Campaign manager Matt Rhoades has been wooing tea party organizers in general-election swing states and, in some cases, offering private meetings with Romney. Advisers with roots in the conservative movement, such as Bay Buchanan and Mark DeMoss, have been reaching out to evangelical leaders who are backing other candidates. Elected officials, led by Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), have been courting lawmakers and Beltway power-players who are not on board.
In Boston, longtime confidants Beth Myers and Ron Kaufman are developing a plan for the GOP convention in Tampa, to prevent the party from being divided during the nominee’s turn in the spotlight. Still other Romney emissaries are in touch with mega-donors — including billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has been supporting former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), and Foster Friess, who backs former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) — to persuade them to jump ship.
The coordinated approach, detailed this week in interviews with Romney advisers and supporters, is designed to assure all factions within the party that, as one adviser said, “when the dust settles, we want everybody on board.”
But the extent of the effort reflects just how daunting a challenge Romney faces: Although there has been a slow acknowledgment — even among tea party activists hostile to the former Massachusetts governor’s candidacy — that he is most likely to become the nominee, many remain unmoved to rally around him.
“President Obama’s a worthy campaign adversary, and Mitt Romney is going to need a very active grass-roots base that’s not only showing up to vote, but convincing their neighbors to do the same — and that deal is not sealed,” said Matt Kibbe, president of Freedom Works, a national group aligned with the tea party.
Among those being courted is Richard Land, a longtime leader of the Southern Baptist Convention. As a practice, Land said, he does not endorse political candidates, but he is considered a powerful barometer of the evangelical community.
Land said that after a private dinner with Romney last year at Acadiana, a Washington restaurant, Romney’s advisers have been in regular touch. Land said he recently told them that Romney could win over recalcitrant conservatives by picking Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) as his vice presidential running mate and previewing a few Cabinet selections: Santorum as attorney general, Gingrich as ambassador to the United Nations and John Bolton as secretary of state.