Critics line up to ridicule Romney after he claims to be 'severely conservative'
Victory in Maine caucus is overshadowed by a clumsy attempt to woo the Republican right
Stephen Foley is a former Associate Business Editor of The Independent, based in New York. He left in August 2012. In a decade at the paper, he covered personal finance, the UK stock market and the pharmaceuticals industry, and had also been the Business section's share tipster. Between arriving with three suitcases in Manhattan in January 2006 and his departure, he witnessed and reported on a great economic boom turning spectacularly to bust. In March 2009, he was named Business and Finance Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards.
Monday 13 February 2012
Mitt Romney's latest attempt to woo the Republican rank and file misfired spectacularly, as popular figures lined up to ridicule his description of himself as "severely conservative".
The critics questioned his choice of words, wondering why he would think of conservatism as severe, leaving the former Massachusetts governor unable to capitalise on a victory in the Maine caucus on Saturday that was the last vote before a two-week hiatus in the primary season.
Mr Romney's latest difficulties came as conservatives continued to coalesce around Rick Santorum, the former senator for Pennsylvania who has emerged as his latest and most potent challenger.
Mr Romney in fact won a straw poll of attendees at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this weekend, by 38 per cent to Mr Santorum's 31 per cent, in a vote that at first looked like it might blunt criticism that Mr Romney has failed to excite the party faithful. A few hours later his victory in Maine by 39 per cent over second-placed Ron Paul with 36 per cent and Mr Santorum on 18 per cent, suggested that he may even be able to stop the growing momentum of the Santorum campaign.
Mr Santorum snatched victories over Mr Romney in Missouri, Minnesota and – most stunningly – Colorado last week. While Mr Romney has remained the frontrunner, the party's religious conservatives have sought out a string of alternative candidates, fearing his record in the relatively liberal state of Massachusetts suggests he is too willing to compromise on issues such as abortion or healthcare. Now Mr Romney's courtship of the hugely influential CPAC audience may end up doing him more harm than good. His Friday night speech mentioned conservative or conservatism 24 times in 20 minutes, including when he said: "I fought against long odds in a deep blue state, but I was a severely conservative Republican governor in Massachusetts."
Sarah Palin, the 2008 vice-presidential candidate who was the real darling of CPAC, led the mockery in a television appearance after her own star turn on the conference stage. "I wasn't quite sure what the word 'severely' meant," she said with a smile. "It sounded severe."
Mr Paul, whose strong grassroots campaign was disappointed not to edge out Mr Romney in Maine, told CBS's Face The Nation yesterday: "That was the first time I've heard that definition, so I guess Mitt will have to tell us exactly what it means."
Mr Santorum, meanwhile, questioned the value of Mr Romney's straw poll victory at CPAC, pointing out how the Romney campaign had worked hard to fill the conference with supporters.
The Santorum campaign, however, remains on a shoestring budget. It used the conference to appeal for volunteers to help in upcoming primary states. Yesterday it was revealed that Alice Stewart,the spokesman for Michele Bachmann while she was the main conservative challenger to Mr Romney, will join the Santorum campaign.
- 1 Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
- 2 Scarlett Johansson new band 'already hit with legal complaint' from another The Singles
- 3 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
Mohammed Emwazi: Nine things we know about Isis militant 'Jihadi John'
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
'Jihadi John': Mohammed Emwazi – from British computer programmer to Isis executioner
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...
£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...
£22,000 - £23,000: Beverley James: Are you looking for the opportunity to work...
£30,000: Beverley James: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a person looki...