Even as Republican presidential contenders Rick Perry and Mitt Romney are gearing up for Monday night’s debate in Florida, a fight between the two for endorsements comes to fore.
Many of the Republican members of Congress who benefited from former Mass. Gov. Romney’s political action committee Free Strong America and endorsed him in 2008 are now either backing Texas Gov. Rick Perry or delaying their decision.
Reps. Mike Conaway and John Carter from Texas are two such examples. Both supported Romney in 2008, but now they say they are with Perry. “We are going with our favorite son,” USA Today quoted Conaway as saying. For Carter, it was still early in the campaign but he also said, “We are going with Rick.”
Carter added, “It is a Texas thing. I am a big fan of Mitt Romney. I think he’s a great man and a great candidate but this time I’m going with Rick.”
While Romney has the backing of 11 House members and two senators thus far, Perry has been endorsed by eight House members and one senator.
Many other 2008 supporters of Romney want to wait before they actually decide to sign on with the same campaign.
Rep. Rodney Alexander from Louisiana says he wants to wait longer, adding, “I know him (Perry) personally,” as reported by USA Today. Rep. Lynn A. Westmoreland from Georgia, who also supported Romney in 2008, says it’s not easy for him to decide who to endorse this year, and therefore he’s not in a hurry. Rep. Bill Shuster from Pennsylvania is waiting to hear the candidates’ views on transportation issues before he decides who to endorse.
The wait is despite the Free Strong America committee having doled out over $340,000 to 150 Republican members of Congress this cycle before Romney announced his run.
Against this backdrop, the debate in Florida, co-sponsored by the Tea Party Express, on Monday night is likely to be passionate as the two GOP rivals deal with economic issues. Perry and Romney clashed last week over the Social Security retirement plan and job creation.
Perry compared Social Security with a “Ponzi scheme,” calling it a “monstrous lie” at the last week’s debate, which was also his first. Romney, meanwhile, said he was for the popular retirement program which just needed a little fixing.
The Texas Gov. will need to be cautious in Florida, which has a substantially large population of elderly voters.
While eight candidates are expected to join the second debate in less than a week at the Florida State Fairgrounds, all eyes will be on Perry and Romney at the televised event.