Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Wednesday that Rick Santorum should help heal the wounds of a long, hard-fought Republican presidential primary by endorsing Mitt Romney.
Appearing on the CBS This Morning, McDonnell, a Romney supporter for months, said Santorum, who quit the race Tuesday, can help cement the former Massachusetts governor’s image among conservatives by quickly aligning with the presumptive nominee.
“He can get enthusiastically behind Mitt Romney, ask all of his supporters, both fiscal and social conservatives to enthusiastically get behind Mitt Romney, work for him and keep their eyes on the big prize,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell made the rounds on the early morning talk shows Wednesday during a trip to New York to promote Virginia wine and tourism. Of course the topic du jour was Santorum’s decision Tuesday to drop out of the race, all but guaranteeing Romney the party’s nomination.
McDonnell commended Santorum for running a “spirited campaign” and said he would be a “great messenger” for the type of leader needed to defeat President Obama in November.
With Santorum out of the picture, focus has quickly shifted to the “veepstakes” and McDonnell has long been considered a potential candidate for the No. 2 slot.
But McDonnell, a popular governor from a swing state who leads the Republican Governors Association, shrugged off attempts to bait him into an answer on his own prospects for the job. McDonnell has repeatedly shirked the question in the months after admitting publicly he would be very interested.
"It’s up to Mitt Romney,” McDonnell said.
Regardless of his involvement in the campaign, McDonnell will be expected to deliver Virginia for Republicans this November. Obama won the state in 2008, but McDonnell coasted to an easy victory there just 12 months later.
Winning Virginia for Romney will secure McDonnell’s stature in the party as he looks to make the jump to the national stage.
“I certainly think it’s going to be competitive,” McDonnell said of his home state.
In an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, McDonnell also outlined plans for a trade mission to Europe, his sixth trip outside the U.S. since taking office. His office said Wednesday that the excursion is still being finalized, but it is tentatively scheduled for mid-June and will include stops in England, Germany and Sweden.
McDonnell was asked on the show why Virginia’s unemployment rate (5.7 percent) is so low compared to neighboring southern states. Per usual, McDonnell touted the bipartisan work ethic of lawmakers and his administration’s focus on job creation.
But he also admitted there is an economic crutch in the Capitol across the Potomac.
“Obviously the proximity to Washington, D.C., with the defense contracting and technology does make a difference,” McDonnell said.