During a recent meeting with Vindicator writers, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine left no doubt about who he was supporting for the Republican nomination for president: “I’ve endorsed Mitt Romney,” he said, without equivocation.
But on Friday, standing outside the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, DeWine, former U.S. senator and lieutenant general, offered this unequivocal comment: “I could not be on the record endorsing Gov. Romney when I knew in my heart that Rick Santorum was the best candidate. When I knew in my heart that Rick Santorum had, by far, the best chance of beating Barack Obama, which is what we absolutely have to do.” The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania was on hand for the attorney general’s embrace.
What’s going on?
When DeWine endorsed Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts was considered the favorite to win the nomination. Polls showed him as having the best chance of defeating President Obama. But then came the early caucuses and primaries and suddenly Romney’s invincibility began to crumble. Today, he’s in a battle to maintain his frontrunner status. Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are nipping at his heels.
Then there’s the issue of religion. DeWine and Santorum are Roman Catholic and, based on the number of children each of them has, they seem to closely adhere to the Church’s teaching on contraception. Indeed, Santorum has grabbed the headlines in the past week or so with his unrelenting attack on the Obama administration over the issue of birth control. Catholic bishops have weighed in strongly, and Santorum’s political stock has risen with Catholics who follow the dictates of the church’s hierarchy.
Finally, the most recent Quinnipiac University poll shows Santorum leading Romney in Ohio, which will be a battleground state in the November general election. On Super Tuesday, March 6, Ohio will be the big prize, along with Georgia. The winner of the Republican primary in the Buckeye State will receive a major political boost.
Thus the question: Will DeWine’s endorsement make a difference? Santorum seems to thinks so.