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Posted at 12:33 PM ET, 12/06/2011

Romney announces 76-member West Virginia steering committee

West Virginia Republicans won’t hold their presidential primary until May 8. But that isn’t slowing Mitt Romney from organizing there.
Gov. Mitt Romney, speaks to supporters and volunteers during a rally in Manchester, N.H. (Jim Cole - AP)

Romney’s campaign on Tuesday announced a 76-member West Virginia steering committee, including some elected officials and a few prominent political figures and activists in the state. It’s the latest signal from Romney’s Boston headquarters that aides are building the bandwidth to compete in every state over what they increasingly expect will be a long nominating process that could stretch well into the spring.

The West Virginia steering committee is the latest in a string of recent announcements by Team Romney that seem orchestrated to remind Republicans that while former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) has strong momentum -- he has surged to a commanding lead in the polls in the early voting states of Iowa and South Carolina, as well as in some national polls -- he lacks an organized ground game. Indeed, the Gingrich campaign has been scrambling to build an organization that can compete with Romney’s.

The former Massachusetts governor’s strategy, laid out over in a Post story over the weekend, is designed to win a majority of Republican convention delegates -- there are 2,427 at stake -- and his advisers believe he can amass delegates over the long haul even if he sustains losses in some of the early states.

Romney’s West Virginia team will be led by Bill Phillips, who chaired President George W. Bush’s 2000 West Virginia campaign and served as chief of staff to former governor Cecil H. Underwood. Romney also named the following co-chairs: Republican National Committeewoman Donna Gosney, state Del. Bob Ashley, state Sen. Donna J. Boley, state GOP vice chairman Thomas O’Neill, and Romney’s 2008 state director, Wendy McCuskey. John H. McCutcheon II, a senior adviser to Romney in 2008 and Bush’s state director in 2000, will assist the efforts.

“I am honored to have the support of so many West Virginia leaders,” Romney said in a statement. “Every state’s economy is suffering under President Obama, West Virginia’s is one of the few under active attack by Obama. As president, I will make domestic energy production a critical priority for our economic recovery. West Virginia’s coal resources are a tremendous asset to the state and to the nation and I will encourage their development.”

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