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Romney gets big endorsement; Obama defends auto bailout

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 9:03 PM EDT, Wed April 18, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Obama jabs at auto bailout opponents, a group that included Romney
  • NEW: Obama campaign aide downplays his "silver spoon" remark
  • Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels endorses Romney
  • Romney visits North Carolina, criticizes Obama's golf outings

(CNN) -- Mitt Romney got another expected but key endorsement from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels on Wednesday before heading to North Carolina to criticize President Barack Obama in the North Carolina city where Democrats will nominate Obama later this year for a second term.

Meanwhile, at appearances in Michigan and Ohio, Obama made some references that could easily be construed as jabs at his presumed Republican opponent's privileged upbringing and his position on the auto industry bailout.

Romney, speaking near the outdoor stadium in Charlotte where Obama will deliver his speech accepting the Democratic nomination in September, listed what he called failed administration policies that he said would not get mentioned by the president.

"He has failed by the measurements he set," said Romney. "You won't hear that at this convention, but you're going to hear it at ours, I'll tell you that."

In an apparent reference to polls that showed Obama was considered more likable, Romney cracked: "Even if you like Barack Obama, we can't afford Barack Obama."

Earlier, Romney echoed some of the less serious criticisms of Obama launched by the political right, complaining that the president plays golf too often.

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"I scratch my head at the capacity of the president to take four hours off on such a regular basis to go golfing," Romney said in an interview on WLW radio in Ohio. "I remember how the Democrats used to be so critical of George W. Bush for playing occasional golf. He doesn't begin to play the kind of golf that Barack Obama has, but we don't hear much about that from the mainstream media."

Romney, who said on WTVN radio in Ohio that he intends to spend a day or two at the London Olympics this summer, still needs several hundred delegates to clinch the Republican nomination but his path cleared last week when conservative challenger Rick Santorum dropped out.

Obama's campaign has long considered Romney the likely opponent in November, and the president has started making references, both obvious and oblique, to the multimillionaire former Massachusetts governor in his speeches.

Talking about job training at a community college in Ohio, Obama criticized a House Republican budget plan embraced by Romney that would cut funding for programs to help young people go to college.

"Somebody gave me an education," Obama said in reference to his and the first lady's middle-class background. "I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Michelle wasn't. But somebody gave us a chance."

An Obama campaign aide downplayed any potential reference to Romney, noting that the president has used the expression in the past.

In Dearborn, Michigan, the president defended his 2009 authorization of the massive auto bailout while indirectly smacking Romney for opposing the plan.

Standing on the same stage at the Henry Ford Museum where Romney announced his first bid for president in 2008, Obama told a crowd of some 600 enthusiastic supporters: "Change is the decision we made to rescue the American auto industry from collapse when some politicians said, 'Let Detroit go bankrupt.' "

Romney, who was born in Michigan and whose father was a former auto executive and governor of the state, opposed the bailout, saying a structured bankruptcy could have achieved the same result without the massive cost to the U.S. government. Moreover, he has argued the Obama administration made too many concessions to auto unions as part of the bailout.

The election campaign is intensifying now that it is essentially a two-man race. Romney has been rolling out endorsements this week in the aftermath of Santorum's departure from the Republican campaign.

Daniels, at one time considered a possible GOP contender, explained Wednesday on Fox News why he is backing Romney.

"He's already won our nomination. He earned it," the Indiana governor said. "He's proven himself the best nominee we can put forward, and I'm just happy to sign on and help."

In his own statement, Romney said Daniels shares his background in business and has "used the principles of the private sector in government."

"Indiana has been served well by his leadership based on fiscal discipline, smaller government, and a friendly environment for job creators," Romney said. "I am honored to have his support."

The Daniels endorsement followed similar public support for Romney on Tuesday from the top two Republicans in Congress as well as Republican governors from Pennsylvania and Wyoming, showing the party's intention to rally around their certain nominee and shift the focus of the campaign from the GOP primary race to November's election.

After his Ohio address, Obama planned to return to the fundraising circuit Wednesday with events in Michigan, where Romney was born.

One of the two planned events will be at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, the Obama campaign said. The Ford Museum was where Romney announced his first bid for president in 2008.

Wednesday's fundraisers come on the heels of the Obama campaign's announcement that it gathered $53 million last month, $8 million more than it took in during February.

A new poll Tuesday showed voters are willing to give Romney a fresh look now that he is the certain Republican nominee.

The CNN/ORC International poll showed that Romney's popularity is starting to rebound now that the divisiveness of the Republican primaries appears to be all but over.

According to the survey, 44% of people questioned said they have a favorable view of Romney, up 10 points from February, while 43% said they have an unfavorable opinion, down 11 points, and 13% were unsure.

The survey said 53% of Americans plan to give Romney a second look when the primaries are officially over, with 45% saying they already know enough about Romney to decide whether he would be a good president.

It also indicated that Romney's popularity still lags well behind Obama's: 56% have a favorable view of the president, with 42% saying they see Obama in a negative light.

"The Republican Party's favorable rating has also rebounded now that the nomination fight is all but over, from 35% in March to 41%," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That still puts the GOP several points behind the Democratic party's 46% rating, but it is an indication that the wounds have started to heal from the primary season."

Both House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Tuesday they back Romney's nomination. The statements a few hours apart were intended to show growing Republican support for Romney despite mistrust among some conservatives over his moderate policies when he was Massachusetts governor.

"I will be proud to support Mitt Romney and do everything I can to help him win," Boehner told reporters after he met with House Republicans to discuss the November election.

McConnell later told reporters he also is backing Romney, which is no surprise but represents a formal endorsement after the Kentucky senator previously said Romney would be the party's nominee and "an excellent candidate."

CNN's Tom Cohen, Alexander Mooney and Gabriella Schwarz contributed to this report.

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