Polls seem to indicate that Mitt Romney’s strength as a Republican presidential candidate is his electability. In other words, he looks and sounds like the one guy that covers all the bases necessary to effectively run against Barack Obama in the general election. But at the grassroots that looks like different things to different people. Romney is a complex man and it appears that the reasons people give for supporting him, or opposing him, are also complex.
Mitt Romney appeared at a “grassroots rally” in Grand Junction on February 6, at the Old Country Inn close to the airport. The ballroom of the hotel was packed with supporters, press, security, as well as a few curious and skeptical onlookers. I worked my way through the crowd in an attempt to get a bead on the kind of support Romney does, or does not, enjoy in Mesa County.
Joe Silva, a former teacher and Vietnam Veteran, said that be believes that Romney is “an honest man with family values.” Silva also stated that he “trusts Romney and feels that he is in touch with ordinary Americans.” Joe added that he feels that Romney is “realistic on defense, and willing to deal with Iran as a dangerous enemy.”
Judy O’Dwyer, a local grandmother of 19 grandchildren, was a little more skeptical. She’s a supporter of Rick Santorum and is bothered by the fact that Mitt Romney brings up “green energy” at all. She also wants Romney to be more specific about things like taxes and decreasing the power of federal agencies. I approached O’Dwyer after Romney’s speech and she indicated that her concerns with him were not assuaged, and that she still supports Rick Santorum.
Linda Gregory, another Rick Santorum supporter, came away from the rally feeling “encouraged about Romney’s attitude about the economy and the importance of freeing up wealth for job creation.” She indicated that she will “whole heartedly support Romney if he is the GOP nominee.”
Ariel Diamond, a young woman of 20, is registered as an Independent and said she "is looking forward to voting for the first time in November." She indicated that she came to the rally out of curiosity, but that she is drawn to Romney because “he is the most moderate of all the GOP candidates.”
Andy Andrews, a registered Democrat, said that he will probably vote Democrat in November, but finds that Mitt Romney is the “most reasonable of all the Republican candidates.” And in a heartfelt statement Andrews indicated that “he would still be proud to be an American if Romney was in the White House.”
The most satisfied man in the audience shares Romney’s last name. Knowing that Mormons can have huge family trees, I asked Van Romney if he was related to Mitt. “Yes,” he said, “we’re second cousins.” I asked him, “Is there anything at all that you would like Mitt to change?” “Can’t think of a thing.” He said with an impish grin.
Another supporter who wanted to go unnamed asked if I could relay a message to Romney’s handlers. I was unable to help her with the request but I told her that Mitt would get the message if he reads ColoradoPeakPolitics. She said her message is simple, “Please have more passion about what you’re doing Mr. Romney. Our country is at a tipping point and we must have people who believe in giving it all they have.”
The full spectrum of support and skepticism regarding Mitt Romney was embodied in locals Alan and Bonnie Wixom. Alan calls himself a “constitutional conservative,” and would prefer that Romney was “a little more like Ron Paul when it comes to Federalism and the separation of powers.” But his wife, Bonnie, chimed in with what could be characterized as a tidy summary of the opinions of most people at today’s rally with, “Mitt Romney is not perfect, but he’s a thousand times better than Barack Obama. We must beat Barack Obama in this election, and if Romney is the man that can do it, he has my vote!”