It had been mere hours since Mitt Romney angered Palestinians by saying Israel’s culture was part of the reason the country has prospered. But that didn’t stop former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, previously one of Mr. Romney’s most bitter rivals in the Republican presidential primaries, from rushing to his defense Monday.
“Well first of all, I think that the United Nations camps have been terrorist training grounds, have been a disaster, and have taught socialism,” Mr. Gingrich said at a campaign event in Arlington. “It’s not just with the Palestinians. I think the whole issue of ‘how do you encourage an economy based on trust and faith; how do you encourage a rule of law when you have Hamas and Hezbollah and K’taka?’ I mean, I think that’s a legitimate question to say, ‘Maybe these are antithetical to being prosperous.’ “
Six months ago, Mr. Gingrich might well have pounced on the former Massachusetts governor’s remarks, but his quick defense came as Mr. Romney’s former intraparty foes rally around their presumptive nominee and campaign surrogates flood into swing states across the country.
The mercurial Herman Cain, the former head of the Godfather’s Pizza chain, came out swinging last week and defended Mr. Romney against his decision not to release additional years of his tax returns.
“Let me say this as emphatically as I can: Who cares about Mitt Romney’s tax returns?” he said. “Secondly, I love the fact that the guy is rich.
“I’m not mad, y’all, I just get passionate about this, OK?” he assured reporters after continuing to talk about the state of the economy and other critiques of the Obama administration.
While Mr. Romney’s former rivals are now rallying to his side, other surrogates have likewise been busy ginning up enthusiasm — and cash — for the former Massachusetts governor.
The Romney campaign did not have specific numbers, but said that the politicians, in no particular order, who have attended the most events on behalf of the campaign have been former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, and Mr. McDonnell.
All five have either been mentioned as a possible pick for vice president or hail from a swing state — or, in the cases of Ms. Ayotte, Mr. Portman and Mr. McDonnell, both.
“In a close race, the surrogates allow to create headiness,” said Robert E. Denton, Jr., a political science professor at Virginia Tech. “Most of the time, because of an identification, the surrogates can attract [a] kind of particular group.”
Much was made of Mr. Santorum’s endorsement of Mr. Romney in May, which came near the bottom of an email to supporters. Neverthless, Mr. Santorum, who won major support from evangelical Christians during the Republican primary season, could help win over blue-collar workers in the state he used to represent in the U.S. Senate — depending on how much campaigning he chooses to do.
“It generates excitement, as long as the surrogates have some sort of appeal either by name recognition or by idea identification,” he said.