Thursday, 19 April 2012

0 Romney gaining conservatives’ support, if not their hearts

Mitt Romney was not his first choice for president, but conservative political activist Scott Magill has come to accept that Romney is now his only choice. So Magill is looking for reasons to get jazzed about the candidate he once dismissed.

Romney gaining conservatives support

His list so far: Romney is a Republican who would sign into law legislation passed by a GOP-led House. Romney has started to hit the right talking points. If elected, Romney would have to listen to the conservative base — or risk its wrath at reelection time.

Also, and perhaps most important, Romney is not Barack Obama.

But Magill, a Newt Gingrich supporter who attended a recent National Rifle Association convention here, can’t help but let his disappointment show.

“Do I think he’s truly a conservative — by that I mean someone who conserves the Constitution? No,” said Magill, who mingled with some GOP stalwarts among acres of high-powered rifles, hunting knives and camouflage gear. “Is he a little Etch-a-Sketchy? Yeah. But we’ve got to tie that Etch a Sketch down. If we can do that, then there’s hope for us.”

Across the country, some Republicans are coming to terms with the likelihood that the man they never really liked will probably be their party’s presidential nominee. For many, it has been a hard pill to swallow at a time when the conservative base has logged an impressive list of victories and holds enormous sway over the party’s leaders.

In dozens of interviews with conservative leaders and activists, many said Rick Santorum’s decision to drop out of the race last week prompted some soul-searching about Romney, whom they have resolved to consider with fresh eyes and a newly opened mind.

And with the primary contest largely behind him, Romney appears to be trying to secure their support. On Thursday, his campaign announced that he will be delivering the commencement address next month at Liberty University, an evangelical Christian college. His advisers consider it a prime opportunity to consolidate conservatives behind him.

The conservative base appears to be warming to Romney, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted after Santorum’s exit, which found that about 80 percent of conservative Republicans hold favorable views of Romney — a record percentage for the candidate.

But only 29 percent of conservative Republicans said they held a “very favorable” view of him. And in a CNN poll released Monday, more than six in 10 respondents who said they would vote for Romney in November said they would do so out of opposition to President Obama rather than support for the former Massachusetts governor.

All of which suggests that Republicans are ready to support Romney. But they don’t love him.

Whether there’s anything Romney can do to change that — and whether it even matters in an election in which independent voters will rule — is an open question.

Peter Flaherty, a senior adviser for the Romney campaign who works with conservative groups, said the candidate has long-standing ties to conservative organizations and their leaders. He said the movement has been coalescing quickly around Romney since Santorum left the race last week and that activists’ excitement will grown naturally as the campaign progresses.


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