With the lone GOP “outsider” truly out, his supporters now have to decide: Which insider will they back? In a sign that not all of Rick Perry’s pals will transfer their allegiance to the officially endorsed Team Gingrich, a prominent Perry backer has already declared his support for Mitt Romney:
One of Rick Perry’s most well-known supporters in South Carolina, former U.S. ambassador and state speaker of the house David Wilkins, will now back Mitt Romney, he tells CNN. …
“I think (Romney) is by far our best chance to take back the White House,” Wilkins told CNN, “With the economy like it is we need somebody with business experience. I think he can do more for America than anyone else.”
The Greenville Republican served as speaker of the house for 11 years, one of the longest tenures in state history. In 2000, his work as co-chairman of the George W. Bush campaign was seen as instrumental to putting that Texas leader on the map in South Carolina.
Wilkins was particularly troubled by Perry’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, he said. No surprise, then, that he wouldn’t have jumped to Gingrich. Earlier this week, before the Texas governor had even withdrawn from the race, a Perry supporter defected to the Santorum camp.
Perry might have intended his withdrawal to assist in the formation of a conservative coalition about Gingrich, but he has no real control over where his supporters go. While his endorsement makes it seem probable that his withdrawal will primarily serve as a boost to Gingrich, plenty of conservatives have proved themselves capable of supporting Mitt Romney, and the endorsement of Santorum by a group of evangelical leaders might push Perry’s supporters to the other Rick in the race.