A senior campaign aide suggested Wednesday that Romney might run a completely different campaign should he win the nomination. Asked in an interview on CNN whether Romney’s rivals might force him to tack too far right during the primaries, top adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said the general election will allow Romney to reintroduce himself to the voting public — and compared the campaign to an Etch a Sketch, a toy that can erase images with a simple shake.
The comment became a campaign sideshow on what was otherwise a pretty good day for Romney. Bush, one of the most influential voices in the party, announced that he will back the former Massachusetts governor, a surprising development after he sat out the Florida primary at the end of January.
“Primary elections have been held in 34 states, and now is the time for Republicans to unite behind Governor Romney and take our message of fiscal conservatism and job creation to all voters this fall,” Bush said. His father, former president George H.W. Bush, had already endorsed Romney.
Major Republican donors who had supported other candidates are defecting to the Romney camp, according to campaign finance paperwork filed this week. Among them is Texas home builder Bob Perry, who previously backed Texas Gov. Rick Perry (to whom he is not related) but last month wrote a $3 million check to a super PAC that supports Romney’s bid.
And FreedomWorks, a tea party organization led by former congressman Richard K. Armey (Tex.), appears to be softening its opposition to Romney’s presidential bid. The group’s vice president, Russ Walker, told the Washington Times that “the numbers favor Mitt Romney.” FreedomWorks will no longer oppose Romney’s candidacy, he said.
The developments gave credence to what Romney’s advisers have been saying for weeks: that he is the all-but-inevitable Republican nominee.
“It just shows a breaking of momentum toward Mitt Romney,” said GOP strategist Steve Schmidt. “He has been at this stage several times in the campaign, where he’s been at the precipice of becoming the de facto nominee. Each time he’s inched up to that line, he’s been knocked back. This is the first time that momentum seems to be pulling him over that line.”
Romney has won half the Republican National Convention delegates he needs to secure the nomination.
The announcements by Bush and FreedomWorks are significant because they represent divergent strands of the Republican Party and because both had expressed hesitancy to back Romney.
Senior Republicans were divided in trying to explain why Bush waited until now to endorse. “He’s lost any hope that we’ll have anyone better,” one operative said. Another Republican strategist who occasionally talks to Bush said the former governor “wanted to see someone earn it.”