As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed Republican presidential hopeful John McCain on Thursday -- and praised his ability to work with Democrats -- Mitt Romney criticized the Arizona senator for showing “leadership for liberal causes.”
At a solar roofing company in downtown Los Angeles, Schwarzenegger formally backed McCain, praising his record of reaching across the aisle to “get things done” and noting their shared commitment to halt global warming.
“There are people out there that talk about reaching across the aisle, but [McCain] has shown the action over and over again,” Schwarzenegger said. “He’s also a crusader to end wasteful spending in Washington, which is so important; and he’s a crusader, has a great vision, in protecting the environment and also protecting the economy.”
McCain hugged Schwarzenegger and called him “a role model and guide to millions of Americans and people throughout the world.”
“I thank him for being the great American success story,” McCain said. “He came to this country with not very much except his strengths, his talents and his ambition, and he is now the governor of the largest state in America, and I’m proud to be in his company.”
Schwarzenegger, flanked by McCain and Rudolph W. Giuliani, who dropped out of the race Wednesday and endorsed McCain, said he was no longer torn between two friends, which allowed him to break his neutrality pledge.
“It’s all Rudy’s fault,” Schwarzenegger said. “They both have been very supportive of me, two men that I admire very much -- great, great public servants, great heroes -- and so I felt like it was better to stay out of it.
“But when I saw Mayor Giuliani, my dear friend, discontinuing his campaign and endorsing Sen. McCain, I felt it was the time for me also to come out and to endorse Sen. McCain,” he said.
Romney, campaigning in Southern California, said he was disappointed that he didn’t receive the governor’s endorsement. At a raucous rally in Fountain Valley, he said the competition between him and McCain was a battle for the “heart and soul of the Republican Party.”
He criticized McCain for showing “leadership for liberal causes,” including opposing President Bush’s tax cuts and Arctic oil drilling, and for co-sponsoring legislation with a Democrat that restricted campaign contributions.
He also said McCain backed legislation that would create a system to fight global warming that would hurt Americans’ wallets, and supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants that would allow them to remain in the country.
“This is very different than the Republican Party that elected Ronald Reagan,” Romney said. “We stand together on the war in Iraq, [but] on the other issues I’ve described we’re quite far apart. That distinction is what will, in the final analysis, be my best weapon in a battle to the finish.”
Romney and McCain announced they would begin advertising in California and other Super Tuesday states, though they provided no details of the ads’ content.
McCain will campaign in St. Louis and Chicago today, and Romney plans to hold an event in Denver before flying to Salt Lake City to attend the funeral of Mormon President Gordon B. Hinckley on Saturday.