Romney hires Santorum campaign manager

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney takes the stage at an election night rally in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, April 24, 2012.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

(CBS News) Mitt Romney's campaign has hired Rick Santorum's former campaign manager, Mike Biundo, as part of its effort to attract more support from conservatives.

Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said he called Biundo the day after Santorum's April 10 exit from the race, and that Biundo then sought the former Pennsylvania senator's blessing before taking the job. The news was first reported by the New Hampshire Union Leader, a newspaper in the state where Biundo got his start in politics and where he met Williams, also a former New Hampshire political operative.

Santorum has yet to endorse Romney, though he said in a CNN interview earlier this week that he would support the former Massachusetts governor as the nominee. Santorum's backing will help Romney gain legitimacy with voters who describe themselves as very conservative. They were key to Santorum's 11 victories in the GOP primary campaign, and they have been one of the constituencies most resistant to the choice of Romney as the party's standard bearer. The hiring of Biundo no doubt also will help Romney energize conservative voters.

Biundo told Hotsheet that he will fill the role of deputy director of coalitions and will work to court conservative voters, including tea party supporters, evangelical Christians, pro-abortion rights advocates and gun owners.

"Mike's decision is another indication that Romney is uniting the party and conservatives are coming together to defeat Barack Obama," Williams said.

Former Santorum spokeswoman Alice Stewart said, "Mike's the perfect person to do that. He's a hard worker," she said. "He's the perfect person to help coalesce these people for Romney."

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.