Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr announced today his endorsement of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for President. Darr made the announcement at the Little Rock Political Animal’s Club luncheon, which was held at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. The endorsement is the first high-profile endorsement for Romney in the Natural State, although more will likely follow. (Update – Congressman Tim Griffin announced his endorsement about the same time as Darr.)
"I think Arkansas is looking for its leaders to be bold and want to know where they stand on the issues and who they do or do not support," said Darr when asked why he is endorsing this early in the primary. "Because the field of candidates needs to begin to narrow, I have decided who I am going to support and felt now was the time to make that public."
Darr stated that he believes that Romney "gives us our best chance of defeating President Obama."
"I like that he has real-world business knowledge. He’s not just a politician, he’s owned businesses. I think he has stood out during the debates as someone who is well-versed on the issues. He has shown that he can go toe-to-toe with the President. I believe he will be able to appeal to and pull support from other parts of the country that other candidates might not. He also has shown that he can put together the necessary resources to mount a successful campaign," said Darr.
In June, 20 Arkansas legislators formed "Arkansans for Rick Perry" encouraging the Texas Governor to get in the race. Darr was part of a group from Arkansas that traveled to Austin to meet with Perry in late July. In August, Perry took the Arkansas legislators’ advice as well as others from around the country unhappy with the current field of Presidential contenders and jumped in the race. He immediately shot up to the top of the polls and became the frontrunner; however, after a lackluster performance at a debate last month in Florida and a distant second place showing in the Florida straw poll a few days later, his bubble seemed to burst and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain’s stock started to rise.
"I think Governor Perry is a great man and a great governor for Texas, but from what I’ve seen in the campaign so far, I think Governor Romney is better prepared to take on the President and win," said Darr when asked why he went with Romney over Perry.
Rep. David Sanders with Arkansas for Rick Perry said he is sticking with Perry in spite of his recent stumbles pointing out that he is "a proven job creator" in Texas and just announced today that he has raised $17 million.
"Campaigns are long enterprises. There are going to be starts and stops and bumps in the road," said Sanders. "To not acknowledge that there have been some bumps along the way would be to ignore reality. But I feel confident in his ability to get things going, and again, I think the message and record is so compelling. Some of the items have been substantive while some have been nitpicky but I think the record and the message overshadow that."
The average of the latest polls from Real Clear Politics shows Romney leading with 21.6 percent, followed by Perry with 18 percent, and Cain with 15 percent. All other candidates are below 10 percent.