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Campaign 2012

Ex-rival Pawlenty endorses Romney

Joining campaign as a cochairman

By Shira Schoenberg
Globe Correspondent / September 13, 2011

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Former GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, who had coined the term “Obamneycare’’ in ridiculing Mitt Romney over his health law in Massachusetts, yesterday endorsed his former rival and quickly became a companion on the campaign trail.

“The next president is going to have to lead on the economy and jobs in a historic way,’’ said Pawlenty in making the endorsement on Fox News. “And there’s one candidate in this race who is unmatched in his skills and experience and talent when it comes to turning around this economy and growing jobs, and that’s Mitt Romney.’’

Romney said Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor who dropped out of the race last month after coming in third place in the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, would become a national campaign cochairman.

The two toured the new Boeing Co. production plant in North Charleston, S.C., before Romney gave an address on labor issues. Pawlenty later questioned the rhetoric of Governor Rick Perry of Texas, Romney’s chief rival at this early stage in the campaign, over what is developing into a critical issue dividing the candidates.

“Yes, Social Security needs fixing and reforming, but we do need to maintain it, not throw it out,’’ Pawlenty told the Politico website. “For somebody to say that it’s a failure or that we’re going to just get rid of it, or push it all back to the states. I don’t think that’s where a bulk of the country is.’’

Perry has called Social Security a Ponzi scheme and has advocated states taking control of the retirement program.

While he was a candidate, Pawlenty had fiercely denounced the health care law backed by Romney in Massachusetts. In brandishing the term “Obamneycare,’’ he interwove President Obama’s health care overhaul, which is anathema to Republicans, with Romney’s law.

Asked about that on Fox, Pawlenty said he had talked to Romney and knows he is committed to repealing Obama’s overhaul.

ABC News reported that Pawlenty decided to endorse Romney after he and his wife, Mary, spent the night at the Romneys’ vacation home in Wolfeboro, N.H., a week ago Friday. In backing Romney, Pawlenty passed an opportunity to help fellow Minnesotan, Representative Michele Bachmann. Pawlenty and Bachmann fiercely attacked each others’ accomplishments and abilities at the last debate Pawlenty attended, in Iowa.

Romney has already picked up one of Pawlenty’s top advisers - former Minnesota congressman Vin Weber, as part of his economic policy team.

Shira Schoenberg can be reached at sschoenberg@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.