MANCHESTER, N.H. — As Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney began a campaign swing across New Hampshire on Wednesday, he picked up several key endorsements here and in the first-caucus state of Iowa.
Romney also won the backing of Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman and prominent Washington lobbyist who had served as national co-chairman of former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty’s presidential campaign.
Pawlenty dropped out of the race Aug. 14, following a distant third-place showing at the Iowa straw poll. Weber, who had been Romney’s policy chairman in his 2008 presidential campaign, is rejoining the Romney team, this time as a special adviser on foreign and economic policy.
“It is an honor to again work with Mitt Romney,” Weber said in a statement issued by the campaign. “At such a critical time in our nation’s history, it is important that we have someone with his background to lead the country.”
Romney said he was proud to have Weber’s support: “Vin will be a trusted adviser, and I look forward to working with him to help get our country moving in the right direction again.”
Weber’s endorsement was first reported by the Star Tribune in Minnesota.
In a May interview with The Washington Post, Weber explained why he was backing Pawlenty over Romney.
“After the election of President Obama, who is in so many ways a different kind of candidate than we’ve seen before, there are a lot of Republicans who really want to see a new face at the top of our ticket,” Weber said. “That’s the only explanation I can put on it. Mitt is a great guy and a strong candidate in my view.”
Weber added: “I never came to the conclusion I was disaffected from Mitt Romney. I thought he was a great guy, a great candidate and I think the world of him. But I had to make a very personal decision. Tim Pawlenty’s been a friend of mine for 20-plus years. I think Pawlenty’s a great candidate.”
Romney also won endorsements Wednesday from two elected officials in Iowa who had supported Pawlenty’s bid. State Rep. Linda Miller and Dallas County Recorder Chad Airhart are joining Romney’s leadership team.
Although Pawlenty prioritized Iowa in the last month of his campaign, caravanning across the state in a rented Winnebago while his senior staff decamped to a Des Moines suburb, Romney has been a far more distant presence there. He did not compete in the straw poll but is waging a stealth strategy for the caucuses and has promised to visit Iowa this fall.
“I am grateful to receive the support of so many great leaders in Iowa,” Romney said in a statement. “We will work together to turn around the economy, put Americans back to work and reverse the failed policies of the last three years.”
Here in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Romney will hold a town hall meeting in Keene at noon, a business roundtable at the Common Man in Claremont at 3 p.m. and a town hall meeting in Lebanon at 5:30 p.m.
Romney will try to focus on right-to-work legislation that gives employees a choice whether to join a union. His campaign released its latest online video, “Obama Isn’t Working: Right to Work,” a two-minute, 30-second spot that focuses on Fred Kfoury Jr., president and chief executive of Central Paper Products in Manchester, N.H., who advocates for right-to-work legislation.
In the video, Kfoury calls his company “an extended family” and says the struggle for his business has been “difficult.”
“I guess the best analogy is to say that if you have a nine-inch pie, the nine-inch pie isn’t getting any bigger and if you want to grow your business you have to take a bigger piece of the pie,” Kfoury says. “I believe that if a union were here, at Central Paper, that it would inhibit our ability to grow the business by placing a third party between the company and the employees.”
He added, “We live in the ‘Live Free Or Die’ state, and [employees] can damn well choose whether they want to join an organization or not join an organization.”
At the Keene event, Romney is expected to announce another endorsement. Former state Senate president Tom Eaton is backing Romney, a move considered significant partly because Eaton is close to David Carney, who is Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s longtime chief strategist. Carney, whose political consulting business is based in New Hampshire, ran Eaton’s first campaign, a special election in 1999. Eaton’s endorsement was first reported by Politico.