Today, former and possible future Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s "Free and Strong America PAC" endorsed Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam for governor.
In a release, Romney states, “Bill Haslam’s experience as a successful businessman and mayor make him uniquely qualified to lead Tennessee through these challenging economic times. A committed conservative, he will make the hard decisions necessary to balance the budget, get the economy back on the right track, and help put people back to work,” said Romney.
Romney’s PAC is also sending Haslam’s campaign a $2,500 primary election contribution.
Earlier this week, a Des Moines, Iowa-based group called "American Future Fund" started airing a TV ad and radio spot accusing the Knoxville mayor and his family's business, Pilot Oil, of price gouging in the wake of 2008's Hurricane Ike.
The AFF group has been staffed in the past and by former Romney staffers, but is more closely associated today with former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, according to Iowa-based media reports.
Shortly after the ad started airing, Romney spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom strongly denied any association between AFF and Romney. Reached today, Fehrnstrom stated that the timing of this endorsement was in no way related to the AFF media buy.
He added, "We have been looking at Tennessee for the past few weeks."