(CNN) – Mitt Romney is backing away from a statement that seemed to denigrate former GOP presidential candidate Robert Dole, who wrote a letter to Rush Limbaugh yesterday defending the former Massachusetts governor’s main Republican rival, John McCain.
In a FOX interview Tuesday morning, Romney had said the former Kansas senator was “probably the last person I would have wanted to have write a letter for me.”
McCain immediately put out a statement condemning the comment, and told reporters on his campaign plane that Romney should apologize to Dole, a decorated World War II veteran, for the remark: "this is no way to end up this campaign, by attacking a genuine American war hero." His campaign also released a statement in which the Arizona senator called Romney’s remark “disgraceful.”
A short time later, Romney also referred to Dole as “an American hero.” He added that he would love to have the former senator’s support for his own bid.
“I think very highly of Sen. Dole,” he said, and had merely intended to criticize “the mental set that says we should choose our nominee based on how many years they’ve served and how long they’ve waited in line.” He added that he did not think McCain will benefit from the letter.
On Monday, Dole sent Rush Limbaugh defending John McCain as a "mainstream conservative," in reaction to the talk show host’s attempts to rally grassroots conservative support against the Arizona senator.
Dole said in that letter he remains neutral in this year’s presidential primary.
UPDATE: Romney unsuccessfully attempted to reach Dole by telephone Tuesday morning to clarify his statements.
– CNN’s Tasha Diakides and Alexander Marquardt contributed to this report
Typical John McCain. How dare anyone say anything negative about a war hero! This guy is going to ride his military service and former POW status all the way to the nomination. While I admire him and greatly appreciate the sacrifices he's made for this country, he's not fit to be president. It's unfortunate that his opponents can't come out and say that his service to our country has absolutely nothing to do with being president in the 21st century. An old Washington insider with little or no experience as an executive is a step in the wrong direction for the Republican party. It's time for real leadership and real ideas – not a trip down memory lane.
How can any republican who failed to rebuke the Swift Boat Liars for Bush complain about denegrating a genuine American war hero in a political campaign?
If the republicans nominate romney, then I am definately going to place a large bet on the democrats winning in november. Nominating romney would be the biggest mistake the republicans can make.
I'm a Mormon and generally conservative. I don't like any of the candidates, Democrat, or Republican. Nevertheless, since one of them is going to end up in the White House, I firmly believe the least troubling of the mistakes-waiting-to-happen out there is Mitt Romney. I don't feel that way because we share religious affiliation. I believe his positions on illegal immigration and the economy are the most important issues in this campaign and on those issues, I agree with him. I have never supported our foray into Iraq, I want the troops home now, and I would prefer a national health insurance to Romney's plan, but I think he will turn Washington in different, perhaps better directions overall. It's certain that McCain, Clinton, or Obama would not. They have no experience in executive administration. They are professional politicians. I don't trust anyone who pursues politics as a lifetime career. What have any of them done outside politics? Nothing of any significance. Romney is a doer. I don't like all of his politics, or philosophies, but I believe our nation will be better off with him in the White House than any of the woeful alternatives forced upon us by hidebound political party institutions and ignorant, reckless, self-serving media.
Why does getting shot down and then caught make you qualified to be president?
McCain's retort for every criticism of him or a veteran is, "Frankly, I think he should apologize to the troops." "He's a hero, you should apologize."
McLame is dirty...sitting there with his slimy little smirk, knowing he's weasled his way into this thing.
McCain is once again twisting the truth in a Clintonesque way that shows his true colors. He is NOT trustworthy. He is a disaster and his partner in crime the Huckster, have cooperated in a secret deal to help beat the only honest man in the race. That is of course Mitt Romney.
TO DAVE: If John McCain is our only hope, then we might as well become a liberal aristocracy and crown the next Democrat -King or Queen. Doubters need to 'shake it off' and realize that this election is NOT over. NOT OVER! Dave.
I heard the remarks... totallly blown out of proportion. The media reporting on this is even sillier. Nothing was said about military record.... People please.
