Washington Babylon — March 9, 2009, 7:19 am

Romney 2012: Not an auspicious start in wooing conservatives

This past weekend’s National Club for Growth annual conference featured three dinner speakers. Thursday night: South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Friday night: South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint. Saturday night: former Governor Mitt Romney, the early frontrunner for the G.O.P. nomination in 2012. The Club for Growth represents the more conservative wing of the G.O.P. on economic policy. It is especially supportive of cutting taxes and government spending, and heavily funds candidates it supports.

A source who attended the event passed on to me his thoughts about the conference, which appears not to have gone well for Romney. Recall that during last year’s G.O.P. nomination battle, Romney had a hard time convincing the conservative base that he was the real thing.

Each night’s dinner was attended by a variety of Congressmen, former Governors, and the members of the Club for Growth from around the country. The speeches by Gov. Sanford and Sen. DeMint were very well received.

Things got interesting following Gov. Romney’s rehearsed, vacuous speech, filled with standard Republican feel-good talking points with few specifics. One participant said that “Mitt’s speech featured his typical empty platitudes and consultant-driven talking points.”

After his comments (during which many in the audience were notably bored, checking Blackberrys, etc.), Mitt asked for questions. The first was a from a man from New York who read from his handheld several lines from a Wall Street Journal editorial that was very critical of “Romney Care” in Massachusetts.

He ended his questioning of Romney with this line: “How do you respond to the Wall Street Journal’s article given all you’ve been telling us about your belief in free markets? How can we believe you when what you did in Massachusetts was expensive government mandate regarding health care?”

Many in the room erupted in applause. A visibly agitated Romney defensively began his reply with the following:“We can disagree without you taking potshots like you did at the end of your question there. That’s the Wall Street Journal’s opinion… I have my opinions too. (No word on how WSJ editorial writer John Fund felt as he sat just yards away in the crowd.)

After defending his program by blaming changes on the Democratic Massachusetts legislature, Mitt asked for a second question in the very quiet room. A member from Texas said something along the lines of, “The name of our group is Club for Growth and we think of growth meaning growth in individual liberty. So, how does the fact that your program requires individuals to get government-mandated health insurance fit with our goal of liberty for individuals?”

This led to more and louder applause from the crowd. Mitt then attempted to answer the question while demanding that the questioner “not leave the room” and “don’t turn away from me.” It was more than awkward… the next question was from a Club for Growth staff person who asked a softball… most likely to calm things down.

Mitt’s efforts to be all things to all people continue to cause him problems. Some members also expressed disgust following the speech that Romney refused to endorse Alaskan Lt. Governor Sean Parnell in his Club for Growth-backed bid for Congress against one of the most corrupt incumbents in the nation (Representative Don Young), even though Parnell served as Chair of Romney’s Alaskan campaign. Pathetic.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2015

Black Hat, White Hat

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Beyond the Broken Window

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In Search of a Stolen Fiddle

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Displaced in the D.R.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quietest Place in the Universe

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“Don sucked the last of his drink through his straw and licked his lips. 'The coast, to me, is more interesting than the valley.'”
Photograph by the author
Article
Fred Morton, who died this week in Vienna, at the age of 90, was a longtime contributor to Harper's Magazine and a good friend. "Othello's Son," which was listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2013, appeared in our September 2013 issue.
Photograph © Alex Gotfryd/CORBIS
Article
Beyond the Broken Window·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“By the time Bratton left the department, in 2009, Los Angeles had quietly become the most spied-on city in America.”
Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Displaced in the D.R.·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“How is it possible that my birth certificate is invalid if I was born here?”
Photograph by Pierre Michel Jean
Article
The Quietest Place in the Universe·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Gaitskell and his colleagues are approaching the revelation of a new order, a new universe, in which even light will be known differently, and darkness as well.”
Painting by Sebastiaan Bremer

Number of African countries with vaccination rates higher than that of the United States:

16

Iowa urologists reported that only a minor portion of locker-room teasing arises from “the presence of excess foreskin”; most teasing targets small penises.

A farmer in Surrey, England, was ordered by the Reigate and Banstead Borough Council to tear down his cannon-equipped castle, which he had built secretly and then concealed behind hay bales.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today