In the Senate, the campaign will work diligently with McConnell, Blunt, Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.), who runs the messaging operation for Senate Republicans. Thune’s early endorsement provided Romney with conservative credibility ahead of January’s Iowa caucuses, which Romney narrowly lost to Santorum. Thune, a potential Romney running mate, also was scheduled to be in Colorado on Saturday to campaign for the governor.
Additionally, Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.), a tea party freshman elected in 2010 who backed Romney just ahead of the Wisconsin primary, has been tasked by McConnell with coordinating with the campaign.
Chaffetz emphasized that the Romney campaign and Congressional Republicans will not always share the same political message or policy agenda. But he said that maintaining open lines of communication would prevent either camp from being blindsided and ensure that a positive relationship flourishes. “Every [House] Member has something in common with Mitt Romney: They’re both going to be on the ballot together,” Chaffetz told Roll Call. “They have a shared political interest.”
Romney has yet to win the 1,144 convention delegates needed to close out the GOP presidential primary — and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) have declined to drop out of the race. But Romney is far enough ahead in the delegate race that Gingrich and Paul are not viewed as viable challengers.
Santorum, the former Pennsylvania Senator, was the only Romney rival seen as capable of derailing the governor — a prospect that dried up following his loss in Wisconsin. His exit from the race allowed Congressional Republicans, many of whom had previously endorsed Romney anyway, to stop treading lightly out of deference to the other candidates. It has also freed up GOP leaders to overtly and directly promote Romney and coordinate with the campaign.
The inability to do so had left House and Senate GOP leaders concerned that Obama would use the prolonged primary to strengthen his political position. The Romney campaign was equally concerned about appearing presumptuous, leading his campaign and its Congressional supporters to keep coordination to a minimum.
“This really creates that opportunity to unify and present a more focused message,” Thune said.
The Romney campaign did not respond to requests for comment.