Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney Tuesday described himself as a “steady,” conservative candidate in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, saying he is the best qualified to beat President Barack Obama and revitalize the moribund economy.
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the former Massachusetts governor also characterized rival Newt Gingrich as “a lifelong politician” who is not the conservative he claims to be.
“I happen to think that I’m in the best position to replace President Obama,” Romney said. “I think that the only way we’re going to get President Obama out of the White House — because it’s hard to replace an incumbent — is if we have someone run against him who is different than a lifelong politician.”
“Newt Gingrich has spent his life in Washington, and I don’t think someone who’s spent their life in Washington is going to be able to be sufficiently distinctive from President Obama to actually beat him,” he added. “I think my background of 25 years in the private sector gives me credibility on the economy and creating jobs that President Obama doesn’t have.”
Asked about attacks questioning his conservative credentials, Romney talked about how his time as a missionary in France, and later as governor of “liberal” Massachusetts, had strengthened his conservative stands.
“I became more convinced of the things I believed in, more committed to what was important to me, and less concerned about how other people thought about me,” he said, of his missionary days.
“And you can look at my record . . . these experiences I had as governor demonstrate a conservatism that I think people want to see,” he said, noting that he was still able to compromise to get thing accomplished with a legislature that was “85 percent Democratic.”
Romney also dismissed criticism he has yet to fire up the Republican base, noting that he has maintained a fairly decent showing in the polls throughout the race.
“I’m not a bomb thrower,” he said. “I’m happy with the fact that I’ve been at the top, or near the top, through this whole process. That’s pretty darn good . . . to be able to be steady through this and build some support over time is a good sign.”
Romney, however, acknowledged that Gingrich might still be the front-runner in the race, given his recent rise in the polls to the top of the GOP field in some states. But he suggested that as more voters focus on Gingrich’s record, his popularity would fade.
Still, when asked about the possibility of a continued split in voter support among all the candidates through the early primaries, Romney said it was “absolutely” possible that the nomination fight could go on through the party convention next summer.
“Absolutely that’s possible,” he said. “I don’t think it’s terribly likely, but it’s possible that this goes a long way.” But he added, “We have built enough resources, raised enough money, to have a campaign that will go to the very, very end.”
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