Conservative Romney critics rally to nominee's side after debate win

Mitt Romney has been dogged throughout his campaign by critics within his own party. Following Wednesday’s debate, however, most of his erstwhile right-wing critics were singing his praises.

“Mitt Romney stood and delivered the best debate performance by a Republican presidential candidate in more than two decades,” wrote the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, a frequent thorn in Romney’s side, shortly after the debate. “Romney spoke crisply about the next four years as well as the last four years, was detailed in clarifying the choice of paths ahead, and seemed more comfortable, more energetic — and even more presidential — than the incumbent."

ADVERTISEMENT
It remains to be seen whether the right-wing “nattering nabobs of negativism,” to borrow a phrase from William Safire, return to their old ways the next time Romney slips up. But it’s clear — for now, at least — that they’re over the moon about last night’s performance.

“Nothing succeeds like success, and last night Mitt Romney inspired the troops,” former Romney adviser and frequent critic Alex Castellanos told The Hill. “A lot of people had been worried the campaign was kind of storm-tossed and hadn't been given a real direction, and now I think he's renewed Republican faith that he can take on Barack Obama toe-to-toe.

“The reason I went to work for Mitt to start with years ago is he always made me feel there isn't any problem America can't solve,” Castellanos continued. “I was really happy to see that guy come back last night.”

Other conservatives who have frequently criticized Romney for his campaign strategy and policy positions were just as gleeful.

“Who knew Romney's October surprise would be mopping the floor in Denver with the President,” RedState.com’s Erick Erickson tweeted. “How many calories do [you] think Romney consumed last night eating Obama's lunch?”

Erickson, who told The Hill during the GOP primaries that he was supporting the “anyone but Romney” campaign, said he’d been talking with a number of Romney donors who had been considering shifting their donations to House and Senate races — and had decided to stick with Romney after the debate.

MSBNC host and former congressman Joe Scarborough, another conservative who hasn’t been shy about criticizing Romney, also said the former governor won hands-down.

“Tonight’s debate has changed the trajectory of this race,” he tweeted Wednesday night.

More in Presidential races

Poll: Romney, Bush top '16 GOP field

Read more »