CHARLESTON, SC—In a state where the Tea Party may hold greater influence than in any other early primary contest, Mitt Romney told reporters in South Carolina today he could be the “ideal” candidate to earn Tea Party support.
“I believe on the issues as well, that I line up with [Tea Party supporters]: a smaller government, a less intrusive government, regulations being pared back, holding down the tax rates of the American people, maintaining a strong defense – and so many Tea Party folks are going to find me, I believe, to be the ideal candidate,” Romney said.
The former Massachusetts governor also contrasted his personal background with that of the state’s current frontrunner, Newt Gingrich, in making his appeal for Tea Party support.
“I think the Tea Party is anxious to have people who are outside Washington coming in to change Washington, as opposed to people who have been in Washington for 30 years,” Romney said.
At his side, Governor Haley noted that there was “no such thing as a Tea Party candidate,” but that a candidate can be supported by the Tea Party.
“That is what makes the Tea Party great. They’re independent people,” Haley said.
Romney came to Charleston for a town hall event with Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC), who has hosted forums with seven of the eight top candidates thus far.
“Lucky number seven,” Romney noted.
Amid questions on issues like spending, military policy (a major issue in this military community) and immigration, Romney managed to work in a handful of digs at President Obama, often to the crowd’s vocal approval.
“He’s taking his first run at leadership in the White House, it’s not a place for on-the-job training,” Romney said, after earlier predicting that the American people would reject “Obamaism” – a new term in the Romney lexicon.
Scott, who told reporters he expects to endorse a candidate after he has met with each of them, saved the last question for a VIP – his mother. She asked Romney why he deserved her support.
“Number one, I can win,” Romney told the crowd.