Mitt Romney has been having well-documented trouble winning over skeptical conservatives. His electability argument has suffered as other candidates have risen in the polls, including in head-to-head match-ups with President Obama. And while that electability argument has garnered support from GOP officeholders and former candidates, it may be hiding a bigger problem for Romney: He’s having trouble winning over those already on his side.
Two stories today shine a light on Romney surrogates or endorsers whose support for the former Massachusetts governor is lukewarm at best. First, Jon Huntsman appeared on “Morning Joe” today and, as National Journal’s Matt Vasilogambros noticed, suggested support for a third party:
Huntsman, who endorsed Mitt Romney after he dropped out of the presidential race, went on the attack against the Republican Party and the debate process on MSNBC’s ”Morning Joe.” However, he expressly said that he would not run as a third party candidate.
“I’m not a surrogate for anybody,” he said. “All I can say is I’m looking at the political marketplace. And I’m saying this duopoly is tired and we’re stuck in a rut. We’re not having the discussions in this country that we need to have.”
Chris Christie also appeared on “Morning Joe,” and offered this defense of Romney’s candidacy:
Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., seems to have learned from Rick Santorum’s mistake in endorsing Mitt Romney in 2008, as Christie explained his support for Romney this year by pointing to the weakness of other Republicans rather than praising the candidate as an ideal conservative.
Christie told Morning Joe that he endorsed Romney “because of the people offering themselves from my party for president of the United States, it was clear to me that he was the best of the group and that he was the only one of the group that I thought gave us a good chance of beating the president.”
Okay then! Meanwhile, Romney seemed to have locked up Jeb Bush’s endorsement, only to have Bush ask the Romney camp politely to stop saying that. I wrote about why Bush would withhold his endorsement last month, and how it might actually have helped Romney realize that he cannot rely on others to get him elected president.
So the morning after a debate that supposedly went well for Romney (or at least didn’t go well for his main rival), Romney’s surrogates went on TV to proclaim that they’re either not actually his surrogate (and in fact that you should probably vote for someone else, in Huntsman’s case) and that Romney is still the right man for the nomination because, well, have you seen the other guys?
Romney may very well have been close to getting Bush’s endorsement, but that ship seems to have sailed. At this point, he needs to keep the support of those who have already endorsed him.