Republican Gov. Jan Brewer on Sunday had favorable things to say about Rick Santorum but endorsed Mitt Romney in Arizona’s presidential primary, saying the former Massachusetts governor “is the man that can carry the day.”
“More than that, he has that pro-business background and that political history that he would serve America the best of all the candidates,” Brewer said. “Mitt is by far the person that can go in and win.”
The endorsement in advance of Tuesday’s Arizona primary came during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and four days after Romney and three rivals appeared in a debate in Mesa, Ariz.
Brewer, in Washington to attend a National Governors Association conference, later said an interview with The Associated Press that she’s comfortable that Romney will work with governors such as herself and will deliver on his promise to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
“And I will hold him accountable for that,” she said of the border commitment.
Brewer drew national attention in 2010 for signing an immigration enforcement law known as SB1070. An appeal of challenge by the Obama administration to that law is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Last month, she drew praise and criticism for pointing a finger at Obama during a Jan. 25 airport tarmac welcoming for the president.
Brewer told the AP that Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, was her second choice.
Santorum is smart, has a “good understanding of government” and is very consistent and earnest in what he believes and says, Brewer said. “I don’t think we have seen the last of him. I think he’ll be running for president again.
However, Romney won the debate and is the best candidate to beat President Barack Obama, Brewer said.
Santorum and Romney each campaigned in Arizona in recent weeks, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Congressman Ron Paul largely ignored the state’s race.
Arizona’s contest is a winner-take-all primary, so there was little benefit to candidates to invest time and money in the state if they didn’t have a solid chance of winning.
Romney has been regarded as the front-runner in the primary in Arizona, which is home to a significant Mormon population and where Romney did well the 2008 presidential primary and now has the support of much of his party’s political establishment.
However, several polls have indicated that the race between Romney and Santorum has tightened recently.
Richard Herrera, an Arizona State University associate professor of political science, said Brewer’s endorsement could help the recipient by providing favorable news coverage.
“Her influence could be felt in a lot of circles,” Herrera said in an interview prior to the endorsement.
Brewer was Arizona’s elected secretary of state in 2009 when she became governor as a midterm replacement upon the resignation of Democrat Janet Napolitano to join President Barack Obama’s Cabinet. Brewer easily won election to a full term in 2010.