Perry too ‘cowboy’ for the GOP mainstream

I spoke this afternoon with a prominent fundraiser for Mitt Romney who been in the thick of the post-Chris Christie avalanche of donors falling into Romney’s lap. He’s also been involved in coordination with current and former GOP officials who have recently come out for Romney. He says more will come this week.

“It’s all about spacing them out,” he tells me.

The decision by the New Jersey governor not to run, he says, also signaled the end of the shopping-around period. “It made people people believe it’s done. This is it,” the fundraiser said. “If you want to play in the presidential race, you need to get in now.”

There is little doubt that Christie’s decision to forgo a run paid no dividends to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Romney’s supporter says the debates played a significant role in that outcome. He says, “What happened after the debates is that the more established [Republicans] began to ask, ‘Is Perry really up to the task?’ ” The answer increasingly was no.

The fundraiser also offers the view that, while the Perry hunting camp story didn’t make a huge difference across the country, it played a bit larger in D.C. circles. The donors and GOP officials, he asserts, began to wonder if Perry was “a little too cowboy” to win in 2012.

For the average mainstream GOP donor, activist and official, he says, there are two major concerns. First, these Republicans are looking for someone who can fix the economy. “There is no doubt that plays to Romney’s strength,” he argues. In addition, electability looms large.

In a sense, the accelerated primary calendar is helping Romney pin down donors and endorsements. This supporter says that much of the primary fundraising will need to be completed by mid-December in order to be available for the early round of primaries. (It is nearly impossible to raise money during the holidays.) That’s forcing donors to make their final decisions right now, at a time when Romney is doing well in the polls and pulling away from Perry.

How does this compare to 2008? He laughs. “I’m raising a lot more money for Romney than I ever did for [John] McCain.” He thinks that is fairly typical.

GOP donors, operatives and officials — and the sort of mainstream voters whose views they share — may not be in love with Romney. But they are in love with the idea of beating President Obama. So long as Romney seems to be the one most capable of doing that, he’s going to have their support.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.

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