U.S. Election

On the GOP campaign trail: Explaining off-coloured jokes and losing a big-name backing

The Globe and Mail

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks to supporters at his primary night rally in St. Charles, Mo., on Feb. 7, 2012. (SARAH CONARD/Sarah Conard/Reuters)

It’s a Friday the Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum campaigns would rather forget.

The Friday of campaign trail brush-fires – the unexpected, untimely development that gives a presidential candidate and his campaign team a headache.

For the Romney campaign, the headache is over getting dumped.

Former Senator Mike DeWine, who has been serving as Ohio’s Attorney-General after losing his senate seat in 2006, is set to withdraw his support from Mr. Romney and instead give it to Mr. Santorum.

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Some quick facts about Ohio: indicate Mr. Santorum is opening a wide lead over Mr. Romney ahead of the March 6th Ohio primary, and it is a delegate-rich state that all candidates will actively contest.

Quick fact about Mr. DeWine’s original endorsement of Mr. Romney: it happened last October when Mr. Romney was the clear front-runner.

For the Santorum campaign, you would think there is no headache – winning a key Ohio Republican about 10 days from the Super Tuesday contests on March 6th.

Except Mr. Santorum’s biggest financial backer, Foster Friess, made a about contraception that left MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell speechless on Thursday.

Back in his days, he told the interviewer, women used Bayer aspirin as birth control.

“The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly,” he said.

This morning, both and were on separate TV networks explaining and condemning the joke.

“It was a bad joke, it was a stupid joke. It’s not reflective of me or my record on this issue,” Mr. Santorum said on CBS, in an often tense exchange with interviewer Charlie Rose. “This is the same gotcha politics that you get from the media and I’m just not going to play that game.”

Mr. Santorum turned on the interviewer and others in the media for defending President Barack Obama for comments made by his former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

“In fact, with President Obama, what you did was you went out and defended him against someone who sat in a church for 20 years and defended him, that he can’t possibly believe what he listened to for 20 years,” Mr. Santorum continued.

For the Romney campaign, losing support from a key Ohio Republican at this stage is bad timing.

This week, Mr. Romney has watched poll after poll indicate that he is in a dead-heat with Mr. Santorum nationally and trailing him in the state of Michigan, where Mr. Romney was planning on running a campaign on cruise control.

It’s where he was born, and the Romney name, made famous by his father who was Michigan governor from 1963-1969, was expected to be of help again this time as it was in 2008.