Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) criticism of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) as a “vulture capitalist” has cost him the backing of at least one prominent supporter.
Barry Wynn, a top GOP donor, investment fund president and former state party chairman, plans to leave the Perry campaign and endorse Romney. Wynn had been serving informally as a member of Perry’s finance team. News of Wynn’s move was first reported by CNN’s Peter Hamby.
The news is a significant blow to Perry’s campaign in the Palmetto State and may also give pause to other GOP hopefuls such as former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who, like Perry, has been standing by his attacks on Romney’s record at Bain Capital.
In a phone interview Thursday morning, Wynn said that he doesn’t have “anything but good things to say” about Perry, but that the Texas governor’s sharp criticism of Romney’s tenure at Bain “certainly was something that kind of moved me over the top, if you will.”
“I really don’t think you can be on both sides of free-market capitalism,” he said. “If you attack Bain, it’s just too broad a brush to paint with. ... There’s another party that’s going to be attacking free-market capitalism this year, and we don’t need to be having challenges to that from within the party.”
Since 1980, every Republican Party presidential candidate who has won South Carolina has gone on to win the party’s nomination. Wynn said Thursday that the Palmetto State’s historical role in the nominating contest was also a factor in his decision.
“I also think that there are a number of people from other campaigns now that are saying, ‘Let’s go ahead and coalesce. We’ve got a winner. We’ve got somebody we can be proud of, who can run a strong camp against the president, who’s run a campaign generally on a positive basis,’” Wynn said.
He added: “I think the time has come — and again South Carolina has always picked the winner — and I think there’s a feeling right now, ‘Let’s do it again. Let’s give him a victory, send him on to Florida.’”
Wynn said he spoke with Romney Thursday morning and expects to take a role in fundraising or other aspects of the campaign, although the specifics have yet to be hashed out.
“I told him I’ll do as little or as much as they’d like for me to do,” Wynn said. “But I’m not going to be a cowboy, going to run out and do things on my own.” Wynn said that he has not yet spoken with Perry about his decision.
CNN’s Hamby reports that two other influential South Carolina GOP players — businessman Peter Brown and attorney Kevin Hall — will also announce their support for Romney on Thursday. All three are advisers to conservative kingmaker Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who has no plans to endorse in the race, but who said on Tuesday night that he believes Romney is going to win the Palmetto State.
Asked whether he thinks the Bain attacks may have done long-term damage to Romney’s campaign, Wynn said it remains to be seen. But he noted that he believes Republicans should make it clear where they stand on the issue of free-market capitalism.
“I think the time has come when we really need to consolidate and pick a winner and also make sure that we’re the party that’s going to fight and support free-market capitalism,” Wynn said. “That’s what made this county the richest country in the world, and if Republicans don’t defend that, who’s left to defend that?”