At a West Virginia fundraiser for the Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney last week, GOP heavyweight John Boehner gave the crowd, and voters in the coming election, a relatively blunt assessment.
In answer to the question -- Can you make me love Mitt Romney? -- Boehner, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said: No. Listen, we're just politicians. I wasn't elected to play God. The American people probably aren't going to fall in love with Mitt Romney. I'll tell you this: 95 percent of the people that show up to vote in November are going to show up in that voting booth, and they are going to vote for or against Barack Obama.
Boehner's comments, reported by Roll Call Saturday, stand in stark contrast to political remarks that seem to read as written in a script, something Americans are used to. It's also a full thought, more developed than the isolated sound bites that tend to dominate the 24-hour news cycle (Bobby Jindal's recent Obamneycare example springs to mind).
Mitt Romney has some friends, relatives, and fellow Mormons, some people that are going to vote for him, Boehner continued. This election is going to be a referendum on the president's failed economic policies. ... Solid guy, he's going to do a great job, even if you don't fall in love with him.
Boehner's own office provided the exact quotes to Roll Call after conflicting reports surfaced from the audience of about 250 people, according to the Capitol Hill-based news organization.
Boehner's somewhat mixed comments are emblematic of the Republican Party's stance that the best feature of Romney's image is that he's not Obama. Romney has been reluctant to offer many details on hot-button issues where he differs from Obama, perhaps in part because he'd be opening himself to criticism on the similarity of his own policies to those of the incumbent, as noted by the Daily Beast.
After the U.S. Supreme Court's recent health-care ruling, Romney said that overturning so-called Obamacare would be one of his biggest priorities, despite writing a USA Today op-ed article in 2009 that encouraged the president to institute an individual mandate, as recalled by BuzzFeed.
The dissension in the Republican Party even led to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to popularize the term Obamneycare, which was an attempt to draw a parallel between the eventual Republican and Democratic nominees. Nonetheless, Pawlenty is rumored to be in the conversation as a potentical Romney running mate.
One of the reasons that Romney's candidacy has made some of his fellow Republicans uncomfortable is because of his refusal to dismiss senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom. While the rest of the GOP was attacking Obama for instituting a tax in the health-care bill, Fehrnstrom went on MSNBC and said the individual mandate was in fact just a penalty.
It was also the second high-profile error by Fehrnstrom, a Massachusetts-based strategist who is close to Romney personally, but largely a newcomer to national politics -- and who previously fell into hot water by saying Romney could reset his public image like an 'Etch A Sketch,' Politico said this week.
Even media mogul Rupert Murdoch advised Romney to shake things up by tweeting: Met Romney last week. Tough [Obama] Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless he drops old friends from team and hires some real pros. Doubtful.
Another conservative voicing dissatisfaction with Romney is William Kristol, editor of the the Weekly Standard. An article Kristol wrote Thursday compares Romney to Michael Dukakis and John Kerry.
It's possible to lose a winnable presidential election to a vulnerable incumbent in the White House, Kristol wrote. So, speaking of losing candidates from Massachusetts: Is it too much to ask Mitt Romney to get off autopilot and actually think about the race he's running?
Kristol and Murdoch are in the media, though, and they are a far cry from the sitting speaker of the House. Conservative voters might be worried that Boehner, in trying to give Romney a boost and take a shot at Obama, might have done just the opposite.