeu has since admitted to being gay but rejected the alleged threats.

The Romney campaign moved swiftly to jettison Babeu: "Sheriff Babeu has stepped down from his volunteer position with the campaign so he can focus on the allegations against him. We support his decision,'' Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement on the day the scandal broke.

quicklist: 2category: Surrogates Gone Wildtitle: Randy Pullentext: Babeu's fellow Arizonan, Randy Pullen, the former chairman of the Arizona Republican Party who has endorsed Romney, sounded less-than-enthusiastic about his choice in a recent interview.

"I don't regret my decision, I'm just frustrated. I think he's honest and straightforward, but the real Romney needs to come out," Pullen told the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny. "We need to see the energy and we need to see the passion we've seen from the other candidates."

quicklist: 3category: Surrogates Gone Wildtitle: Jon Huntsman text: Prior to dropping out of the presidential race, former Utah Gov. John Huntsman was one of Romney's most diligent attackers. Huntsman's campaign released four damaging videos criticizing Romney for being a "flip-flopper" and portraying him as everything from a weather vane to a back-flipping, wind-up monkey.

After Huntsman called it quits, he did a bit of a flip of his own, swinging from a stridently anti-Romney presidential candidate to a pro-Romney endorser. Even though Huntsman is now technically on Romney's team, he's certainly not Romney's biggest cheerleader.

The former ambassador to China slipped back into campaign rival mode last week, calling Romney's policy toward China "wrong-headed" in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell. "When it comes to China, I think it's wrongheaded when you talk about slapping a tariff on day one," Huntsman said.

Not only that, in a subsequent interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Huntsman suggested that the country would be better served by "some sort of third party movement or some kind of alternative voice out there that can put forward new ideas."

All of this despite endorsing Romney before the January primary in South Carolina.

quicklist: 4category: Do as I Say, Not as I Dotitle: Michael Grimmtext: New York Rep. Michael Grimm endorsed Romney and campaign for him before the New Hampshire primary. Now, however, he's persona non grata in the Romney campaign

After a New York Times investigation found that Grimm, a freshman Republican from Staten Island, "engaged in questionable business practices involving his real estate and restaurant ventures," Team Romney parted ways with Grimm.

"He is not an official surrogate for the campaign," spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the Times.

quicklist: 5category: Do as I Say, Not as I Dotitle: Rob Portmantext: The state of Ohio will be one of the largest prizes on Super Tuesday, and the Romney campaign has recently engaged one of its top backers in the state, Sen. Rob Portman, to hit rival Rick Santorum.

At issue: Santorum's vote to raise the debt ceiling. The problem: As both a congressman and now as a senator, Portman also voted to raise the debt ceiling.

quicklist: 6category: Do as I Say, Not as I Dotitle: Fred Uptontext: The Michigan congressman endorsed Romney, but apparently he didn't get the memo from the campaign about Romney's opposition to the bailout of the automobile industry.

Although Romney has suggested that a managed bankruptcy would have been a better option to save the struggling automakers in his home state, Upton said in a recent interview with a Michigan radio station that only federal intervention was the answer.

"There was really a choice between bankruptcy and liquidation," Upton told WMUK radio. "There was no one that was willing to come up not only with the cash to keep them afloat but also to serve the warranties of everyone. You and I that drive all these cars. There was no one that could have picked up those pieces other than the federal government."

quicklist: 7category: Do as I Say, Not as I Dotitle: Jim Talenttext: Talent, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign and former senator from Missouri, recently spoke on a conference call to call Rick Santorum out as an over-spender.

But as the Democratic super PAC, American Bridge, was only too pleased to point out, the conservative Club for Growth once called Talent out for exactly the same kind of spending behavior.

"In his previous time in the Senate, prior to losing to [Sen. Claire] McCaskill in 2006, Talent voted to raid the Social Security Trust Fund, for the infamous 'Bridge to Nowhere' earmark, and for other pork-laden budget busters," the Club wrote in a 2010 news release, unearthed by American Bridge.

quicklist: 8category: Governors Who Didn't Delivertitle: Tim Pawlentytext: As a former two-term governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty was expected to have the clout and support to help Romney to a strong showing in his state's early February caucus. But despite Pawlenty's on-the-ground campaigning, on-the-phone promoting and on-the-record rival attacking, Romney made a dismal showing in Pawlenty's home state.

Not only did Romney lose the Minnesota caucuses, he lost badly, capturing 17 percent of the votes and falling to third place behind Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.

Pawlenty sought to soften the blow on a conference call with reporters the week before Romney's Gopher State loss by downplaying his state's importance in the grander scheme of the GOP Primary.

"It's important, but it's a smaller turnout than a primary system and it's difficult to predict," Pawlenty said, according to The Hill. "Given the relatively modest turnout, small fluctuations of the turnout can reflect the result one way or the other."

quicklist: 9category: Governors Who Didn't Deliver title: Nikki Haleytext: What good is a governor's endorsement if said governor can't persuade voters in their home state to vote for you? That's the question Mitt Romney might have been asking after his distant second-place finish in South Carolina, where he got the good word from Gov. Nikki Haley and the cold shoulder from her constituents.

Romney finished 13 points behind Newt Gingrich in January's South Carolina primary despite Haley's hitting the turf to sing the praises of the GOP candidate.

Exit polls showed that while two-thirds of Palmetto state primary voters supported Haley, only a third of those supporters backed Romney. Gingrich, on the other hand, captured 42 percent of Haley's supporters.