Romney's Liberty University speech to woo GOP skeptics: ‘Social conservatives ask me all the time why he doesn't talk more about these issues'

But Romney's outreach didn't score him many votes. In the early primary and caucus states four years ago, most conservative Christians backed Mike Huckabee, and Romney eventually conceded the nomination to John McCain.

The lesson, according to Romney aides, was that he had invested too much time and effort wooing a constituency that would always be skeptical of him, instead of focusing on his strength as a former leader in the private sector who could turn around the economy—a shift that some conservative activists have described as an overcorrection.

"Like all people running campaigns, they are generals refighting the last war. They went out there and really did an aggressive outreach to these people in 2008, and in their mind, they didn't really see a return on that investment," says Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition executive director who now heads up the Faith and Freedom Coalition. "I think they decided with this campaign to just go out there and be who they are, and if they get some evangelical voters, great. I'm not going to be critical of that, but it would have been better if they had had a little more of a muscular outreach."

But, Reed added, "There's plenty of time to fix that."

In addition to dispatching the candidate himself to private meetings, the Romney campaign has been sending surrogates, including Buchanan and Peter Flaherty, a Romney aide who is in charge of outreach to social conservatives, to meetings with activists in recent weeks. The campaign recently hired Michael Biundo, Rick Santorum's former campaign manager, to work on outreach to skeptical Republicans. Their talking points include emphasizing the party's shared goal of defeating Obama this fall.

But that argument isn't working on everybody—at least not yet. As Buchanan acknowledges, there are some Republicans who are still upset that Romney—and not Santorum, Newt Gingrich or another 2012 candidate—is the party's presidential nominee.

That includes Iowa radio host Steve Deace, a longtime Romney critic who endorsed Gingrich in the primary and now says the former Massachusetts governor still hasn't quite won his vote. He told Yahoo News that at least one Romney surrogate had reached out to him in recent weeks.

"There will be plenty of conservatives who eventually hold their nose to vote against Obama," Deace said in an email. "But the fact the Republican establishment's whole argument is you'll take whatever crap sandwich we serve you because the other side is a brood of vipers just illustrates why, after Romney loses this fall, there will be all-out civil war in this party."

At least one prominent conservative leader declined to be interviewed about Romney. Reached by phone, the Republican activist, who declined to be quoted by name, acknowledged he "probably" would have been critical of the presumptive GOP nominee a month ago, but now he is trying to withhold judgment.

"People are in a wait and see mode," the activist said.

Buchanan admits she hears similar sentiments, but she says people in the movement are starting to be "more open" to Romney.

"It usually takes a little time for people to get over the anger or resentment or disappointment of losing a primary and having your candidate not win," she says. "People are taking a closer look at Mitt Romney, and they are going to see that he does represent their values and their concerns in a very meaningful way."

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...