Elections 2012: House Conservatives Struggle to Get Excited about Mitt Romney

While House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell both endorsed Mitt Romney for president on Tuesday, other conservative lawmakers remained less enthusiastic for the presumptive Republican nominee.

Fourteen GOP conservatives sat together Tuesday on a Capitol Hill panel to find things about Mitt Romney that make them excited about their likely 2012 presidential nominee, but just about all of them seemed to fall short. Photo: PBS NewsHour/Flickr

They’ll have to make do, but conservative House Republicans are having a hard time finding anything praiseworthy to say about their party’s presumptive 2012 presidential nominee – Mitt Romney.

Fourteen GOP conservatives sat together Tuesday on a Capitol Hill panel discussion hosted by conservative think tank ‘The Heritage Foundation’ to find things about Mitt Romney that make them excited about their likely presidential nominee, but just about all of them seemed to fall short, reports The Hill.

The push came as Congress returned to Washington from a two-week recess during which Romney all but clinched the GOP nomination after his chief rival, former Sen. Rick Santorum, suspended his campaign.

Both Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recognized Romney’s victory Tuesday and formally endorsed his candidacy. “It’s clear now that Mitt Romney is going to be our nominee,” Boehner told reporters after a morning House GOP conference meeting.

He continued: “I think Mitt Romney has a set of economic policies that can put Americans back to work and contrast sharply with the failed economic policies of President Obama. And I will be proud to support Mitt Romney and do everything I can to help him win.”

Boehner’s top deputies, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), had previously endorsed Romney. “I support Mitt Romney for president of the United States,” McConnell said in a separate appearance Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to beat Barack Obama more than anything,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said in response to a question about conservatives’ level of enthusiasm for Romney.

The U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 4th congressional district continued: “I think Gov. Romney is the nominee. You’re going to see conservatives unite behind him and do everything we can to help him win this November.”

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) concurred with Jim Jordan and said “the excitement, the passion … will come from getting Barack Obama out of the White House.”

Conservative House members urged Romney to reach out to them in the coming weeks, even as many of them said the passion driving Republicans in the 2012 election is not Romney himself but the man he wants to defeat, President Obama.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) similarly avoided directly saying he is enthusiastic about Romney. “I am excited that the process is over,” he said. Labrador said he still hasn’t endorsed anyone, but nonetheless urged conservative Republicans to “get behind a nominee. It’s time for conservatives to get excited.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) summed up the conservative mood with a joke that won laughter from the audience, but might have hit too close to home for many in the GOP.

“Whether you’re liberal, whether you’re very conservative,” Gohmert  said, “you ought to be excited [about Romney] because he’s been on your side at one time or another.”

Louie  Gohmert later tried to clarify what he meant by his comment, but didn’t exactly pay a compliment to Romney in the process.

“I’m not as excited as I am desperate,” he said to more laughs. “I’m serious … People in America, conservatives I know, are very desperate to replace this president with someone who will not destroy energy,” he said, referring to skyrocketing gas prices.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) said it’s time for conservatives to get over their gripes. “Face it, we got the best candidate that we could out of the process,” he said. “The primary worked. Competition works … And we got the best candidate we can get to beat this president, and for that reason I am excited about it.”

Not everyone on the panel struggled to come up with reasons to like Romney. One lawmaker said Romney’s experience as a business executive is a plus for the GOP party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

“Folks, American exceptionalism is alive and well. All we need is a federal government that will get out of the way and let the private sector grow,” said Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio).

He continued: “I believe we’ve got a candidate in Mitt Romney that’s got experience as a businessman, as a senior executive … and I believe we’re going to see America move forward. So I think there’s a lot to be excited about.”

“I think Mitt Romney has a set of economic policies that can put Americans back to work and contrast sharply with the failed economic policies of President Obama. And I will be proud to support Mitt Romney and do everything I can to help him win,” he added.

He continued: “I think Mitt Romney has a set of economic policies that can put Americans back to work and contrast sharply with the failed economic policies of President Obama. And I will be proud to support Mitt Romney and do everything I can to help him win.”

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