That’s what Grover Norquist had to say about Gov. Romney in the D.C. Examiner. Here is the context:
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Virginia Sen. George Allen are strong candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, although each has serious challenges to overcome.
That’s the view of Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and one of the most influential conservatives in Washington.
“When I talk to each of the presidential candidates, every one of them brings up Romney–unsolicited–because they’re all focused on him as the smartest, toughest guy in the race,” Norquist told reporters Wednesday at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “He is very well thought of.”
As is proper!
But Norquist cautioned that Romney could be hampered by the fact that he grew up in the western, conservative state of Utah and then moved to the eastern, liberal state of Massachusetts. Americans who live in the vast middle regions–both geographically and ideologically–might find it hard to relate to the governor, Norquist said.
Not sure what to make of this, honestly, as Gov. Romney grew up in Michigan.
“And the other challenge [for Romney] is being a Mormon: Is that something that’s going to bite him?” he said. “I spent this weekend with an evangelical conservative Republican group and everyone said, ‘Well it doesn’t bother me, but my friends.’ And it really makes you wonder.”
Fair enough. And Norquist has to wonder, as he is not an evangelical himself. But we do not–we have seen, over and over, that when people see Gov. Romney as he is, not simply as “the Mormon governor of Massachusetts,” and especially when they compare him to the rest of the field, they also see that he is the clear choice. Norquist touches on some of the reasons for this in his subsequent comments.
Religion is not an issue for Allen, whom Norquist described as “most comfortable” with the conservative movement’s positions on taxes, property rights and traditional values.
Well, okay, not yet. But here’s an open question. Which candidate do you think will be more appealing to evangelicals: One who has been happily married for 37 years but doesn’t have his doctrine quite coordinated right on the Trinity, or a Presbyterian who was divorced from his wife because she didn’t like “all the stress of politics”? I’m not sure that’s as easy a call for the Presbyterian (Allen) as Norquist thinks.
“So he’s best-positioned, policy-wise,” he said. “His challenge is that he looks and sounds like George W. Bush. It’s the boots, it’s the ‘hail fellow well met.’ It’s the, ‘Hi, when you talk to me for five minutes, I don’t scare you into thinking I’m going to outsmart you next week.’”
Well, yeah. See David’s post on this.
Referring to Bush as a “non-fluent English speaker,” Norquist said Allen’s similarities to the president could be a negative.
“If there’s Bush fatigue, I think it’s not just personal, it’s maybe stylistic,” he said. “So that’s a challenge for him.”
Norquist, who has been criticized for his association with disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, said whoever wins the Republican primaries almost certainly will face Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. He said all other Democratic contenders, including Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, will spend the primaries “sucking up to Hillary.”
“There are going to be eight people sitting up on the dais–Hillary’s chair will be a foot higher than everyone else’s–and the other seven guys will kick each other under the table,” he said. “They will all be auditioning for vice president.
“And they will say things like, ‘I was thinking today how wise Hillary Clinton was and it reminded me that BIDEN’S AN IDIOT!’”