RI Republicans and Romney on Eve of NH Primary
Rhode Island’s small band of Republican activists headed to New Hampshire over the weekend to campaign for Mitt Romney. RIPR’s Scott MacKay finds that the Ocean State GOP is solidly behind the former Massachusetts governor.
Rhode Island Republican leaders may not all be falling in love with Romney, but they are falling in line behind him.
Their reasoning is simple. Romney, says House Republican leader Brian Newberry, is not the perfect candidate, but he is the one with the best chance of defeating President Barack Obama come November.
Over the weekend, scores of local Republicans traveled to New Hampshire to perform the grunt work of politics to help Romney: Knocking on doors, making telephone calls and holding signs outside town meetings. Among the Republican household names in New Hampshire to help Romney were former Gov. Donald Carcieri and John Robitaille, the party’s candidate for governor in 2010.
New Hampshire’s primary is important because it is the first time real voters cast ballots in the presidential sweepstakes. Yes, the Iowa caucuses were the first event in the Byzantine process our country uses to choose presidential nominees. The Iowa process draws enormous media attention, but the voters there are a tiny slice of party activists. Some perspective: More people voted for Lincoln Chafee for Rhode Island governor in 2010 than turned out for last week’s Iowa Caucuses.
There is the New Hampshire of primary myth: a Norman Rockwell scene of flannel-shirted voters courted at town meetings by candidates. The fact is most Granite State voters get their information from television, the same as voters in other states.
Yet at the core of the myth is a truism: Nobody gets to be the most powerful elected person in the world without bowing to the rituals of New Hampshire’s primary. That means running for president as if you were running for state rep or city council.
There are endless rounds of personal; campaigning, the meet and greets at the Rotaries, ethnic clubs and junior-high gymnasiums. Candidates submit to questions from the local librarian, snowplow driver and the town crank.
Romney may not be the favorite of the Tea Party crowd or the conservative true believers, but he has a strong, well-financed campaign. And he doesn’t have the personal baggage or make the mistakes that have doomed other more conservative hopefuls, such as Rick Perry, Herman Cain or Michelle Bachman.
Rhode Island Republican state chairman Mark Zaccarria says he supports Romney bacsuse the former Massachusetts governor is the “most disciplined’’ aspirant, the one best able to focus on an objective and “go get it.’’
The modern Republican Party is like a stool with three legs…there is the national defense leg, the social conservative leg and the small government pro-business leg. While libertarian Ron Paul has support for his small-government philosophy, local Republicans have deep worries about his isolationism and anti-war stances.
“I really like Ron Paul’s domestic positions but the problem I have with him is that I’m also a bomb Iran guy,’’ says Travis Rowley, chairman of the Rhode Island Young Republicans. Hawkish Republicans are unlikely to support Paul, he of the Dennis Kucinich-style foreign policy.
The other factor, say local Republicans, that helps Romney is the lack of a strong not-Romney candidate. The anti-Romney vote splintered among Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Paul. To stop Romney, one of those challengers will to emerge as the alternative.
Rhode Island’s Republican presidential primary isn’t until April, by which time a front-runner will surely be crowned. As far as Ocean State Republicans are concerned, that might as well be Romney.