POLITICS

Rick Santorum Picks Up Endorsement From Mike DeWine, Ohio Attorney General

In a surprising reversal, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine switched his endorsement from Mitt Romney to Rick Santorum Friday in Columbus, Ohio.

"For some time now, it has been clear to me that Rick Santorum should be the Republican nominee for President," DeWine said in a statement from the Santorum campaign. "To be frank, I've had some sleepless nights. I could not, in good conscience, be on record endorsing Governor Romney when I knew in my heart that Rick Santorum was the better candidate."

The endorsement by the former Ohio senator is a huge coup for former Sen. Santorum (R-Pa.), who is surging in national polls and leads Romney in Ohio by a 36-29 margin, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday. Santorum and DeWine, both members of the congressional class of 1994, served together in the U.S. Senate and both lost re-election in 2006 in a Democratic wave.

DeWine endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Romney in October 2011. "I think he has both the ability to unite the party and have general election appeal," DeWine said in October. "I think the issue in this campaign is going to be jobs." DeWine had previously endorsed former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who dropped out of the race in August.

DeWine was scheduled to give the invocation for a Romney event Thursday night in Cleveland, Ohio, but did not attend.

On Friday, DeWine said he began to have second thoughts about Romney's record and campaign style, implying the candidate too often goes negative on his opponents.

"You have to give the American people a reason to vote for you -- a reason to hope -- a reason to believe that under your leadership, America will be better," he said. "Rick Santorum has done that. Sadly, Governor Romney has not."

DeWine and Santorum shot down idea put forward by Romney surrogate and former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu (R) that the Ohio attorney general decided to switch his support to Santorum because of an anti-Santorum ad about his support for voting rights of convicted felons.

DeWine said he had never seen the ad in question, made by Romney-backing super PAC Restore Our Future. Santorum echoed that statement to reporters, adding that the ad is factually incorrect because the bill he supported allowed only felons who had served out their convictions to vote. (The ad features a man in an orange jumpsuit, implying Santorum supported voting by felons in prison.) DeWine and Santorum both supported the bill during their time in Congress.

Santorum told reporters that he is confident he will do well in the upcoming Ohio primary, which will take place on Super Tuesday.

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