Candidate Mitt: Rocky who?
WASHINGTON - In 2003, Mitt Romney went to bat for Rocky Anderson.
Romney, then Massachusetts governor and the former head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, cut an ad for Anderson heralding him as a "strong leader and a great mayor."
"He's innovative, he's gutsy and he's a team builder," Romney says in the ad that Anderson used to help get re-elected to a second term as Salt Lake City's mayor. "In my view, Salt Lake City is a better place because of Rocky."
Romney, a Republican presiden- tial contender, may have cooled a bit since then - especially now that Anderson is making a name for himself nationwide as an anti-war luminary and has called for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for war crimes.
"I would fully expect Mitt Romney to distance himself from me, especially now that he's changing his position on so many issues," Anderson said Thursday.
Romney didn't disappoint.
In an interview Thursday with The Associated Press, Romney sought to minimize his relationship with Anderson. "I do not endorse or support his views on President Bush or almost any other issue, particularly that's unrelated to being a mayor," he said.
Romney's campaign said Anderson and Romney worked together well when Romney headed the Olympics.
"Mayor Anderson was a fan of Gov. Romney's executive experience and ability, and the governor appreciated his support in making the Olympic Games a success," said Romney press secretary Kevin Madden. "His opinions and beliefs [on Bush and the Iraq war] are his own and not shared by the governor."
Last week in Washington, Anderson said Bush should be impeached for leading the way in commission of "the most heinous human rights abuses."
Romney, on the other hand, has praised Bush for his leadership as he campaigns in early primary states. Bush may not be popular nationwide, but with conservative Republicans who will decide their party's nominee, the president is still a respected leader.
Anderson used Romney in his campaign materials for his re-election bid in 2003, a payback for when Romney used Anderson in his campaign materials when the former Olympic chief was running for governor.
Anderson praised Romney recently, saying in a story in The Nation that leaders he respects included Romney.
"Regardless of our political differences, I consider Mitt and Ann Romney to be great friends," the mayor said. "I have the world of respect for the job Mitt did on the Olympics and found him to be a really superb person. Our friendship will always transcend politics."
* DEREK P. JENSEN contributed to this report.
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