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Following their one-on-one meeting, DeMint and Romney were joined by tea-party-inspired stalwarts, according to sources, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), who previously endorsed the governor; Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso (Wyo.); Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.); Sen. Mike Lee (Utah); and GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Steve King (Iowa) and Joe Pitts (Pa.); and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
DeMint declined to discuss the specifics of the meeting, saying it was considered private. But when asked if could share in broad terms the message Romney communicated to the Members he met with today, DeMint described it this way:
“When someone asked him in simple terms: Why are you running? He said it’s to save the country. ... That’s what I needed to hear and I think everyone in the room needed to hear — [that] really our country’s at stake, and we want a president that understands that this is not a business as usual. ... I think what we got from him is a sense of urgency.”
DeMint’s remarks couldn’t have come at a better time for Romney.
His campaign was still dealing with a media firestorm emanating from comments a top aide made Wednesday that compared the campaign process to playing with an Etch-A-Sketch toy. Romney’s critics — as well as Gingrich and Santorum — used the comments to charge that the governor will abandon the conservative positions he’s staked out in the primary once he sews up the GOP nomination.
“It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch,” Eric Fehrnstrom said during an interview on CNN. “You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”
The Romney campaign said Fehrnstrom was referring to the strategic dynamics of transitioning from running in a primary to a general election campaign, but Democrats and the governor’s conservative critics pounced. DeMint said the issue did not come up in his meeting with Romney.
Staff Writer Meredith Shiner contributed to this report.