While McCrery is a recent Romney convert, McKeon said in a brief interview that he has long been supportive of Romney. Like Romney, McKeon is a Mormon.
“I think it’s becoming less of a factor,” McKeon said, noting that Romney has invested a lot of effort in cultivating a relationship with evangelical leaders. “We’re not electing a pastor in chief. We’re electing a commander in chief,” McKeon added.
Both McCrery and McKeon said they have not spoken to Boehner about his support for Romney. And as party leader in the House and someone who is almost certain to play a major role in the 2008 GOP convention, Boehner also may be reluctant to make a formal endorsement, particularly early in the process.
While the 2008 presidential election is 22 months away, Congressional jockeying is already well under way. Romney is building support, but many Members already have made up their minds.
“He had a good message,” said Rep. Todd Platts (Pa.) following the Thursday lunch with Romney. “I’m personally solidly with” Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Still others cautioned that despite the Romney buzz last week, many Members are likely to stay on the sidelines as the presidential field remains in flux. One Member suggested that even if Boehner and Blunt eventually publicly endorse Romney, it may not carry significant weight. “This isn’t a group effort,” the Member said. “Everyone is going to have to decide for themselves.”
“It’s very much up in the air for social conservatives,” Pence said Friday. Pence has had several conversations with Romney and said that while he likes him personally, social conservatives are still largely cautious about Romney on issues of abortion and foreign policy.
Pence, who is closely aligned with outside social conservative groups, said he thought Romney’s Mormon faith was not an insurmountable factor in the race. “It’s not an issue for me,” he said. “I just haven’t yet been convinced that he’s the candidate, but I haven’t endorsed anyone else either.”
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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