Republican right wing ups pressure on Romney

Sat, Aug 11, 2012, 01:00

US REPUBLICAN Party conservatives are once again increasing the pressure on the party’s White House candidate presumptive, Mitt Romney.

Romney’s decision to not yet name his choice of a vice- presidential nominee has created an opening for social and economic conservatives to pressurise him publicly, and they have taken the opportunity to make an aggressive case for congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

In rallying around Ryan, a champion of cutting government spending and reining in the costs of entitlement programmes such as Medicare and Medicaid, conservatives are calling for Romney to select someone who can push their fiscal agenda. They are also setting the stage for a possible letdown on the right if Romney chooses someone else in his race against President Barack Obama.

A strongly-worded Wall Street Journal editorial on Thursday urged Romney to pick Ryan, saying he “best exemplifies the nature and stakes of this election”. The editorial follows on a fresh wave of public pressure from other conservative outlets for Romney to erase doubts about his commitment to conservative causes – an issue that has dogged him since his days campaigning as a liberal Republican for the Senate in Massachusetts.

“The conservative base of the party is so concerned about Obama and his approach to government that they are going to vote for Romney,” said John Brabender, who was Rick Santorum’s chief strategist during his nomination fight with Romney.

“The question is, are they going to make 10 phone calls to their friends and relatives because they care so passionately? That’s going to be somewhat of a challenge.”

The Weekly Standard has urged Romney to embrace the conservative principles in Ryan’s budget – and Ryan himself for vice-president – predicting that Democrats will attack him for it anyway.

“Romney, and Republicans, will be running on the Romney-Ryan plan no matter what,” the paper wrote. “Having Paul Ryan on the ticket may well make it easier to defend the plan convincingly.”

That view was echoed by Newt Gingrich, who lost a bid for the Republican nomination to Romney.

“If Romney needs to defend the Paul Ryan budget, there’s no better way than to put Paul Ryan up front to defend it,” he said, adding that Ryan could help Romney in culturally conservative parts of the industrial midwest.

The not-so-subtle campaign on Ryan’s behalf may be moot if Romney has already made up his mind about a running mate, as some political observers believe.

It is possible that Romney could announce his pick as early as this weekend, while on a scheduled bus tour through swing states. Speaking with Chuck Todd of NBC News on Thursday, Romney said his pick must add “something to the political discourse about the direction of the country”.

The names on his short list are said to include Ryan; Senator Rob Portman of Ohio; Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota; and perhaps Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey.

But the loud, public calls for Ryan to emerge as the winner demonstrate again the wariness with which conservatives have always treated Romney. They suggest the desire remains among some conservatives for Romney to demonstrate that he is, in fact, one of them.

Romney’s campaign added to that wariness in the last couple of days on the issue of healthcare – a source of lingering suspicion among conservatives because he championed an individual mandate very similar to the one Obama pushed.

In defending Romney against an attack ad highlighting a cancer patient who had no health insurance, the campaign touted the Massachusetts healthcare plan, coming perilously close in the minds of some conservatives to sounding like the president.

“If people had been in Massachusetts, under governor Romney’s healthcare plan they would have had healthcare,” Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney, said.

That prompted Erick Erickson, of conservative blog Redstate, to write on Twitter: “OMG. This might just be the moment Mitt Romney lost the election. Wow.”

But in Iowa earlier, Romney went out of his way to talk about his healthcare experience: “We’ve got to do some reforms in healthcare, and I have some experience doing that, as you know.”

Advocates for Ryan argue that he would be a boon to Romney on the ballot by cementing in voters’ minds an economic vision for the country that is very different than Obama’s.

But the conservatives are also looking past the November election to the kind of White House they want should Romney win. For some of them, a Romney administration stocked with moderate Republicans is almost as bad as a second term for Obama. And for some of them, even Ryan is not conservative enough.

Richard Viguerie, the conservative direct mail pioneer, called him “a nice guy” but added “he is not Tea Party. He’s part of the Washington crowd.

“His solution is basically a version of Washington DC insanity. His proposal doesn’t balance the budget for 28 years.

“Since Romney was not the first, second or third choice of most grassroots conservatives and he spent massive amounts of money trashing conservative candidates, there is a lot of healing that needs to take place,” he said.

– (The New York Times)