PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Rep. Michele Bachmann — who said before dropping out of the Republican presidential race that Mitt Romney could not beat President Obama — endorsed the former Massachusetts governor Thursday, the latest sign the GOP is uniting around its presumptive nominee.
The Minnesota congresswoman campaigned with Mr. Romney in southeastern Virginia, a day after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich officially announced his exit from the race, and a day before Mr. Romney is scheduled to meet privately with former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, once his chief rival in the GOP primary contest.
"President Barack Obama, President Mitt Romney — you decide. Very easy," Mrs. Bachmann told supporters in Portsmouth, Va. "This isn't personal. This is about having a performance review after three-and-a-half years."
Mr. Romney was introduced by Gov. Bob McDonnell, a possible vice-presidential pick who said Mrs. Bachmann's official backing is "going to mean a tremendous amount for [Mr. Romney's] campaign."
Political endorsements are often mere formalities, but the blessing from Mrs. Bachmann, a fiery tea party darling and rock-solid conservative, could help to dissipate the often-cited criticism from the right that Mr. Romney is too moderate.
President Obama, Mr. Romney's general election opponent, may be driving Republican unity as much or more than the GOP nominee. Mr. McDonnell said the shape of the country is a far cry from what the president had promised when he campaigned on "hope and change" in 2008.
"We have recession and division and malaise," said Mr. McDonnell. "Right now, we have a surplus in Washington — yes, that's true. A surplus of rhetoric and a deficit of results."
All three slammed Mr. Obama's energy policies, and Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Romney also keyed on the military — a major employer in veteran-rich Hampton Roads.
One promise that Mr. Obama has kept, Mr. Romney said, was a pledge to make energy more expensive.
"His policies have made it harder for us to use our own energy resources," he said.
He said Virginians could expect a blame game and plenty of excuses from Mr. Obama during his official re-election campaign kickoff Saturday, which will include an appearance with first lady Michelle Obama at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Mr. Obama will visit Virginia on Friday as well, when he is scheduled to appear at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington County to talk about college affordability.
The endorsement from Ms. Bachmann and appearance by Mr. McDonnell did not go unnoticed by the Democratic National Committee, which is out with a new ad that includes Mr. Romney and Mrs. Bachmann talking about defunding Planned Parenthood. The ad also makes reference to a controversial bill signed by Mr. McDonnell this year that will require women to undergo ultrasound imaging before they have an abortion.
"Romney. Bachmann. McDonnell," says the ad. "Turning back the clock on women's health."
Mr. McDonnell also appeared with Mr. Romney at a fundraiser in Arlington on Wednesday evening, and Mr. Romney had campaigned in Northern Virginia earlier on Wednesday.
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