WASHINGTON (AP) - The two top Republicans in Congress explicitly
endorsed Mitt Romney on Tuesday to be their party's presidential
nominee, as party leaders continued consolidating around their
all-but-inevitable candidate in hopes of quickly focusing attention
on ousting President Barack Obama in this fall's election.
The public embraces offered by House Speaker John Boehner and
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came the same day that
several House conservatives expressed support for the former
Massachusetts governor, though some seemed more enthusiastic than others.
"If you're not sure about wanting to support Mitt Romney,
whether you're liberal, whether you're very conservative, you ought
to be excited because he's been on your side at one time or
another," Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said during a forum that
conservative lawmakers staged on Capitol Hill.
The statements of support by Boehner, R-Ohio, and McConnell,
R-Ky., came a week after former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania
ended his bid for the GOP nomination, in effect ceding the field to
Both leaders' remarks came in response to reporters' questions.
Aides for each said there was no coordination between the two and
that the timing simply reflected their return to Washington after
Congress' two-week spring recess.
"I think Mitt Romney has a set of economic policies that can
put Americans back to work and, frankly, contrast sharply with the
failed economic policies of President Obama," Boehner told
reporters. "And I will be proud to support Mitt Romney and do
everything I can do help him win."
Hours later, it was McConnell's turn.
"Yeah, I support Gov. Romney for president of the United
States, and he is going to be the nominee," he said. "And as you
notice, the party is in the process of unifying behind him. And I
think it's going to be an incredibly close, hard-fought race."
Boehner said he had not embraced Romney publicly before because
as chairman of this August's Republican National Convention, he
wanted to treat all the contenders fairly.
McConnell had previously said Romney would likely be the nominee
and that the party needed to rally behind the probable nominee.
Tuesday was the first time he specifically said he supported
At Tuesday's gathering of around a dozen House conservatives -
most of them were tea party-backed freshmen - there was a pause of
several seconds when a reporter asked whether they were excited
over Romney. Many voiced support for him, but some seemed driven
more by pragmatism than passion.
"We're excited about the opportunity to defeat Barack Obama
more than anything," said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a veteran
leader of House conservatives.
"I'm excited about our candidate," said freshman Rep. Mick
Mulvaney, R-S.C., who had backed Texas Gov. Rick Perry. "Face it,
we got the best candidate we could out of the process" to defeat
Another freshman, Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho, said
conservatives should be motivated by preventing Obama from winning a second term in which he could do things like appoint a liberal majority to the Supreme Court.
"It's high time for conservatives to start getting excited, to
start working for the nominee," Labrador said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)