Romney earns Rants' backing
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, who visits Waterloo today, listens to Iowa Speaker of the House Christopher Rants during a news conference Wednesday in Des Moines.
AP PHOTO

DES MOINES - Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who's eyeing a 2008 presidential bid, picked up the backing of one of Iowa's top Republican officials Wednesday.

Iowa House Speaker Christopher Rants of Sioux City has signed on as an adviser for Romney's political action committee, The Commonwealth PAC.

Romney and Rants made the announcement in a joint appearance Wednesday in Des Moines.

Rants said he visited other Republican leaders around the country with his "list of 20 questions" before deciding to sign on with Romney.

"I saw in Gov. Romney a leader that I could put my trust in, somebody that I thought would inspire other Republicans to follow," Rants said.

Romney has not announced he will run for president in 2008, but Rants said he is onboard with Romney for the "long haul."

In turn, Romney's PAC will help Republican efforts this fall to keep the majority in the Iowa House, where the GOP holds a narrow margin of 51-49. The fight for control of the House will be one of the most-watched contests in the Iowa elections this November.

Romney did not know yet how much the PAC will invest in Iowa House races.

"I don't have a figure for that at this point. We continue to raise money, and we'll invest the money that we're able to raise," Romney said.

During his two-day swing through Iowa, Romney was attending fundraisers for GOP legislative candidates, including David Wieland and Tami Wiencek in Waterloo today.

During a speech in Des Moines Wednesday, Romney touted his state's health care reform, where residents are required to obtain health insurance and are assisted by the state if they can't afford it.

"We found that we saved money by helping people buy insurance, rather than just having them show up at hospitals for their health care," Romney said.

Rants said Romney's health care plan is worth looking into for Iowa, which also has struggled with rising costs.

The House speaker also praised Romney's work on getting his state's fiscal house in order.

"He came into very difficult financial conditions when he was elected governor and has been able to turn that state's budget around, so I think there are valuable lessons to take from that as well," Rants said.

Rants will not be paid for his work for Romney's PAC; Iowa law prohibits it.

"The governor's got me on the cheap," Rants joked.

He gave Romney this advice on navigating Iowa's political landscape: "You've got to be here often," Rants said.

Contact Charlotte Eby at (515) 243-0138 or chareby@aol.com.

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