TAMPA, Fla. — The GOP convention is a wistful time for the Republicans who failed to gain their party’s presidential nomination earlier this year. Even as they pledge to play a supporting role for Mitt Romney, they try to carve out their own niche here in Tampa.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania — the social conservatives from the primary — accepted pro-life awards Tuesday at the city aquarium just down the street from the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — who claimed the role of academic during the primaries — is holding a series of two-hour classes each morning of the convention, which he calls “Newt University.”
It’s not the week any of them had envisioned at the outset of the primary season. But, except for Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the rest of the also-rans have thrown their backing behind their party’s nominee and say they will serve as surrogates for him.
“Obviously, I was my own first choice, but that wasn’t meant to be, and I was very happy to get on board,” Mrs. Bachmann said after the pro-life awards gathering, where she mingled with social conservative leaders including Phyllis Schlafly, Ralph Reed and Tony Perkins.
When asked how she is contributing to Mr. Romney’s campaign, she pointed to President Obama’s health care law, saying she put pressure on the former Massachusetts governor to oppose it during the primaries.
But now, she says she’s confident Mr. Romney will deliver on his promises to repeal the national law if given the opportunity.
“I know I made a distinct contribution in the race,” she said. “I made the repeal of the president’s health care plan the signature issue of my race, and Mitt Romney has fully embraced that position.”
After dropping out of the primaries early in the season, Mrs. Bachmann waited several months before endorsing Mr. Romney. So did Mr. Perry, who initially backed Mr. Gingrich, but threw his weight behind Mr. Romney when it became apparent he would be the nominee.
“I’m on the team, whatever they need me doing,” Mr. Perry said.
Of all the primary candidates, only two have been granted speaking roles at the convention this week. One is former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out six months before the Iowa caucuses. The other is Mr. Santorum, who said this week that his role is to “amplify” Mr. Romney’s campaign, not to add to it.
“I’ll just try to do my best to help him,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Gingrich took to the lectern at Tampa hotels for Newt U. sessions Monday and Tuesday morning, where he highlighted the problems of stabilizing Medicare and promoting small-business job creation and outlined the Republican response.
“I think one of the great failures of Republicans is we tell the truth less effectively than Democrats lie,” Mr. Gingrich told attendees. “We decided what we’ve gotta do, we have to focus on laying out the facts.”
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