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Mitt Romney Starts Quest for Suitable Hill Staffers

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s calculated staff hires include aides to marquee conservative legislators and Republican House Budget Committee personnel.

In the long and drawn-out Republican presidential nominating contest, Mitt Romney has been slow to embrace an unpopular Congress in his bid for the White House — and vice versa. Now, that all looks like a thing of the past.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has been holding high-profile
appearances with GOP leaders, and his campaign is ramping up its legislative
affairs branch.

In a move that bolsters his conservative credentials on Capitol Hill, the former Massachusetts governor has been quietly picking off Congressional Republican staff, most recently a top aide to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

Romney also took onboard three principal aides to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who campaigned with Romney in Wisconsin on Monday and whose fiscal 2013 budget is sure to be a major flash point in the campaign against President Barack Obama.

Erica Suares, who since 2009 has been a legislative assistant to DeMint, became the newest member of the Romney campaign Monday, joining as a deputy director of legislative affairs, according to an email obtained by Roll Call.

“I’m really looking forward to this new opportunity, and getting to still work with many of you!” Suares wrote, announcing her hire in an email to Congressional staffers. “The job will be in Boston and D.C. so I’ll be back and forth for the next few months.”

Although it is not uncommon for Capitol Hill staffers to disembark for campaigns, particularly in a presidential election year, the hires show a willingness by the Romney campaign to embrace staffers tied to the conservative movement’s brightest stars.

The Romney campaign did not return several requests for comment.

The move boosts Romney’s legislative affairs team, headed by another former Congressional staffer, J.T. Jezierski, as he tries to unite Members of Congress behind the GOP candidate following a long and bitter primary.

There has long been skepticism among conservatives about the idea that Romney is one of them, and some worry that he could take too much of a moderate tack in the general election.

Hiring a staffer to DeMint, a tea party kingmaker and one of the Senate’s most staunchly conservative Members, will certainly help with Romney’s outreach to Capitol Hill’s tea party contingent.

“This is a hugely positive development and should give conservatives great hope for the direction of the campaign,” an aide to a conservative House Member said.

Before joining DeMint’s staff, Suares worked on Senate affairs for the Heritage Foundation and spent brief stints in President George W. Bush’s administration and the Senate Republican Steering Committee, according to her LinkedIn page.

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