There’s been no shortage of establishment-minded Republicans and members of Congress to have served in the 1990s that have come out and endorsed Mitt Romney for president, or raised concerns about Newt Gingrich’s candidacy.
But perhaps more unexpected has been the emergence of outside-the-Beltway conservatives to bolster Romney’s candidacy in the few weeks before primary voting begins Jan. 3 in Iowa.
A surprising group of conservatives have lined up for Mitt Romney – or, at least, against Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who’s zoomed to frontrunner status on the strength of his support from anti-establishment Republicans.
Take, for instance, the endorsement of Romney this week by Christine O’Donnell, the former GOP Senate candidate from Delaware who was maybe the most visible example of the anti-establishment crop of Republicans in the 2010 election cycle.
"I am endorsing Gov. Romney because I trust him to do the right thing," O'Donnell said Tuesday night in a statement that sought to combat conservative suspicion of Romney, and drew heavily on O'Donnell's experience as a Senate candidate last cycle.
"The day after I won the primary in Delaware, after the Washington establishment had gone on national television to say that I had no chance, Mitt Romney was the first to not only encourage me but to contribute to my campaign and to tell me that it was a worthy fight," she said.
That endorsement turned heads given the dividing line that’s emerged in the Republican primary. Romney is seen as the candidate of the Republican establishment, and has attracted support from figures representing that camp. By contrast, the series of challengers who have emerged to test Romney – first Donald Trump, then Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN), then Texas Gov. Rick Perry, then Herman Cain, and, now, Gingrich – have seen their fortunes rise (and fall) on the strength of support from anti-establishment, Tea Party types within the GOP.
But as Gingrich surges in the polls, Romney’s gotten cover from prominent conservatives, too.
Conservative radio talk show host Michael Savage, who’s not exactly known as a wallflower of the right, offered Gingrich a million dollars to drop out of the presidential race.
And conservative lightning rod Ann Coulter, who had previously said she thought Romney couldn’t beat Obama, has now reversed herself, calling the former Massachusetts governor “the strongest candidate” versus the president.
“I have a problem with Newt Gingrich’s big government conservatism,” Coulter said this week on Fox News. “I think that of the candidates on the stage, Newt Gingrich is tied with Ron Paul … as the least conservative candidate on the stage.”
For as much as Romney’s had trouble winning over conservatives, the groundswell of late may say just as much about Gingrich, too.
“Gingrich has always said he wants to transform the country. He appears unable to transform, or even govern, himself. He should be an adviser to the Republican party, but not again its head,” the editors of the conservative National Review wrote Wednesday in a scathing anybody-but-Gingrich missive.
Glenn Beck drove a same line of thought during an interview with Gingrich earlier his month. Beck said he had “serious concerns” about Gingrich, and proceeded to grill the former speaker in the interview.
And as if to underscore the point, the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza compiled a list of ten conservative columnists to have emerged in opposition to Gingrich.