Seeking to recapture his momentum in the GOP presidential race, Mitt Romney campaigned in South Carolina touting the coveted endorsement of Gov. Nikki Haley, a tea party favorite who he hopes will help boost his support among conservative voters in the South.
“We’ve been hoping for this for a long, long time,” Romney told hundreds of supporters who greeted him at a rally inside a fire house in Greenville.
The former Massachusetts governor said he had watched Haley’s endorsement on Fox while exercising on an elliptical trainer and that it had brought “a big smile” to his face.
“What she said brought me confidence that I’m going to be able to do in this state what she did in this state,” he said, referring to Haley’s come-from-behind win for the governor’s office in 2010.
“I respect your governor…. A lot of us stood in line at her door, hoping for her endorsement,” Romney said, adding that he “could not be more proud” to share the stage with her.
Haley’s endorsement was a coup for Romney, who trailed Newt Gingrich by 16.9 points in a Winthrop University poll of likely GOP voters in the Palmetto state this month. Gingrich’s rise to 38.4% in the poll was a surprising sign of strength in the South for the former House speaker, who had drawn the support of just 5.3% of likely Republican voters in South Carolina in September.
But noting the fluctuations in the Republican race, Romney said “Polls remind me a bit of going on a date.”
“They ask you who you are going to vote for, you put a name out there – ‘I’m kind of dating this person’ – and maybe you go steady for a while. But before you get married, you take it real seriously,” the former Massachusetts governor continued.
“I’m planning that as you take a closer look at all the presidential contenders and give them a kick in the leg and get to know who they are that you’re going to end up supporting me for the next president of the United States.”