CHARLESTON, S.C. — Continuing as Mitt Romney’s anti-Rick Santorum surrogate, Sen. John McCain said on Thursday that South Carolina’s two GOP senators have joined him in fighting earmarking in Congress, an issue on which Santorum is regarded as politically vulnerable.
McCain—long the Senate’s leading crusader against special-interest spending that his colleagues add to appropriations bills—said he disagrees with Santorum’s position that he was justified in earmarking to help his home state of Pennsylvania when he served in Congress. He now joins congressional Republicans in disavowing the practice.
“Sen. Santorum and I have a strong disagreement, a strong disagreement that he believed that earmarks and pork-barrel projects were good for America,” the Arizona senator said. “I think it’s wrong for America, and so does Sen. [Jim] DeMint and so does Lindsey Graham, who have been strong fighters against earmark and pork-barrel spending, and I know you’re proud of them.”
Neither DeMint nor Graham has endorsed a candidate in the GOP race. In fact, DeMint said last year he will not endorse any of the candidates.
Romney, meanwhile, was met was particularly strong applause when he criticized President Obama’s decision this week to give recess appointments to several nominees to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB had challenged Boeing’s decision to build a plant in South Carolina, arguing the plant constituted illegal retaliation against the union’s members in Washington for having engaged in a federally protected right to strike. The board dropped the case last month.
McCain did commit one minor gaffe, temporarily replacing Romney’s name with Obama’s. “I am confident with the leadership and backing of the American people, President Obama will turn this country around,” he said, only to correct himself: “Excuse me, President Romney.”