Kingmakers in the Republican Party are closing ranks behind Mitt Romney, saying they have no concerns about the GOP nominee’s recent push for independent voters.
Their remarks contrast with the right’s occasional knee-jerk reactions earlier this year when Romney was struggling to gain traction against President Obama.
In the last week, Romney has made statements suggesting a shift on Wall Street regulatory reform, immigration and healthcare.
But right-wing leaders who throughout the GOP primary held his feet to the fire on those issues have united behind their nominee with less than a month until Election Day. They deny that he’s made any pivot or argue that the shift is one of emphasis, not ideology.
“I don’t see anything different about his focus and his message,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “If there’s one thing I have complete confidence in him after my conversations with him and frequent conversations with the campaign is he’ll be a pro-life president.”
Perkins said Romney’s campaign had assured him Romney’s comment to the Des Moines Register that there “is no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda” did not represent a position change.
Romney reiterated that he would be a “pro-life president” and restated his intention to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood in a Wednesday interview with the Columbus Dispatch.
“His position hasn’t changed, and I think his [pro]-life position is beyond question. I’m not at all troubled by this,” Perkins said. “He’s made clear his positions and I’m not concerned with him moving, changing or backing away at all.”
Fiscal conservatives expressed similar sentiments regarding Romney’s comments that there were portions of the “Dodd-Frank” Wall Street reform law that were worth keeping. That comment, delivered at last week’s debate, represented a shift from his earlier calls to repeal the full bill, as well as his claim that pre-existing conditions would be guaranteed coverage under his healthcare plan. (His campaign later said they wouldn’t.)
“On the tax policy stuff, his discussion of Dodd-Frank, there was nothing there that I thought was all that different … There’s nothing there that gives us concern,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. “I know there’s a characterization that he’s moved to the middle, but I didn’t hear anything that I thought was, ‘Uh-oh’ … Whatever he does is going to be better than what Obama does, of that we’re certain.”
Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, another prominent kingmaker in the GOP, said the conservative base is with Romney, fired up by his strong debate performance.
“Our group sends an email to about a quarter-million people every day and there have been virtually no comments — no one is sending us emails complaining about any of this,” he said.
That steadfast refusal to criticize Romney for his perceived shifts — and, by many, to admit on the record that there has been a shift at all — can be chalked up for many as an overriding desire to defeat the president.
“There’s almost nothing Romney can say that can put him in a class with Obama,” Phyllis Schlafly, the head of the socially conservative Eagle Forum, told The Hill. “The contrast between Romney and Obama is still so tremendous most people are not inclined to nitpick about anything, various comments and issues. It’s a big dramatic choice between taking us down the road to European socialism or trying to rebuild the American free enterprise system.”
Ralph Reed, whose Faith & Freedom Coalition is making a major push to turn out evangelical Christians and religious Catholics for Romney that includes more than 51 million voter guides, denied that the candidate had made any policy shifts. But Reed said Romney is smartly pitching his message at undecided voters.
“Partisan voters and those who agree with the candidates philosophically are locked in. The remaining swing voters won’t cast their ballots based on ideological impulses,” Reed said. “Therefore, Romney is emphasizing superior leadership attributes: his background as a successful turnaround artist, his willingness to work across party lines, and his proven ability to get things done. It’s less a move to the middle than it is highlighting strong leadership.”
Various conservative leaders promised that if Romney made any major policy shifts, they’d be sure to call him out — and a number said privately that they wouldn’t give him such leeway after the election should he win.