If Mitt Romney's campaign ever feels challenged among key segments of the Republican electorate, he's got a well-worn page in his playbook to turn to: The endorsement rollout. And Romney's team has handled those roll-outs with expert precision.
Any time the media has become obsessed with the prospects of yet another potential challenger, Romney, the clear Republican front-runner, has used big-name endorsements to remind everyone just who's in the driver's seat.
Consider late September, the moment in the race at which Romney was the most vulnerable. Texas Gov. Rick Perry was challenging Romney for the lead in national polls, but perhaps more worrisome, the buzz around New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was loud, and getting louder. Christie, it turned out, was actually considering making a late entrance into the race, setting up the possibility Romney would have to compete with a rising rock star within his own party, one who appealed to many of the same constituencies Romney did.
So Romney's campaign made clear that there wasn't room in the race for two Northeastern Republicans. On September 29, Romney announced support from 53 prominent Connecticut Republicans and from 61 Vermont Republicans. Christie said he wouldn't run the following week, on October 4 (Politico's Jonathan Martin made the connection between the endorsements and the clear message to Christie's team at the time).
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