LAS VEGAS -- While some candidates have backed away from campaigning in Nevada this week because of a fight between the Silver State and New Hampshire over election dates, it was full steam ahead Monday for Mitt Romney. And most of the steam was provided by one of his ex-rivals.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty made his first joint campaign appearance with Romney here, accompanying the man he once hoped to beat for the Republican presidential nomination to the opening of Romney’s Nevada campaign headquarters. A fired-up Pawlenty, who has become a national co-chair of the Romney campaign since dropping his own presidential bid, dispensed with his famed “Minnesota Nice” persona and predicted that Romney will “mop the floor” with President Obama in the general election.
Pawlenty spoke for about five minutes to a fired-up crowd of about 200. "There was a guy who had the chutzpah to run against me,” Romney said in introducing him, “and frankly he was the guy who I thought was going to be my toughest opposition."
Instead, Romney is battling businessman Herman Cain and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has endorsed Perry, but his lieutenant governor, Brian Krolicki, was on hand at the Romney headquarters opening. Speaking to the crowd, Krolicki joked that there would be pizza inside the headquarters for volunteers -- but not Godfathers, the chain once run by Cain. (The pizza was, in fact, Grimaldi's.)
Also in the crowd was Miss Nevada, fully decked out in her sash and crown. Romney gave her a hug. A man named Norm Romney introduced himself while Romney was shaking hands after his speech. The presidential hopeful asked how they were related, and upon being told that they were second cousins, smiled and said: "Well, I've got a handful of those!"
Romney’s Mormon roots and his work in nearby Utah, where he ran the 2002 Winter Olympics, give him an edge in Nevada, where he won the caucuses in a walk four years ago. That’s one reason he’s refused to join the boycott proposed by some New Hampshire politicians and several of his presidential rivals, who are urging Nevada to cancel plans to hold its contest on Jan. 14 -- a date that Granite Staters think crowds their first-in-the-nation primary.
In his speech here, Romney spoke about how badly the Silver State has been hit during the recession. Nevada has the highest foreclosure rate in the nation.
While Romney was accusing President Obama of not working for America, someone in the crowd commented on the president’s penchant for golfing. Romney told the crowd he would "spend a lot more time working than this president has and a lot less time on the golf course." Ironically, after this event, he headed to Red Rock Country Club for a private fundraiser, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. The paper reported that the event was co-hosted by Marklen Kennedy, a producer of Showtime's Las Vegas-based Gigolos reality show.