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Romney: Tea Party Will Come Around

Candidate says he is both conservative and able to cross party lines.

CHARLESTON — On a South Carolina tour with tea party darling Gov. Nikki Haley in tow, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said he can work with Democrats in Congress and still appeal to ultra-conservative tea party voters.

“I think as we go along, and tea party voters are going to get a closer and closer look at me as a candidate,” Romney said. “I recognize that (former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich) has a good lead here… but I think they’ll see that I’m a more effective leader.”

The tea party backing is important in South Carolina. That movement’s supporters are widely credited with sending Haley to office a year ago and also helping to elect U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, R-Charleston, to his first term in Congress.

Scoring Haley’s endorsement on Friday, Romney underscored his business experience, his desire to build up the military while downsizing the federal government during the Scott-organized town hall on the campus of the College of Charleston.

He also took digs at Gingrich, the apparent front-runner in South Carolina.

"I think people heard in the first debate that Newt Gingrich worked for Freddie Mac and made $300,000 as a historian," Romney said to reporters following the town hall. "Then it turns out he was paid $1.6 million and he was a spokesman. I think tea party voters will say 'Wow, this guy isn't really the guy he says he is.'"

Romney said he is most able to assume the presidency and build support in Congress.

“When I was governor of Massachusetts, I came in with a legislature controlled by 85 percent Democrats,” Romney said. “It turned out to be a good thing in some respects. You have to find a way to lead in a setting where not everyone is in your same party.”

That’s part of the reason Haley said she is backing Romney.

“It’s not just what you say, but what you do,” Haley said. “Gov. Romney has taken broken businesses and fixed them. … As governor, he cut taxes 19 times and balanced the budget with a … Democrat legislature.”

But in South Carolina, Romney’s image as a moderate has been an unfair liability, one voter said.

“I think some people think he’s not the most conservative candidate in the pool,” said Jim Rowan of North Charleston, a voter leaning toward Romney who attended Saturday’s forum. “He’s not the most boisterous of the candidates, but we need a president that can get people with different beliefs to agree with him.”

Though Rowan said he likes Romney, he has not decided which candidate to support. Others in the crowd said the same thing.

“I think it’s really between Newt and Mitt,” said Martin Chance of Mount Pleasant. “I want to vote for the one that can beat Obama. I like what Romney had to say about the military, and I think he can fix the economy, but I also think Newt can compete in the general election.”

Michael Redbourn December 18, 2011 at 01:00 PM
@Richard Merrell More or less than Obama? Obama sold the nation a totally fake bill of goods!
Gretchen December 18, 2011 at 01:26 PM
Sometimes I wonder about these people who complain about a candidates change of positions. At least Romney and Gingrich HAVE POSITIONS (unlike Obama). The nation voted for a man whom they did not KNOW. He is a fast talker and nothing more (but only when he has his trusty teleprompter in front of him.) Now we really need a change, and I am hopeful the Tea Party will vote for Romney because he is our only hope to beat Obama. We need the Independent voters to elect a President, and although I think Newt is the best candidate, I don't believe the Independents will vote for him. I hope SC does not push the wrong candidate to the forefront again. Last time we had a disaster. :(
stanley seigler December 18, 2011 at 07:15 PM
@Gretchen: "...At least Romney and Gingrich HAVE POSITIONS (unlike Obama)..." COMMENT seems both sides throw out party line sound bites/opines without any specifics or facts (not to mention actually misleading statements)...eg, "Obama sold the nation a totally fake bill of goods!" below a list [CLIP] of BO's positions, accomplishments, bill of goods...which ones are fake, etc? one may not agree with them, but they are basically the progressives' agenda... CLIP BROAD POLICY: *The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA): a $789 billion economic stimulus plan. ref *US auto industry rescue plan. ref, ref *Start-Up activity now higher than it was during the dotcom boom. ref *Created task force to fight deficit. ref *Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009. ref *Temporary extension of programs under the Small Business Act and the Small Business Investment Act of 1958. ref for an expanded list (100 plus) pls goto link: http://obamaachievements.org/list#top
Gretchen December 18, 2011 at 07:18 PM
YEAH all that stuff has given us a PILE OF DEBT ! Is that how you run your household too?
stanley seigler December 19, 2011 at 12:37 AM
@Gretchen: "...PILE OF DEBT..." COMMENT however your original point was BO had no position, in fact he does... to the pile...very difficult to say which party is responsible for the pile what caused PILE OF DEBT...maybe bush tax cuts; part D (drugs) medicare; two wars on credit (one unnecessary and lied into); and bush tarp... i believe bush tarp, afghan war; part D medicare are positives, but should have been paid for with tax increases...tax cuts for the rich and iraq war not called for. a tax increase on rich folks would go a long way to reducing the pile...so as GOP prevents this then they also contribute to the pile... seems some have short term, selective, memory...the worst USA economic times were the result of GOP unregulated free market policies...1929 and 2008... BTW also forgotten by GOPs: SURPLUS v. DEFICIT under clinton: "the federal budget SURPLUS for fiscal year 2000 amounted to at least $230 billion, making it the largest in U.S. history" http://articles.cnn.com/2000-09-27/politics/clinton.surplus_1_budget-surplus-national-debt-fiscal-discipline?_s=PM:ALLPOLITICS under bush: "The budget DEFICIT will jump by $246 billion to $407 billion this year [2008], the Congressional Budget Office estimates in a report released Tuesday" http://money.cnn.com/2008/09/09/news/economy/cbo_budget_update/index.htm "The nation is experiencing a significant period of economic weakness," said director of the CBO, in [2008] briefing.

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