Elections 2012: Long GOP Race Forces Mitt Romney to Recalibrate

The candidate’s spokespersons are warning his supporters to prepare for a longer and probably more expensive fight for the Republican presidential nomination that may not be settled until at least May.

Mitt Romney speaking to supporters at a grassroots early voting rally in Mesa, Arizona. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

This will be a new level of fund-raising by Romney’s financial team, which had hoped by this point to be collecting money for a general election match with President Obama.

“This is going to be a long race. There are going to be ebbs and flows,” said former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, predicting that Romney will do well in the upcoming elections but “there will likely be something for everybody to cheer about.”

Now the campaign is based on quelling anxiety among Republican leaders, while intently focusing on the mechanics of accumulating delegates needed to secure the nomination, writes The New York Times.

Romney’s aides said they were confident their sustained attacks portraying Rick Santorum as a Washington insider had slowed their rival’s recent surge in Michigan.

The former Massachusetts governor is fighting to avert a loss in his native state where less than three weeks ago he was expected to win handily, before Santorum’s surprise triumphs in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

So, looking back Mr. Santorum is preparing to fight on for weeks or even months. “The race is going to go a long time,” he said after addressing a meeting here of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group.

As Romney and his opponent Rick Santorum traded a new round of sharp charges in Michigan on Saturday, some Republican leaders start worrying about the effects of a prolonged and nasty primary fight.

“The general election prospects for Republicans certainly would be better served if more focus was spent on Obama’s policies and the failures of those policies,” said Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi and a party leader. “There’s still time for that, but it would improve our prospects greatly.”

Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, who supports Mr. Romney, said he was disappointed by the acrimony that had overshadowed plans to create jobs and lift the economy. “That’s what citizens care about,” he said. “They don’t like all the bickering. It does not add value.”

Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana said it had fed his fears that “our side might not offer a bold enough and specific enough and constructive enough — and I would say inclusive enough — alternative.” He also predicted that Republican race would almost certainly not be settled by May 8, the date of the primary in his state.

So, Romney’s advisers are warning donors and supporters that even the Republican competition may very well last until at least the middle of May.

“We’re just going to have to work a little harder, and this team will do it,” said Mel Sembler from Mr. Romney’s finance team, adding that it would be “ready to supply whatever he needs to win this primary” campaign.

“We’re all on the telephone again,” he said, “and we’re getting it done. It’s just going to take longer.”

Meanwhile, Maine Republican governor Paul LePage when speaking about the Republican race suggested that the party should reach for a new candidate strong enough to defeat the president.

“If they continue to beat each other up, then maybe we should get somebody unknown to go against Obama. They’re damaging themselves,” Le Page said. “It’s like a marital battle. Somebody’s got to apologize.”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam refused to predict Romney’s results in his state on Super Tuesday. But he said he felt confident Romney was the strongest candidate to challenge Obama in the general election.

“I think we’ll be in for a long election night regardless. I think the race will be close,” Haslam said. “That’s why it’s important for Republicans to do a great job expressing our case and reaching out to independents.”

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