Mitt Romney
10:00 pm
Sun June 24, 2012

Romney's Next Challenge: Woo Skeptical Republicans

Originally published on Tue June 26, 2012 6:30 am

The battering Mitt Romney took from Republican rivals during the primary made big news. What seemed less noteworthy at the time — the knocks he took from Republicans in Congress — is now much more significant if there is to be a President Romney.

"He's the least of the candidates running right now that would be considered a Tea Party candidate," Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., told CNN.

After Romney won Florida, GOP Rep. Allen West told CBS that Romney has to do a far better job in "making the appeal as far as being a strong constitutional conservative."

It's not just Tea Party conservatives who questioned Romney's candidacy. Peter King, a Republican moderate from New York, said to Howard Kurtz of the Daily Beast that Romney has not connected on a visceral level at all.

"That is going to be important if he's going to win the election; he has to make a greater personal appeal to people," King said.

Past criticism from his own party is one reason Romney's campaign has produced a series of ads answering the question: "What would President Romney do?"

The language of these ads could be lifted directly from the Tea Party playbook and seems aimed at conservative Republicans to convince them Romney is really their guy.

As is to be expected, the Republican establishment is pulling itself together behind the party's presumptive nominee. Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, who runs the National Republican Congressional Committee, says Romney understands that the things that he does are about growing the free-enterprise system.

"Mitt Romney is a free-enterprise person," Sessions says. "Romney exercises and uses what they teach in business schools."

Romney has supporters in the younger ranks in Congress as well. Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz says Romney brought together a fractured party and united it.

Chaffetz is well-connected to Romney and is a fellow Mormon. One of the arguments Chaffetz makes is that Romney has always been effective, both as a business leader and as the governor of Massachusetts.

"He was dealing with a Legislature that was more than 80 percent Democrats, and he was able to get some significant pieces of legislation crafted and passed," Chaffetz says.

That argument leaves some Congressional Republicans cold. When asked what a President Romney's relationship with Congress would be like, Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh says it could be a "wonderful relationship," assuming the Republicans still control the House and hopefully get control of the Senate.

In other words, as long as conservatives — Tea Party loyalists like Walsh — still have a grip on power in the legislative branch. But Walsh also says people shouldn't mistake that stance for tepid emotions about the election itself.

"The enthusiasm on our side is so focused on getting President Obama out of the White House, and it's genuine and it's real, so that sort of trumps everything," he says.

Romney and his supporters hope so, because in a hard-fought and close election, as this one shows all signs of being, a candidate can't afford too many mixed emotions in his own party.

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Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

On his way to the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney survived all the scorn the Tea Party could give him. Now, just over four months before Election Day, he's still working to make sure of conservative support.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, there's no doubt that leading Republicans in Congress backed Mitt Romney, from John Boehner to Eric Cantor to Mitch McConnell.

MONTAGNE: Other Republican lawmakers, though, have spoken openly about their doubts.

NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports.

ANDREA SEABROOK, BYLINE: The battering Mitt Romney took from Republican rivals during the primary made big news. What seemed less noteworthy at the time is now more significant, if there's to be a President Romney, and that's the knocks he took from Republicans in Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF CNN BROADCAST)

REPRESENTATIVE TIM SCOTT: He's the least of the candidates running for president right now that would be considered a Tea Party candidate.

SEABROOK: That's Tim Scott of South Carolina, talking to CNN. After Romney won Florida, GOP Congressman Allen West told CBS...

(SOUNDBITE OF CBS BROADCAST)

REPRESENTATIVE ALLEN WEST: He has got to do a far better job in making the appeal as far as being a strong, constitutional conservative. And it's about communication. That's it.

SEABROOK: And it's not just Tea Party conservatives who questioned Romney's candidacy. Peter King, a moderate Republican from New York, had this to say to Howard Kurtz of the Daily Beast.

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: Mitt Romney has not connected on a visceral level at all. And, to me, that is going to be important. For him win the election, he has to make a greater personal appeal to people...

SEABROOK: Past criticism from his own party is one reason Romney's campaign has produced a series of Web ads answering the question: What would President Romney do?

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL ADVERTISEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Day one: President Romney announces deficit reductions, ending the Obama era of big government.

SEABROOK: The language of these ads could be lifted directly from the Tea Party playbook.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL ADVERTISEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: President Romney begins repealing job-killing regulations that are costing the economy billions.

SEABROOK: These ads seem aimed at conservative Republicans, trying to convince them Romney really is their guy. As is to be expected, the Republican establishment is pulling itself together behind their party's nominee.

Pete Sessions of Texas runs the National Republican Congressional Committee.

REPRESENTATIVE PETE SESSIONS: Well, Mitt Romney understands that the things that he does are about growing the free enterprise system. Mitt Romney is a free enterprise person. Mitt Romney exercises and uses what they teach in business schools. They don't teach successful economics in business school that President Obama uses.

SEABROOK: Romney's got his supporters within the younger ranks of Congress, as well, like Utah's Jason Chaffetz.

REPRESENTATIVE JASON CHAFFETZ: He brought together a party that was very separated. It was very fractured. And he's brought us together, and he's united us.

SEABROOK: Chaffetz is well connected to Romney, and is a fellow Mormon. One of the arguments Chaffetz makes is that Romney has always been effective as a business leader, and as the governor of Massachusetts.

CHAFFETZ: I mean, he was dealing with a legislature that was more than 80 percent Democrats, and yet he was able to get some significant pieces of legislation crafted and passed.

SEABROOK: But that argument leaves some congressional Republicans cold. Listen to the very conditional response of Illinois's Joe Walsh when asked what a President Romney's relationship would be like with the Congress.

REPRESENTATIVE JOE WALSH: I think it could be a wonderful relationship.

(LAUGHTER)

SEABROOK: Yeah?

WALSH: Assuming the Republicans still control the House and hopefully get control of Senate.

SEABROOK: In other words, as long as conservatives - Tea Party loyalists like Walsh - still have a grip on power in the legislative branch. But Walsh also says people shouldn't mistake that stance for tepid emotions about the election itself.

WALSH: The enthusiasm on our side is so focused on getting President Obama out of the White House, and it's genuine and it's real. So that sort of trumps everything.

SEABROOK: Romney and his supporters hope so. Because in a hard-fought and close election - as this one shows all signs of being - a candidate can't afford too many mixed emotions in his own party.

Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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