BERLIN, N.H. - Former president George H.W. Bush announced yesterday he will back Mitt Romney in his presidential bid, the latest in a string of high-profile vows of support as the campaign enters the critical early-voting stage.
“I think Romney is the best choice,’’ Bush told the Houston Chronicle. “I like [Texas Governor Rick] Perry, but he doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.’’
On Romney, he was effusive.
“He’s a fine person,’’ he said. “I just think he’s mature and reasonable - not a bomb-thrower.’’
Romney, on a bus tour across New Hampshire, spoke with Bush after the announcement and said he was honored.
“I must admit this is much more important to me personally than even politically,’’ he said.
In the interview with the Chronicle, the 41st president also spoke at length about one of Romney’s chief rivals for the nomination, former House speaker Newt Gingrich. “I’m not his biggest advocate,’’ Bush said.
Several Republicans integral to the budget talks of 1990, in which Bush decided to break his “Read my lips: No new taxes’’ pledge in exchange for changes in the budget process that would eventually lead to a balanced budget, say Gingrich undercut the president in negotiations.
In the interview, Bush alluded to that pivotal moment in his presidency, when he was counting on Gingrich, then the House whip, to stand with him and other Republican leaders.
“He was there, right outside the Oval Office,’’ Bush recalled. “I met with all the Republican leaders, all the Democratic leaders. The plan was, we were all going to walk out into the Rose Garden and announce this deal. Newt was right there. Got ready to go out in the Rose Garden, and I said, ‘Where’s Gingrich?’ Went up to Capitol Hill. He was here a minute ago. Went up there and started lobbying against the thing.
“He told me one time later on, he said, ‘This is the most difficult thing I ever had to do.’ I said, ‘I didn’t like it much myself, Newt.’ ’’
Jim Appleby, Bush’s personal aid and spokesman, sought to draw a distinction between Bush’s avowed support of Romney and an official endorsement.
“It is not an endorsement of the governor,’’ Appleby said.
When asked the difference between supporting someone publicly and endorsing him, Appleby said: “You would probably have to ask someone more politically savvy than myself. But at this point the difference I could guess at is a lunchtime conversation where his personal feelings are talked about and an official statement coming from our office and him saying this is an endorsement.’’ - Matt Viser
Concord Monitor endorses Huntsman for GOP race
The Concord Monitor yesterday endorsed Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah, in the Republican presidential race, the third New Hampshire newspaper to do so.
Huntsman “would provide mature, informed, and steady leadership,’’ the paper’s editorial board wrote. “Combine the foreign policy experience of all the other candidates in the race, and Huntsman would top it.’’
The Concord Monitor, one of the state’s largest daily newspapers, covering Concord, the state capital, and central New Hampshire, is liberal-leaning.
The editorial said only three candidates have the “capability and credibility’’ to beat President Obama: Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich. “With Gingrich, voters would get an unpredictable, unprincipled nominee and, should he be elected, a white-knuckle four years of an imperial presidency,’’ the newspaper wrote. “With Romney, they wouldn’t know who they would get.’’
The editorial went on to cite Huntsman’s experience as governor and ambassador, his belief in the science of climate change, and his tax policy proposals.
The Keene Sentinel and Valley News previously endorsed Huntsman. The Union Leader endorsed Gingrich. Foster’s Daily Democrat and the Portsmouth Herald endorsed Romney. - Shira Schoenberg
Romney takes time out for Christmas shopping
LANCASTER, N.H. - Mitt Romney yesterday sprinted through five towns in 10 hours but still managed to squeeze in a little Christmas shopping.
“This is the Dukakis rack here,’’ Romney said, pointing to a group of furry hats with long ear flaps while browsing in Simon the Tanner in Lancaster with his wife, Ann, and son Tagg. “Put on one of those, and your career is over.’’
Asked what the best and worst Christmas gifts her husband has given her, Ann Romney said the best was easy: “A horse.’’
The worst came more slowly, and her husband stepped in.
“The first, I don’t know, 10 years of our marriage, I would buy her clothing of various kinds,’’ he said. “And she would say, ‘Ohhhh. This is so nice.’ And then it was gone a week later. I’ve tried to wise up a little bit.’’
On this trip, she picked out her own gift, settling on red boots and a white North Face jacket.
Romney began to pay, and Tagg thrust forward a pair of socks for his daughter. “Notice,’’ Romney said, “how my son puts an item on my card.’’
He later smiled. “Christmas accomplished,’’ he said.
Later, he sprinted down a street in Berlin after a woman told him he had not come to her door. She drove back home, and he ran. - Matt Viser