Mitt Romney has been wooing conservatives, but he must persuade them he can lead their movement before he can secure the Republican presidential nomination, veteran journalist and author John Fund told Newsmax.TV.
“He was always the front-runner, but a shaky front-runner because he didn’t have the heart and soul of the party behind him,” Fund said during an interview on the sidelines of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.
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During a speech Thursday at the conference, Romney touted his conservative credentials and said he had been able to remain true to those values even while serving as governor of ultra-liberal Massachusetts. That speech helped, but not everyone is convinced, Fund said during the exclusive Newsmax.TV interview.
“He hasn’t closed the sale for the leader of the conservative movement,” Fund said. “He’s made some progress, but he has still a long way to go.”
The former Massachusetts governor has had to spend more time explaining himself than other candidates, especially since Romneycare was the basis in part for President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan, said Fund, a contributing editor to the American Spectator.
But conservatives won’t get everything they want in any one candidate this election cycle, Fund said.
“None of the candidates in the race right now completely fill the bill for the all-purpose, all-things-to-all-people candidate,” he said. “They all address aspects of conservatism. Mitt Romney is a businessman, very successful. Rick Santorum appeals more the social conservative wing.”
Although Santorum scored an impressive three-state win on Feb. 7 in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado, he is hampered by his lack of money and organization. “He has to compete with the enormous Romney machine,” Fund said.
Newt Gingrich, who won South Carolina, appeals to the “insurgent wing” of the conservative movement, but he hasn’t won over the party establishment, Fund said.
“Newt is a very polarizing figure. You love him or you not so much love him,” Fund said. “I’m not sure that he can go the distance because there are so many people in the establishment of the party that are against him.”
As for Ron Paul, Fund doesn’t believe the Texas congressman ever seriously hoped to make it all the way to the White House.
“Ron Paul was building a movement within the Republican Party. Ron Paul has permanently inserted, I think, libertarians and anti-Federal Reserve activists into the Republican Party,” he said.
Whatever happens with the candidates over the next few months, there is “flat-out zero” chance that the Republicans will have a brokered convention, Fund said.
“There is no chance the Republican Party is going to allow itself to wait until August, two months before the election, effectively, to have a nominee. It’s not going to happen,” said Fund, who believes a clear front-runner will emerge by May.
Regarding Obamacare, Fund told Newsmax.TV the president is trying to trick his critics with his announcement that the burden of providing free birth control for employees of Catholic and other religious-affiliated institutions would be shifted to the insurers.
“I don’t think he caved at all,” Fund said. “I think he confused and obfuscated the issue.”
Although the employer won’t be paying directly for contraceptive services, it still will have to cover the insurer’s costs for doing so, Fund said.
“That’s a dodge. That’s an evasion. I don’t think the Catholic bishops are buying it,” said Fund, adding, “It’s indicative of what the president thinks of the relationship between the government and the people.”
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