Romney widens support among Conservatives
WASHINGTON CONSERVATIVES at the core of the Republican Party are coalescing behind likely presidential nominee Mitt Romney faster than expected after a punishing primary season in which they loudly sought someone else — almost anybody else — to carry the fight to President Barack Obama in the November election.
“I’m going (to support him) because it’s my responsibility and, frankly, almost anything is going to be better than Obama,” said Steve Troxel, chairman of the Lynchburg Republican Party in battleground state Virginia.
“There are some conservatives who are not ready to trust Romney to do the right thing, but they all trust President Obama to do the wrong thing,” said Representative Trent Franks.
In interview after interview, conservative activists say they know the election will be close — and that Romney needs them to do more than merely lay down their anger over his wobbles on abortion, government spending, health care and gay marriage. He needs them to campaign for him, to contribute to him, to get themselves and their friends to the polls November 6.
Many conservatives clearly are not there yet, but the Republican base is shifting toward Romney, helped along by post-primary developments that could escalate in their favour.
“The emerging consensus among conservatives is that the Republican House will lead the conservative charge and Romney will be in the White House to sign bills, rather than advance his own agenda,” said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak.
“Conservatives don’t universally claim Romney as one of their own, but they appear to have united behind him, perhaps reluctantly, but without question.” It’s a stark shift from the beginning of the year, when a stream of contenders — Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul among them — told conservatives that they presented sharper contrasts with Obama than Romney on everything from abortion to the top issue on voters’ minds, the economy.
But Romney outlasted them and last week topped the 1,144 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination at the party’s national convention in August.
Even before then, polling showed notable shifts toward Romney among three key voter groups.
More Republican women are choosing Romney, the research suggests. A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in May found Romney’s favourability among Republican women grew from 59 percent favourable in April to 80 percent now.
Evangelicals, too, are warming to Romney, who is Mormon. White evangelical Protestants support Romney 77 percent to 22 percent for Obama, according to the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, on par with 2008 Republican nominee John McCain’s 74 percent to 24 percent among that group. That’s up from Romney’s 65 percent to 26 percent advantage among that group in April.
Romney has made multiple gestures of reconciliation to conservatives. At evangelical Liberty University last month, he spoke of values like faith and family. When he’s in Washington, he meets regularly with conservative groups and leaders.
Romney campaign aides met last week with key members of the Republican Study Committee, the most conservative members of the House, to see how the former Massachusetts governor can better connect to the base.
Romney’s outreach is possible, several of those interviewed said, because he never antagonised conservatives.