Top Republicans, long privately skeptical about their presidential prospects, are coming around to a surprising new view — that Mitt Romney may well win the White House this November.
Margin-of-error polling, fundraising parity last month, conservative consolidation around Romney and a still-sluggish economy has senior GOP officials increasingly bullish about a nominee many winced over during a difficult primary process.
Interviews with about two dozen Republican elected officials, aides, strategists and lobbyists reveal a newfound optimism that with a competent, on-message campaign, Romney will be at least competitive with a weakened incumbent. That’s a dramatic shift from the fatalistic view many party stalwarts shared mere weeks ago.
“Romney is a lot better off than I expected him to be this quickly,” said former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who cast a primary vote for Newt Gingrich. “A lot of people were concerned that Romney, with his being the least conservative of all the Republican candidates, was going to have to work hard to unite the party — that he would have a serious sales job on his hands. But President Obama has apparently taken care of that for him.”