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Most GOP govs shun Romney

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0208/8274.html Most GOP govs shun Romney By: Charles Mahtesian Feb 2, 2008 08:51 AM EST As chairman of the Republican
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2008
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      http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0208/8274.html

      Most GOP govs shun Romney

      By: Charles Mahtesian
      Feb 2, 2008 08:51 AM EST

      As chairman of the Republican Governors Association in
      2006, Mitt Romney crisscrossed the country to elect
      GOP governors and broke the group’s fundraising record
      by hauling in $20 million.

      Yet just two of the 16 governors he worked to elect
      then are supporting his presidential bid.

      In fact, just three of the nation’s 22 Republican
      governors have endorsed him.

      There are plenty of reasons that might explain the
      former Massachusetts governor’s surprisingly weak
      support among his former colleagues. But one of them
      stands out: He appears to have inadvertently alienated
      a good many of his fellow governors as RGA chairman.

      “Right or wrong, the general impression was that he
      spent way too much time on himself and building his
      presidential organization,” said a top Republican
      strategist who has worked closely with the RGA in
      recent years. “I don’t think anyone ever questioned
      Romney’s commitment to the organization or the work he
      put in. They questioned his goals or his motives. Was
      it to elect Republican governors, or to tee up his
      presidential campaign?”

      A campaign manager for an unsuccessful 2006 Republican
      gubernatorial campaign echoed the sentiments. “We
      definitely got the vibe from the staff that our state
      was never a national player when it came to the
      strategy that the RGA was putting together,” he said.
      “Everything they were telling me was about Michigan.
      They were dumping everything into Michigan.”

      For Romney, his inability to win over the governors he
      worked closest with has proven costly. On the eve of
      Tuesday’s crucial primary in Florida, Gov. Charlie
      Crist announced his support for John McCain — despite
      the fact that Romney, as chairman of the RGA, had
      greenlighted a $1 million check to Crist’s campaign in
      2006.

      McCain won Florida by 36 percent to 31 percent over
      Romney. And the exit polls found that 42 percent of
      the voters said the popular governor’s endorsement was
      very important or somewhat important.

      On Thursday, two more big-state governors who were on
      the 2006 ballot, Arnold Schwarzenegger of California
      and Rick Perry of Texas, lined up behind McCain.
      Schwarzenegger’s decision came just days before
      California Republicans vote in this Tuesday’s primary.
      Perry switched to McCain after his first endorsed
      candidate, Rudy Giuliani, ended his campaign.

      Altogether, six of the 16 Republican governors elected
      or reelected in 2006 are backing McCain. South
      Dakota’s Michael Rounds is supporting Mike Huckabee.
      Nebraska’s David Heineman and Rhode Island’s Donald
      Carcieri are behind Romney. But the rest of the class
      is sitting it out, having declined to endorse anyone.

      One reason, said a Republican consultant familiar with
      the thinking behind some of the governors’ decisions,
      is that Romney rubbed some governors the wrong way
      during his tenure at the RGA.

      “Everything seemed to have strings attached to it,”
      the consultant said. “If they were going to make a
      donation, they wanted a quid pro quo like an
      endorsement or a donor list or a volunteer program.
      There’s no interest like self-interest in politics. So
      when [governors] think their political lives are in a
      do-or-die situation, that’s not the time to offer help
      with strings attached.”

      Phil Musser, a Romney supporter who served as his RGA
      executive director, says Romney’s dearth of
      gubernatorial support is less revealing than it
      appears. “With his peer governors, he is very popular
      and well-liked,” Musser said. “There wasn’t much
      grousing from anyone.”

      Instead, Musser points to a variety of factors that
      might have led some governors to sit out the
      presidential primaries — the volatility of the GOP
      field, the reluctance of newly elected governors to
      take sides and deference to Huckabee, who was familiar
      to many of them as the former chairman of the
      nonpartisan National Governors Association.

      The fact that very few new Republican governors were
      elected in 2006 due to the gale-force Democratic
      winds, Musser said, also accounts for the low number
      of Romney supporters.

      “Part of it is the widespread, scattered nature of the
      field, part of it is that no one wants hurt feelings,
      and part of it is decisions made about self-interest,”
      said Musser, now a Republican consultant.

      Still, with just three governors behind him — the
      little-known Heineman and Carcieri, and Missouri’s
      Matt Blunt, who recently announced he would not seek a
      second term — Romney’s base of support stands in stark
      contrast to the impressive roster assembled in 2000 by
      then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who had 24 governors
      backing him.

      And Romney’s thin list of gubernatorial supporters
      pales when compared with some of the heavyweights
      aligned with McCain, including Minnesota’s Tim
      Pawlenty, who was elected to a second term in 2006 and
      is frequently mentioned as a vice presidential
      prospect, and Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, who served a
      stint as President Bush’s budget director.

      McCain also has the backing of Utah’s Jon Huntsman
      Jr., who represents a heavily Mormon state where
      Romney is exceptionally popular.

      Beginning in 2005, McCain, who has spent his entire
      political career in Congress, made a concerted effort
      to line up gubernatorial support in anticipation of
      his 2008 run. He met with nearly every incumbent
      Republican governor, and campaigned and raised money
      for them and for other Republicans running for
      governor in 2006.

      “We were always asking what we could do for them
      which, compared to what was going on at the RGA with
      Mitt Romney running for president, was a welcome
      relief,” said John Weaver, a former McCain strategist.
      “If they had a need, we were there to fill it.
      Campaigns, like football games, are often won by what
      happens in practice.”
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