WASHINGTON (AP) — Remember Newt Gingrich calling Mitt Romney a liar? Michele Bachmann saying Romney's unelectable? Rick Santorum calling Romney "the worst Republican in the country" to run against President Barack Obama?
They're hoping you don't. And acting like it never happened (even though most of their words are just clicks away online.)
One by one — with the exception of holdout Ron Paul — the GOP also-rans have coughed up endorsements of their onetime rival. And as they do, they're pulling rhetorical backflips to distance themselves from their former harsh assessments of Romney.
Don't try this at home, folks. It takes a professional politician to pull it off with a straight face.
A sampling of the also-rans' anti-Romney rhetoric when they were candidates and their obligatory niceness after endorsing Romney.
The former Pennsylvania senator still doesn't have trouble curbing his enthusiasm for Romney. He waited a month after dropping out of the race to endorse Romney, then emailed his tepid endorsement in the dead of night. He finally got out the E-word in the 13th paragraph of his 16-paragraph statement.
—"He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama." Santorum later said he was referring to Romney's standing on health care reform.
—"If Mitt Romney's an economic heavyweight, we're in trouble, because he was 47th out of 50 in job creation in the state of Massachusetts when he was governor. He may have had some success at making money for himself and his partners at Bain Capital, and I give him a lot of credit for doing so, but that's a very different thing than going out and creating an atmosphere for people to create — that create jobs."
—"There are many significant areas in which we agree: the need for lower taxes, smaller government and a reduction in out-of-control spending. We certainly agree that abortion is wrong and marriage should be between one man and one woman. I am also comfortable with Gov. Romney on foreign policy matters, and we share the belief that we can never allow Iran to possess nuclear weapons. And while I had concerns about Gov. Romney making a case as a candidate about fighting against Obamacare, I have no doubt if elected he will work with a Republican Congress to repeal it and replace it." — Endorsement emailed to Santorum supporters.
Gingrich didn't formally endorse Romney when he dropped out of the race but spoke well of him and later said that was close enough. The guy who promised not to run down his GOP opponents at the start of the race had some withering things to say about Romney during the heat of the campaign. Gingrich, a former House speaker, would rather you forget that now, though: His anti-Romney videos on YouTube, once public, are now private. The man who repeatedly branded Romney a "Massachusetts moderate" now calls him a "solid conservative."
—"Someone who will lie to you to get to be president will lie to you when he is president."
—Are you calling Mitt Romney a liar? "Yes." Questioned about his previous comment.
—"Can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney?" To Romney during a debate.
—"Why would you want to nominate the guy who lost to the guy who lost to Obama?"
—"We are not going to beat Barack Obama with some guy who has Swiss bank accounts, Cayman Island accounts, owns shares of Goldman Sachs while it forecloses on Florida and is himself a stockholder in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while he tries to think the rest of us are too stupid to put the dots together and understand what this is all about."
—"I think that a bold Reagan conservative with a very strong economic plan is a lot more likely to succeed in that campaign than a relatively timid Massachusetts moderate who even The Wall Street Journal said had an economic plan so timid it resembled Obama."
—"I'm going to campaign for him, I favor him over Obama. I went through, like, seven different issues where I favor him. I'll do everything I can to help elect Romney. ... As far as I'm concerned, I've endorsed him."
—"Compared to Barack Obama, Mitt Romney is a solid conservative. And I think you have to come down to, what's the choice this November? And the choice is the most radical president in American history and a failed president at the economy and somebody who has a solid record on jobs and who, in fact, on basic principles, is conservative. And I think you can get into arguments about who's how conservative, but compared to Obama, Mitt Romney is a solid conservative."
Bachmann waited four months after dropping out before she endorsed Romney. The congresswoman from Minnesota campaigned with him in Virginia earlier this month but didn't bring up health care in their joint appearance.
—"He can't beat Obama because his policy is the basis of Obamacare. The signature issue of Obama is Obamacare. You can't have a candidate who has given the blueprint for Obamacare. It's too identical. It's not going to happen."
—"He's been very inconsistent on his positions. He's been on both sides of the abortion issue, on both sides of the issue with same-sex marriage ... he was for the TARP bill, the $700 billion bailout and the global warming initiatives."
—"I am endorsing Gov. Mitt Romney for president of the United States, a man who will preserve the American dream of prosperity and liberty."
—"This is what victory looks like." Campaigning with Romney in Portsmouth, Va., on the day she endorsed him.
—"He's very smart. He has a very optimistic message. Women trust him because they see, this is a man who started a business from scratch, for heaven's sake."
—"One thing that Mitt Romney has demonstrated, he will repeal Obamacare. That's a big compare and contrast between Barack Obama. We will never get rid of socialized medicine, which is Obamacare, under Barack Obama. Mitt Romney has committed himself to repealing Obamacare. ... A lot of people know Mitt Romney's positive agenda."
If he couldn't have the GOP nomination himself, Perry still wasn't about to back Romney. As he dropped out of the race, the Texas governor endorsed Gingrich. He didn't come around to endorsing Romney until Gingrich announced last month that he was planning to drop out.
—"While you were the governor of Massachusetts in that period of time, you were 47th in the nation in job creation. ... You failed as the governor of Massachusetts."
—"If you are a victim of Bain Capital's downsizing, it's the ultimate insult for Mitt Romney to come to South Carolina to tell you he feels your pain. Because he caused it."
—"I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips — whether he'd have enough of them to hand out."
—"Mitt Romney has earned the Republican presidential nomination through hard work, a strong organization and a disciplined message of restoring America after nearly four years of failed, job-killing policies from President Obama and his administration."
The former Utah governor endorsed Romney at the same time he dropped out of the race in January, but there was no joint appearance.
—"You can't be a perfectly lubricated weather vane on the important issues of the day."
—"Gov. Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs."
—"When you combine a record of uncertainty — running first as a senator, as a liberal; governor as a moderate; then as a conservative for the presidency, people wonder where your core is."
—"He's been on three sides of every major issue of the day. And because of that it's going to be very tough in the end to be able to make that trust argument to the American people."
—"It is now time for our party to unite around the candidate best equipped to defeat Barack Obama. Despite our differences and the space between us on some of the issues, I believe that candidate is Gov. Mitt Romney."
—"I think he's the best equipped by far to deal with the economic issues and challenges that confront us. ... He's grown a lot, he's learned a lot. He's probably better prepared to lead."
The scrappy Texas congressman was the last man standing among Romney's GOP opponents, and he's not ready to make nice yet. Paul announced this week that he won't campaign anymore, but he's still collecting delegates at state party conventions and could give Romney grief at the national nominating convention in Tampa, Fla., come August. Paul ran some scorching ads against Romney earlier this year but shied away from going after Romney in person.
—Narrator in Ron Paul radio ad: "Mitt Romney can't fight against Obamacare because he supported the same mandates and government takeovers as governor of Massachusetts. Romney can't stand up against more bailouts because he supported them. He can't lead the charge to shrink the government because he has grown it. Romney's record is liberal and putting him up against Obama is a recipe for defeat."
—"Not soon." Paul's answer when he asked Tuesday when he'll endorse Romney.
Associated Press writer Jack Gillum contributed to this report.
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