Rom­ney golden to GOP in blue state

Wows ac­tivists in lib­eral Cal­i­for­nia

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Christina Bellantoni

LOS AN­GE­LES — Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­cans be­lieve a hand­some, blue-stateRepub­li­can such as Mitt Rom­ney would turn the pres­i­den­tial map up­side down in 2008, ap­peal­ing to the vot­ers on both coasts who nor­mally back Democrats in na­tional elec­tions.

Mr. Rom­ney is eye­ing a White House bid as he fin­ishes his last few months in the Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor’s man­sion, and­made his case to state party ac­tivists over the Aug. 18-19 week­end at the Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can Con­ven­tion. They loved him — cheer­ing wildly for a stump speech that closely re­sem­bled a stand-up rou­tine and later prais­ing hi­mas­some­one with the right kind of fis­cal and con­ser­va­tive val­ues.

“He’s got the charisma Kennedy had and the morals we wish Kennedy would have had,” said Repub­li­can Donee Chabot of Los An­ge­les, who works in real es­tate.

Mr. Rom­ney, 59, is an at­trac­tive can­di­date for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion be­cause of his po­lit­i­cal savvy, state party of­fi­cials said.

“He’s a na­tional-level player with na­tional-level ex­pe­ri­ence, and he showed that once again tonight,” said Duf Sund­heim, chair­man of the Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can Party.

Mr. Rom­ney de­liv­ered the key­note ad­dress to the con­ven­tion on Aug. 18, re­mind­ing the grass­roots ac­tivists he works with a leg­is­la­ture that is 87 per­cent Demo­cratic, mak­ing him a “con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can gov­er­nor in the most lib­eral blue state in Amer­ica.”

He also told them how he cut more than $3 bil­lion in gov­ern­ment waste with­out rais­ing taxes or bor­row­ing money and touched on a wide schol­ar­ship pro­gram ap­proved un­der his watch. He also por­trayed him­self as an op­ti­mist with the right ideas to fix the na­tion’s prob­lems dur­ing crit­i­cal pe­riod.

“I’m a lit­tle con­cerned about the chal­lenges we face,” Mr. Rom­ney said. “But I want you to know as I go through this list of chal­lenges, I’m go­ing to end up telling you why I am the most op­ti­mistic per­son in this room.”

Af­ter the speech, the au­di­ence of nearly 700 erupted in chants of “Run, Mitt, Run” and the gov­er­nor was sur­rounded by ador­ing fans hop­ing to snap a pic­ture of the grin­ning, salt-and-pep­per-haired politi­cian. He worked the room for nearly an hour as chat­ter­ing Repub­li­cans said things like “What a re­al­ist.”

Oth­ers said Mr. Rom­ney un­der­stands the di­rec­tion the na­tion is headed, and specif­i­cally liked his call for a line-item veto and for rein­ing in fed­eral en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams. They also agreed with his the­ory on keep­ing the U.S. com­pet­i­tive with In­dia and other Asian na­tions.

“He is a vi­sion­ary. He sees the prob­lems, and he knows how to work them out,” said Rose­mary Li­cata of Ven­tura.

When asked if his re­marks were the mak­ings of his first pres­i­den­tial stump speech, Mr. Rom­ney told The Wash­ing­ton Times: “No, no. We’re just hav­ing fun get­ting Repub­li­cans elected.”

The gov­er­nor’s com­edy shtick in­cluded jokes about Gov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger’s mus­cles, gen­tle rib­bing over the Cal TechMas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy ri­valry and a crack about his am­bi­tions.

“Thank you. I ac­cept the nom­i­na­tion,” he said when open­ing his speech, to roar­ing laugh­ter. “Wrong con­ven­tion, sorry.”

He also de­fended Pres­i­dent Bush for fight­ing “ex­treme Is­lamists” with­out specif­i­cally men­tion­ing his po­si­tion on the Iraq war.

“Thank heav­ens we have a pres­i­dent who un­der­stands the na­ture of this risk,” he said, laud­ing Mr. Bush’s “bold and un­com­pro­mis­ing mis­sion of of­fense.” its most

Agence France Presse / Getty Images

Pres­i­dent at play: Pres­i­dent Bush casts while fish­ing with his fa­ther, for­mer pres­i­dent Ge­orge H. W. Bush, off Ken­neb­unkport, Maine on Au­gust 24.

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