On the heels of a group of establishment Republicans endorsing Mitt Romney in Harrisburg this week, Pennsylvania's former Gov. Tom Ridge declared his support for the former Massachusetts governor as well Wednesday morning.
Ridge, also the nation's first Homeland Security Secretary, was an early supporter of presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman. Huntsman, after dropping out, threw his weight behind Romney.
"Having spent most my life in public service, as a soldier, as a Congressman, as a Governor of Pennsylvania, as a White House official, and as a Secretary of Homeland Security, I’ve met accomplished and strong leaders in my life. Mitt Romney is one of them. He would bring to the presidency an extraordinary set of skills," Ridge said in a statement sent out by the Romney campaign.
Romney can use all the help he can get in battleground Pennsylvania where the state's former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum is leading by double digits there. A new poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University found Santorum with 36 percent of registered Republican support and 22 percent for Romney.
Tim Malloy, Quinnipiac pollster, said Santorum's standing among both the Republican electorate and the statewide electorate was "remarkable" given his dramatic ouster from the Senate by Democrat Bob Casey in 2006.
"It is an eye-opener," he said. "Santorum is a comeback kid in his own state."
Compelling for Santorum campaign's argument that Newt Gingrich should step aside and let him challenge Romney alone is that when matched head-to-head in Pennsylvania, Santorum trumps Romney 52 percent to 32 percent.
Also cutting into Romney's electability argument, Santorum does starkly better than the rest of the field against Obama. With Obama at 45 percent and Santorum at 44 percent, Quinnipiac called that matchup "too close to call." But Obama tops Romney 46 percent to 40 percent, Gingrich 50 percent to 37 percent and Ron Paul 45 percent to 40 percent.
The poll was conducted March 7 through Monday and surveyed 1, 256 registered voters and includes 508 registered Republicans.
John L. Micek of Harrisburg contributed to this post.
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