I think John McCain will benefit from what Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter has to say about him. I mean he has to have something going for him if these two evil blowhards don't like him.
Actually, McCain and Romney...they are like little kids arguing over candy...One only knows the military from before the fall of the wall and the other can't answer a simple question. My choice...Huck.
His campaign also released a statement in which the Arizona senator called Romney’s remark “disgraceful.”
Mitt Romney's remarks were not only disgraceful. Mitt Romney HIMSELF is a disgrace.
Romney is a good person.
It's sad to see all this negativity being thrown around as we aproach elections.
I would think Romney is backing off from his remark (once again, just another remark Romney wants to crawl out of) about Dole. How much more plain can you get than to say "probably the last person..." Romney would want to write a letter for him? And then to turn around and admit that he (Romney) would have loved to have a letter from Dole to support his bid.
I think Romney was just plain jealous that McCain got the support from Dole that Romney would have loved to have for himself.
And I do think that saying Dole was "the last person" Romney would want to write a letter for him, was not a very nice thing to say at all, war vet or not. But especially because he is a war vet. Just because this war is such an issue in this election is the reason I think Romney said that about Dole's letter.
The bottom line is that Romney or no one else can take away the experience that John McCain has in military issues and that he is the best qualified to be our President and Commander in Chief to the troops he so loves.
We already one ultra religious President and look at that turned out. I think the ultra right Limbaugh crowd have to realize they are on their own in this election. America has had enough of neocons like Cheney, Rumsfeld, & Ashcroft. McCain is plenty Conservative he just isn't a neocon wackjob.
Personally I don't like that McCain wants to stay in Iraq but at least the man has some honour, he is the only Repub who has gone on the record against waterboarding and other forms of torture.
Romney was stupid to have made the Dole remark.
Go to the West Virginia Caucus Site:
Percentates before re-voting reported on their very own website
As no candidate got a majority, they need to vote again. Paul 10%, so he is out.
Go Romney! Upset coming?
McCain, the guy who said he "hates all gooks and always will" says Romney's comment is disgraceful? So a racial slur is okay but a comment you'd rather not be compared to a failed presidential bid isn't? This is more than pot meeting kettle, it's the old blackened pot trying to insult the shiny new stainless steel kettle.
Can someone tell me the difference between McCain and Hillary please?
Rush Limbaugh said... Limbaugh says...
It would really be nice if we could all think for ourselves for a change.
McCain owes me an aplogy stating that he will give amnesty to 30 million illegal aliens living in our country, eating up all the welfare they can.
Nice going, MittWit.
Those disgraceful remarks about a true patriot like Bob Dole will come back to haunt you.
Whatever! Romney can say who he wants or doesn't want to speak on behalf of his campaign. Personally, I would not want to have Bob Dole say anything for me.
He look like he is about to cry. All million gone, will he win?
Go to West Virginia website for result of caucuses.
Do not intervene with my First Amendment Right to Free Speech if you don't like what I'm posting, since you have deleted it twice CNN.
Here is the voitng after the first round on THAT website
As no candidate got a majority, they are starting a second round.
In a time when we are failing economically, we don't need war heroes. Great men that they are, being a war hero doesn't mean that they know anything about making a great economy run well.
McCain needs to get off the "war hero" bandwagon. War heroes are people like Pat Tilman and the other 3900+ souls thst have been lost in this ridiculous and illegal occupation. McCain and Dole, though highly recognized for their military dedication, are war vets that came home alive. Nothing more and nothing less.
McCain needs to stroke the "war hero" moniker because he can't obviously face reality and the degrading conditions of this country and the war in Iraq (remember him walking around that Baghdad market espousing how safe it was to walk in Baghdad? All the while he was wearing body armor and was protected by a small army and air force). The very next day that market was attacked by insurgents, resulting in the needless deaths of 27 vendors. You're doing one heck of a job there, Johnny Boy!
So give up the "hero" crap, and leave it for the ones who really deserve that honor; the men and women who toil in Hell every day and make the ultimate sacrifice. They don't get to spend 5 years in prison.