Report: Santorum holds first campaign event for Mitt Romney

One-time GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum attended his first campaign event for Mitt Romney on Saturday, reports said.

The former Pennsylvania senator and Romney waged a bitter fight for the GOP nomination and after Romney’s victory, Santorum remained reluctant to throw his support behind the presumptive nominee.  

But on Saturday, Santorum helped open a Romney campaign office in Greensburg, Pa., a town close to Pittsburgh and called on GOP voters to rally behind their candidate.

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Santorum said that the fate of the “republic is at stake” in the November elections, according to CNN, which first reported his remarks.

“One man is who we have to put our trust in to go out and fight that battle, and win that battle,” said Santorum. “And we must rally behind and do everything we possibly can to support Gov. Mitt Romney so he's the next president of the United States.

“If Pennsylvania goes Republican, Mitt Romney will be the next president of the United States,” Santorum predicted.

Santorum’s public support for Romney was a shift from the icy relationship between the two during the primaries. 

Santorum, popular with social conservative voters, managed to draw out the fight against Romney by appealing to the party's base and claiming the former Massachusetts governor was not conservative enough to defeat Obama in the general election.

Even after he left the race, Santorum continued to express concerns about Romney’s commitment to defend conservative principles on the campaign trail or in office. 

He eventually endorsed Romney in an email to supporters sent late at night, a move many in the GOP panned as a lukewarm and half-hearted move.

But after a meeting between the two in June, Santorum changed his tune, telling GOP voters that Romney’s message on social issues was “solid.” 

“I have no doubt he understands the centrality of family. He understands the importance of family for our culture, for our economy, and for our future,” Santorum said at the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington, D.C. last month.

On Saturday, the one-time Romney rival defended him from Obama campaign attacks on his tenure at private equity firm Bain Capital. Obama’s team has charged Romney with helping American businesses move jobs overseas, something Romney denies. 

Santorum said Romney was a “solid businessman who understands how to make things work,” reports said. 

The Obama campaign has also hit Romney hard after a report in Vanity Fair last week said the former CEO held offshore accounts in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. Obama has said voters expect candidates to be an “open book” and pressed Romney to release more tax records so the public may scrutinize his financial holdings. 

Santorum said that the tax issue was “a distraction” and said it had “been vetted over and over… during the primary.”

Romney has released tax returns from 2010 and an estimate for 2011, and has said he will not release additional records. Romney’s campaign has denied suggestions from the Obama camp that he placed his funds in “tax havens” to avoid U.S. taxes.