By: Mark Halperin
As Mitt Romney steams ahead towards the Republican nomination, much continues to be made about his trouble with the grassroots of the party, particularly religious conservatives and Tea Party activists. To be sure, these groups remain a bit of a challenge for the former Massachusetts governor. But what has proven surprisingly tricky is Romney’s lack of broad support from the GOP establishment – the elected officials, columnists, fundraising bundlers, and strategists who play an oversize role in Republican politics.
Getting this elite collection on board as Romney cruises towards the nomination will be part of a hefty to-do list his Boston campaign must complete if they are to beat a well-financed incumbent in the fall. While establishment support has been strangely lagging for frontrunner Romney throughout the election cycle, there are several reasons to believe he will be able to bring this important cohort on board in a hurry:
He’s is one of them: Despite his record of well-known flip-flops, Romney’s credentials (governor, head of the Republican Governors Association, businessman, Ivy Leaguer) gives him the biographical background that is familiar to and comfortable for a lot of the members of the establishment. And his venture capital past and financial faculty makes him a fine fit for many of the nation’s biggest fundraisers.
He’s actually benefited from the attacks on Bain Capital: Establishment types thus far disinclined to offer support have been turned off by the recent efforts of Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry to make Romney’s business record an issue – since the holdouts believe the Democratic-sounding assaults and intraparty conflict merely bolster President Obama’s chances.
He’s already got some key establishment support: With George Herbert Walker Bush, Chris Christie, and a few other high-profile party stars on his side, Romney is going to be able to reel in elected officials who up until now have been decidedly lukewarm about backing him, but now will figure they will be in good company.
He’s got the right advisers: Many members of Romney’s team (Stuart Stevens, Jim Talent, Ron Kaufman, Matt Rhoades, Russ Schriefer, Wayne Berman, to name just a few) have long and deep ties to many members of the establishment, and all can serve as familiar ambassadors to close the deal.
He’s blessed by the GOP desire to win: Republicans in Congress need coattails at the top of the ticket, and many, albeit grudgingly, see Romney as their best bet to raise money, build a comprehensive campaign infrastructure, and stay competitive with the President all this year, even if Romney ultimately loses the White House.
Mark Halperin is senior political analyst and editor-at-large for TIME magazine and senior political analyst for MSNBC. You can follow all of his latest political news and analysis on The Page at thepage.time.com.