Former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour said Mitt Romney won’t have trouble attracting conservative Republicans if he faces President Obama in the general election, even if Romney wasn’t their first choice.

“I think a lot of conservative Republicans . . . are perfectly prepared to support him in the fall,” Barbour, the former Mississippi governor, said on Bloomberg’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. 

Romney placed third in last week’s Mississippi primary, but Barbour predicted that Romney’s Mormon faith will not sap his support against Obama among Christian conservatives. “There are 25,000 Southern Baptist preachers that’ll vote for a Mormon before they vote for Obama,” Barbour said.

Barbour, who voted for Newt Gingrich in his state’s primary, noted Romney has not been able to run away with the race yet. “He wins and then turns around and loses the next week,” Barbour said.

But he added that Romney is nonetheless “finally a real front-runner.” 

Elsewhere in the interview Barbour said that the Romney campaign’s much-discussed “Etch-a-Sketch” gaffe won’t hurt him against Obama – if nothing else because it will be the wiped away but newer assaults.

“I think it will run its own course,” Barbour said. 

“And, frankly, I think we’ll look back four months from now, and the labor unions, and the DNC, and the Obama campaign will have bombarded Romney with stuff so much more negative than that that people will forget that it was ever an issue, because they’re going to carpet-bomb him to try to disqualify him or to make him unacceptable, because Obama can’t run on his record. And that’s got to be their strategy,” he said.