Ronald Kessler reporting from Washington, D.C.
— Everyone wants to know why Mitt Romney doesn’t whip up more enthusiasm among conservatives.
Bay Buchanan, a senior advisor to Romney, gives Newsmax a thoughtful and candid answer.
Buchanan’s credentials as a conservative are impeccable. She was treasurer of Ronald Reagan’s presidential primary campaigns in 1976 and 1980 and national treasurer of Reagan’s general election presidential campaigns in 1980 and again in 1984.
When he became president, Reagan named her treasurer of the U.S. in 1981. She later was campaign manager for Rep. Tom Tancredo’s presidential race and for her brother Pat Buchanan’s presidential races.
|Bay Buchanan and Mitt Romney
On the one hand, Romney’s primary wins and exit polls show strong support among conservatives, Buchanan notes. She says Romney has plenty of enthusiastic conservative supporters. Among them are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Donald Trump, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and author Ann Coulter.
While he has not endorsed him, Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said when introducing Romney at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that he fits all his criteria for an ideal conservative presidential candidate.
But Buchanan says there is a reason many conservatives still have doubts. Aside from some of the positions Romney has taken in the past, Romney is a businessman who has not spent his life in the trenches as a movement conservative.
As a result, Buchanan says she agrees with columnist Charles Krauthammer’s assessment that the “real problem” with Romney is that “he doesn’t have fluency with conservative ideas.”
In the same vein, Krauthammer does not have fluency with the world of business.
“I wonder what would happen if you put Charles Krauthammer in a room with 20 CEOs,” Buchanan says. “He would speak as he does on television and would have great depth of information, because that is what he has done, but if they said let’s talk about the earnings of a couple of companies, you’d suspect he would probably have a basic line or two but would not come across as being fluent in the subject of corporate earnings.”
What counts, Buchanan says, is that Romney governed in Massachusetts as a conservative both fiscally and socially and lives conservative values in his family life.
“The social conservatives of Massachusetts have attested to the fact that he not only was good, but he was a champion of their causes,” she says. “As governor, he was very intent on making certain the business environment was healthy so that the private sector could thrive. In addition, he cut taxes and balanced the budget. That’s exciting to conservatives.”
But as conservatives, “We've been out there fighting in different places in the states and nationally to move the nation in a direction that we think is right,” Buchanan says. “Romney was in the business world. He was doing exceptionally well as a member of the private sector.”
So, Buchanan says, “You have all of these movement conservatives who suspect him because he wasn’t there with us in all of those battles. Our movement is very leery of people who aren’t part of us and haven’t been with us, standing shoulder to shoulder.”
Dave Keene, the former chairman of the American Conservative Union, likes to point out that the only perfect candidate is himself. “That’s because I agree with all my positions,” he will say.
Buchanan says that if Christie were running for president, conservatives would also take issue with some of his positions such as on immigration. Nor did Christie spend his life in the conservative movement.
However, “Christie speaks with real passion, and he’s out there, throwing out the lines,” Buchanan says. “He really does engage very readily. That’s his style, that’s his personality, and so I think that some of that concern and hesitancy by conservatives is thrown to the side because of his own persona.”
Conversely, Sarah Palin wowed conservatives with her passionate rhetoric when she first came on the national scene. But her support among Republicans has slipped, and now her overall approval rating is 24 percent and her unfavorable rating is 54 percent.
Underscoring the point that no candidate is perfect, Buchanan says that as California governor, Reagan went against conservative tenets by signing into law a bill that led to a substantial increase in the number of abortions. Buchanan notes that Reagan later looked back and said it was a mistake to sign the abortion bill.
“Romney was pro-choice, but when the first time came to take action as Massachusetts governor, he changed and fortunately for himself, he doesn’t have to look back and see that he made such a mistake as Ronald Reagan did,” Buchanan says.
If Romney spoke as Christie does when he was in business, “He’d be thrown out on his ear because they would be nervous about him,” Buchanan says. “You don’t speak passionately in a board room. The communication is through a deliberate, analytical approach.”
America already has a president who can whip up crowds and comes across as sincere, Buchanan says. As the election of Barack Obama suggests, focusing on passionate rhetoric is not the way to choose a president who is competent and will make the tough decisions that are needed to get the country back on track.
Romney has what it takes to reverse the federal government’s expansion, Buchanan says. At the same time, Romney’s style will appeal to independents and even Democrats in the general election.
Buchanan concedes that Romney has made a mistake in not reaching out more to high-profile supporters and conservative journalists and pundits. She notes a Feb. 16 New York Times story saying that while Coulter endorsed Romney in November, well ahead of many conservatives, she never had a conversation with him.
When Coulter attended a fundraiser in Palm Beach in January, she sought him out and joked that he owes her and he better be “as right-wing a president as I’m telling everyone you’re going to be.”
“He laughed and basically agreed,” she says.
But Buchanan says Romney is an attentive listener and takes her advice.
“I am in meetings with him with other conservatives who support him, and he’s very engaging, and he does listen,” Buchanan says. “In fact, so much so that sometimes I want to be very careful when I make a suggestion because I have seen him listen to me and then go out and give a speech, and it’s right in there based on my suggestion.”
Buchanan says Romney has improved his delivery dramatically since he last ran but is highly competitive and intent on improving.
“Mitt Romney is as smart and competent as individuals come, and his experience is exactly what we need, but he doesn’t communicate like a politician,” Buchanan says.
“If we really want somebody from the outside who is accomplished, who is competent, who has proven that he not only understands the economy but knows what needs to be done to turn it around and to create jobs and put this country back on track fiscally, we have our man,” she adds.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. Read more reports from Ronald Kessler — Click Here Now.
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