If Mitt Romney becomes the GOP presidential nominee, there should be no question that his top priority will be to end Obamacare, insists the front-runner’s newest key adviser — Republican political strategist and former White House counselor Ed Gillespie — in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.
“The fact is that Gov. Romney has made clear that his top priority if he’s elected will be to repeal Obamacare, and I think people have no doubt about that — and they shouldn’t have any doubt about that,” Gillespie said Friday.
Gillespie, the first chairman of the Republican National Committee to preside over a clean sweep of the White House and both houses of Congress, also predicted that the GOP is likely to reclaim the Senate and hold on to its House majority if President Barack Obama is defeated in November.
“The Senate, I believe, is pretty closely tied to the presidential outcome. I think that if we elect a Republican president, which I believe to be likely, we will gain a majority in the Senate,” he explained. “So I would say it’s likely. But it will be a narrow majority is my sense.”
The arrival of such a high-profile figure as Gillespie into the Romney camp may be yet another signal that Romney is well on his way to achieving the necessary 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination.
“It says that Romney understands that he has to surround himself with people who have an absolute grasp on not only how to be elected, but how to govern,” GOP political strategist Bradley Blakeman tells Newsmax. “Ed is very well respected. He is a great manager. He is a great political thinker and he has the gravitas to attract first-rate talent to the campaign and eventually to an administration.”
While the president may be particularly vulnerable concerning the healthcare reform law, Romney too is seen as vulnerable to counterattacks over his role in bringing healthcare reform to Massachusetts, a program which one of Obama’s top aides gleefully touted recently as a model for Obamacare.
“He may not have to repeal it depending on what the Supreme Court does,” added Blakeman, a Newsmax contributor, who makes frequent appearances on Fox News. “It may be a moot point by the time the convention rolls around.”
Gillespie, who also served as a counselor to President George W. Bush, said that he believes Obama’s greatest vulnerability is his handling of the economy. “I think the American people understand that he inherited a tough economy but he hasn’t made it better and he’s wasted a lot of time in office,” according to Gillespie.
“People want to see a rigorous response to create private sector jobs,” he said. “I think they feel like his focus on healthcare, [the] stimulus — which wasted a lot of money — efforts to try to further regulate energy, and to stop more production — domestic production — have resulted in higher prices.”
Author of the book, “Winning Right: Campaign Politics and Conservative Policies” in 2006, Gillespie predicted that Santorum is likely to win his home state of Pennsylvania on April 24, but said the momentum now clearly favors Romney.
“Every nominee running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination should be able to win their own home state. That’s a pretty low bar,” he insisted. “I’d be surprised if Rick Santorum didn’t carry his home state in the primary. I think that’s all but a given.”
While Santorum’s appeal — as well as that of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — has been widely viewed as an anti-Romney sentiment from the more conservative base, Gillespie said he is confident that Romney will be able to bridge the gap between conservatives and moderate Republicans in a general election.
“I’m a conservative and I believe that Gov. Romney will cut taxes, stop the onslaught of federal regulations, protect innocent human life, repeal Obamacare, make our nation stronger and respected again,” said Gillespie. “I think when people see the contrast between Gov. Romney’s pro-growth, pro-life, pro-national security agenda, compared to President Obama’s, you could not have a more stark contrast and I believe that they will rally to him.”
As policy and communications director for the House Republican Conference, Gillespie was a principal drafter of the Contract with America — the 1994 campaign platform that helped the GOP gain control of the House for the first time in 40 years. His expertise as a political strategist will be essential in helping Romney overcome a so-called “gender gap” among women voters and in building support among the all-important Hispanic voters.
He believes that women — not unlike men — have been turned off by the negative tone of the Republican primary. “I believe that when they see the agenda to Gov. Romney’s policies in contrast to those of President Obama that gap is going to narrow,” Gillespie said. “We’ve historically had a gap between the Democrats and Republicans with women voters and there’s been a gap with men voters as well. The question is how big is that gap and can you close it? I believe that Gov. Romney can close it.”
Similarly, it will be critical to attract Hispanic voters in states like Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and increasingly in North Carolina, Ohio and in the Midwest, according to Gillespie.
“We have to do better than we did in 2008 with Hispanic voters and I believe we can,” he said, pointing to issues like the economy, jobs, education reform, and the stifling regulatory environment as particular concerns in the Latino community. “The fact is in the general election I think that you will see a much greater effort to communicate those policies to Hispanic voters.”
Gillespie insists that Obama not only “stepped way over a line” in trying to “intimidate” the Supreme Court earlier this week, but he misstated the facts concerning Obamacare in doing so.
“He was wrong substantively in every instance. The fact is it was not passed with overwhelming support in Congress,” said Gillespie, noting that a former law professor should be familiar with the concept of judicial review. “It passed very narrowly. [Sen.] Harry Reid had to resort to a procedural step that was virtually unprecedented in terms of passing legislation of this magnitude, and on top of that, the court has always — since Marbury vs. Madison— had the right to strike down legislation that it finds unconstitutional.”
Nevertheless, the Obama machine has been building a formidable re-election war chest, prompting Gillespie to refer to the president as “fundraiser-in-chief.”
He said he anticipates that the president will “run a relentlessly negative campaign” against the eventual Republican nominee.
“I don’t think it will work,” he added. “I think the views of President Obama are pretty clearly formed at this point, and I think Republicans are ready to put a stop to the massive amounts of debt, the calls for higher taxes on entrepreneurship and small business owners, the excessive regulations that are stifling our energy production, and jobs, and our economy, and the assaults on religious freedom. I think that voters have seen that agenda, and most of them don’t like it.”
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