Romney's Next Challenge: Woo Skeptical Republicans The presumptive GOP nominee took knocks from congressional Republicans during the party's presidential primaries. But Mitt Romney and his supporters are hoping Republicans will rally behind him ahead of what looks likely to be a hard-fought and close election against President Obama.

Romney's Next Challenge: Woo Skeptical Republicans

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On his way to the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney survived all the scorn the Tea Party could give him. Now, just over four months before Election Day, he's still working to make sure of conservative support.


Now, there's no doubt that leading Republicans in Congress backed Mitt Romney, from John Boehner to Eric Cantor to Mitch McConnell.

MONTAGNE: Other Republican lawmakers, though, have spoken openly about their doubts.

NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports.

ANDREA SEABROOK, BYLINE: The battering Mitt Romney took from Republican rivals during the primary made big news. What seemed less noteworthy at the time is now more significant, if there's to be a President Romney, and that's the knocks he took from Republicans in Congress.


SEABROOK: That's Tim Scott of South Carolina, talking to CNN. After Romney won Florida, GOP Congressman Allen West told CBS...


SEABROOK: And it's not just Tea Party conservatives who questioned Romney's candidacy. Peter King, a moderate Republican from New York, had this to say to Howard Kurtz of the Daily Beast.

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: Mitt Romney has not connected on a visceral level at all. And, to me, that is going to be important. For him win the election, he has to make a greater personal appeal to people...

SEABROOK: Past criticism from his own party is one reason Romney's campaign has produced a series of Web ads answering the question: What would President Romney do?


SEABROOK: The language of these ads could be lifted directly from the Tea Party playbook.


SEABROOK: These ads seem aimed at conservative Republicans, trying to convince them Romney really is their guy. As is to be expected, the Republican establishment is pulling itself together behind their party's nominee.

Pete Sessions of Texas runs the National Republican Congressional Committee.

REPRESENTATIVE PETE SESSIONS: Well, Mitt Romney understands that the things that he does are about growing the free enterprise system. Mitt Romney is a free enterprise person. Mitt Romney exercises and uses what they teach in business schools. They don't teach successful economics in business school that President Obama uses.

SEABROOK: Romney's got his supporters within the younger ranks of Congress, as well, like Utah's Jason Chaffetz.

REPRESENTATIVE JASON CHAFFETZ: He brought together a party that was very separated. It was very fractured. And he's brought us together, and he's united us.

SEABROOK: Chaffetz is well connected to Romney, and is a fellow Mormon. One of the arguments Chaffetz makes is that Romney has always been effective as a business leader, and as the governor of Massachusetts.

CHAFFETZ: I mean, he was dealing with a legislature that was more than 80 percent Democrats, and yet he was able to get some significant pieces of legislation crafted and passed.

SEABROOK: But that argument leaves some congressional Republicans cold. Listen to the very conditional response of Illinois's Joe Walsh when asked what a President Romney's relationship would be like with the Congress.

REPRESENTATIVE JOE WALSH: I think it could be a wonderful relationship.



WALSH: Assuming the Republicans still control the House and hopefully get control of Senate.

SEABROOK: In other words, as long as conservatives - Tea Party loyalists like Walsh - still have a grip on power in the legislative branch. But Walsh also says people shouldn't mistake that stance for tepid emotions about the election itself.

WALSH: The enthusiasm on our side is so focused on getting President Obama out of the White House, and it's genuine and it's real. So that sort of trumps everything.

SEABROOK: Romney and his supporters hope so. Because in a hard-fought and close election - as this one shows all signs of being - a candidate can't afford too many mixed emotions in his own party.

Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, Washington.

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