Possibly complicating his challenge to President Obama, Republican Mitt Romney finds the peace he had fashioned with those on the right wing of his party to be in serious trouble.
Although conservatives have long distrusted and criticized Romney as too moderate, most quieted their barbs after the former Massachusetts governor formally won enough delegates required to clinch the GOP presidential nomination.
Now, with the Republican convention in Tampa just weeks away, Romney finds a new open rebellion on his right flank.
The major cause for the new conservative rancor is an interview that his chief campaign spokeswoman gave to Fox News in which she touted the benefits of the state-level healthcare reform Romney enacted as governor. The spokeswoman was rebutting a tough new ad put out by a pro-Obama super PAC.
However, invoking the “Romneycare” healthcare plan inflamed conservatives because Obama used the Romney plan as his model for the national healthcare reform so reviled on the right.
“Consider the scab picked, the wound opened, and the distrust trickling out again,” influential conservative blogger Erick Erickson writes.
However, the healthcare dust-up isn’t the only source of mistrust-bordering-on-anger coming from the right.
Another prominent tea-party-backing conservative is worried about Romney’s impending pick for his vice-presidential running mate.
“There is growing unease among conservatives that the ‘short list’ of vice presidential candidates Mitt Romney has under consideration has too many establishment-type Republicans and few, if any, principled small government constitutional conservatives,” says Richard Viguerie, a long-standing activist on the right. “Conservatives want Governor Romney to win, but there are millions of independent and right-of-center voters who are disillusioned with business-as-usual in Washington. To attract their votes, Romney needs a running mate who is a small government constitutional conservative, not an establishment insider.
“As the names of establishment Republican personalities like Ohio Senator Rob Portman, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Congressman Paul Ryan, or ‘outside the box’ choices like General David Petraeus (whose political views are largely unknown) have surfaced, the names of small government constitutional conservatives, such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker have faded into the background,” Viguerie adds.
With polls showing a close election, a new lack of enthusiasm among conservatives on Election Day could benefit the president’s chances to win a second term.