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Romney Making Rounds on the Hill for Friends and Money
By: Jonathan Martin
January 25, 2007 05:20 AM EST
Mitt Romney's courting of House Republicans for his presidential bid is picking up steam.
In town last week for the Republican National Committee's winter meeting, the former Massachusetts governor spent a lot of time wooing Hill Republicans. Romney made his pitch to the GOP's Theme Team, which handles communications strategy. One excited Romney ally close to the campaign noted that 46 members showed up to hear Romney; last fall, he drew only about 25 from the conservative House Republican group.
After the lunchtime meeting, Romney had a more intimate sit-down hosted by Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. Rogers is exactly the sort of congressional Republican on whom Romney's team has been focusing. A 14-term House veteran, he has considerable political influence both in his Eastern Kentucky district and on Capitol Hill. As an appropriator, Rogers has friends throughout K Street who could help raise significant money for Romney's campaign. Rogers's office would not confirm that he's backing Romney, but his hosting of about 12 fellow Republicans speaks volumes.
As symbolic as getting support from the likes of Hal Rogers, picking up the endorsement of Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., would perhaps carry more practical weight. Rep. Rogers, who another Romney source says committed to their team on Tuesday, could lend a hand in the early Alabama primary (though it would be far outweighed if Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., nails down the formal endorsement of his close friend, Gov. Bob Riley).
Individually, picking up Hill endorsements may not move a lot of votes. Collectively, though, such backing makes a statement about where some of the most prominent figures in the party are headed. Winning support from so many congressional Republicans so early in 1999 helped then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush create a much-sought sense of inevitability in his presidential bid.
By scoring Hill endorsements, Romney's camp wants to pre-empt any such perception for McCain. "It's pretty hard to be inevitable and be behind in every poll" to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, "while members are endorsing us," said the Romney ally. "The worst campaign strategy is to say 'elect me because I can win' because when you lose ground, you're in trouble."