Polite Praise, Little Enthusiasm for Romney at RNC Gathering

PHOTO: Mitt Romney is pictured waving to supporters at an election night rally in Boston on Nov. 7, 2012.PlayStephan Savoia/AP Photo
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When Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was pressed by the media to comment on Mitt Romney, who will be addressing the Republican National Committee's winter meeting here Friday night, his response was short, but said it all about the perception of Romney among the assembled GOP establishment.

"Good man," Walker said.

That reflected the views of many state GOP leaders ABC spoke with at the two-day confab in sunny Coronado, California – many of them responded with polite characterizations of the former Massachusetts governor who is contemplating a third presidential bid – but with no enthusiasm and in some cases, a clear sense of exasperation that the nominee who failed to win the White House in 2012 should just step aside and give the party mantle to someone else.

"Mitt Romney is an exceptional man with great experience, but I think there's a lot of other Republican candidates that are putting their names forward," Ryan Call, the Colorado Republican Party Chairman, said. “I think a lot of folks here on the committee as well as throughout the country are all wanting to see how the other horses get out the gate before running too quickly to one camp or the other.”

South Carolina Republican Party chairman Matt Moore said he'd want to ask Romney’s camp, "What's changed? Can you make a convincing case that not only is the nomination winnable, but is the election winnable? And if it's not, maybe there are others who may be better choices."

But like many party leaders did, Moore added almost reflexively, "He's a wonderful man and a good leader for the Republican party."

Steve Munisteri, the chairman of the Texas Republican Party, avoided commenting on Romney’s merits by deferring to his status as the party leader in a state with so many possible presidential contenders.

"In Texas, we have several Texans running for president: Governor Perry, Senator Cruz, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, all from Texas – Rick Santorum has his offices there. No disrespect for Governor Romney but he would not be a frontrunner in our state," he said.

And Mary Buestrin, the National Committeewoman from Wisconsin, had to clarify her remarks – in which she called Romney "an honorable man and qualified to run for president" – to say she was in fact enthusiastic about a potential third bid.

"Oh, I didn't mean it that way. I've got so many things on my mind right now," she told ABC. "The more the merrier is the way I feel. So I hope my enthusiasm shows through. It was a late night last night," she added, laughing.