Tennessee Democratic Party (TDP) leaders leveled political attacks Thursday at GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney — and didn’t go after Republican rival candidate Rick Santorum, who leads Romney in major state polls leading into Super Tuesday.
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania U.S. senator, led Romney by about 20 points, and both Republicans held an edge over Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama in a Middle Tennessee State University poll released Wednesday.
But Romney’s GOP competitors don’t have the money to compete with him even after Tuesday’s state primary election, state House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Old Hickory said during a TDP conference call with reporters.
“I think this race is virtually over and Romney will be the candidate,” Turner said. “Santorum may win Tennessee. (Former U.S. Speaker Newt) Gingrich may win Tennessee, but Romney is going to be the nominee.”
TDP Chairman Chip Forrester noted Romney has Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s support, as well as the backing of major GOP campaign contributors inside Tennessee.
Romney, former Massachusetts governor, also has endorsements from more than 20 state lawmakers and U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn.
Still, Forrester pointed out voters have a huge “enthusiasm gap” for the field of Republican presidential candidates.
“All across the country you’re seeing extreme right-wing positions these candidates have had to take to curry favor with the tea party, and normal working Republicans are staying home,” Forrester noted.
Turner, Forrester and United Auto Workers Local Chairman Mike Herron took aim at Romney for refusing to support the federal government’s auto industry bailout.
“If we had let Detroit go bankrupt ... that would mean let Spring Hill (a General Motors plant in Middle Tennessee) go bankrupt...” Forrester said. “(Romney’s) old private venture capital firm declined to help restructure the auto industry.”
Herron insisted that if Romney would have been president after 2008, the Spring Hill GM plant wouldn’t exist.
“(Romney) bet against the American worker. He bet against us, and he was wrong,” Herron told reporters. “He knows the owners of business, but it’s very hard for him to understand what the workers are all about. ... All of the Big Three (automakers) are adding shifts. ... We would have lost a million jobs without President Obama.”
Forrester also stressed Romney’s campaign has no room to talk about job creation in Tennessee.
“Obama has a record of 23 consecutive months of private-sector job growth,” said Forrester. “Mitt Romney’s job creation as governor of Massachusetts was just plain dreadful. Factory jobs there declined by twice the national average. He slashed funding for a successful state program that helped small manufacturers grow and compete. ... Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50th in job creation.”
Forrester said the lingering competition between the GOP presidential rivals bodes well for Democrats.
“We’re witnessing a food fight in the GOP nomination,” he concluded. “This only weakens the field for November and allows President Obama to have center stage in this process.”