Skip to comments.Pennsylvania conservatives reluctant to forgive political transgressions
Posted on 03/25/2012 3:11:00 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
Talk among conservative activists gathered in East Pennsboro Twp. for the past two days might have started out local, but it turned national pretty quickly.
Speaker after speaker at the annual Pennsylvania Leadership Conference that convened Friday and ended Saturday hammered home their common-held desire to oust President Barack Obama from the White House in November.
And while many attendees reserved judgment on their choice for the April 24 Pennsylvania Republican primary, their reactions to the presidential candidates and surrogates in attendance spoke volumes.
The gathering of Pennsylvania conservative activists warmly greeted native sons Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum but reserved their most enthusiastic reaction for former GOP nomination contender Herman Cain and his well-trod 9-9-9 simplified tax code plan.
Speaking at his conference-closing address, Gingrich, the former House speaker who was born in Harrisburg and grew up in Hummelstown, drew a warm greeting that rose when he directed his most damning vitriol to Obamas energy policies.
Im not against the [Chevrolet] Volt, and Im not against the [Toyota] Prius, Gingrich said of energy efficient vehicles championed by the Obama administration. I am for you having the right to take the money you earned to buy the kind of vehicle you want without the president dictating to you what is appropriate.
Later, he complimented GOP front-runner Mitt Romney for his significant victory in the Illinois primary last week but argued Romneys campaign undermined the wins potential unifying opportunity.
Even though I think his campaign has been much too negative, hes been grinding in a very serious way toward trying to get the nomination, Gingrich said.
Then, of course, the following day his communications director blows it all away by describing his candidate as an Etch A Sketch candidate who you can just shake up after a primary and reset, he said. I thought he lost psychologically in terms of consolidating the party. Its part of the problem Mitt Romney carries. People perennially wonder who is the real Mitt Romney.
On Thursday, many Republicans might have wondered if chief challenger Santorum was still in the party after making the latest in a recent string of damaging statements.
Stumping in Texas, Pennsylvanias former U.S. senator said that if Republicans nominated someone as similar to Obama as Romney, then we may as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk.
Santorum changed his tune Friday, and Gingrich agreed.
Im glad Rick pulled back what he said the other day, Gingrich said, adding that despite a contentious campaign the party would be unified come November.
The re-election of Barack Obama for conservatives is a nightmare, so well be unified, he said. Even if we go to an open convention, even if we only pick somebody in the last week of August, well be unified within hours.
Saturdays first speaker, Santorum entered the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg ballroom to mild applause that lacked the verve of a crowd greeting one of their own running for the highest office in the land. It was noticeable considering he was speaking to the most like-minded and familiar crowd hes likely to find in the state.
He delivered a largely somber philosophical sermon on his principled vision of America while knocking Romney and Obama on their respective health care plans that he assailed.
The Obama health care plan was a foolish act of hubris on the part of the president by shoving his health care bill down the throats of the American people, Santorum said.
And he argued that because Obama used Romneys Massachusetts plan as a template for his own, Romney would be a weak Republican nominee.
I think Gov. Romneys a decent man, but hes uniquely disqualified to take on this race because the principle issue in this race is going to be Obamacare, Santorum said. This is a signature issue for everything that has gone wrong among the American left that is trying to impose its will on the good people of this country.
The simpatico crowds polite response to the passionate social conservative could be a worry for him. Though recent polls show Santorum holding a double-digit lead over Romney in Pennsylvania, privately many attendees pointed to an old wound they seem unwilling to forget or forgive.
Santorums support for pro-choice, Republican-turned-Democratic-incumbent Arlen Specter over resolute fiscal conservative Pat Toomey in the 2004 Senate race remains an inexcusable sore point, many PLC attendees said.
Its a slight Pennsylvanias conservative political prodigal son indirectly acknowledged in his Saturday remarks.
Youre in there doing the sausage-making and youre saying You dont understand, Santorum said of his failed 2006 re-election bid. And in a sense, I didnt understand. It was a real eye-opening, awakening experience for me, and I took that as a good bit of self-correction.
But Obamas election in 2008 inspired him to take the unlikely journey of returning to public life and seeking the presidency, he said.
Talking to people in Pennsylvania [about running for president] was a little amusing, Santorum said. They said What are you possibly thinking? I mean, you got creamed here. Who loses their last race then runs for president?
A voice in the crowd shouted back Abraham Lincoln, the iconic Civil War-era Republican president.
OK, Abraham Lincoln, Santorum acknowledged, to stout applause.
The ovation affirmed that Santorum retains a loyal and ardent base of support among many Pennsylvania Republicans, but his weekend mea culpa may not be enough to win over fellow conservative stalwarts who were wounded by his politically motivated support for Specter.
He certainly had to address that issue, said Richard Stewart, chairman of the state partys central caucus. When you lose by 18 points to a vanilla personality like Bob Casey Jr. youve got to do some real consensus-building.
Meanwhile, party insiders say Romneys recent endorsements from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina intensify the already considerable pressure on Santorum to bow out of the race.
Asked about the behind-the-scenes arm-twisting as he left the PLC, Santorum replied: What pressure?
Cain, the following speaker, appeared as a surrogate for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sam Rohrer and 4th Congressional District candidate Ted Waga. Cain delivered a fiery rebuke of Obama arduously embraced by the crowd.
We have an economic crisis while this president and administration continues to try and tell the American people that were in a recovery, he said. We have an energy crisis while this president tries to tell the American people that hes doing all he can do. I dont think so. Why didnt he do what he should have been doing three years ago?
Cain went on to mock a 2008 Obama campaign gaffe in which the then-candidate ridiculed conservative Pennsylvanians as being neurotic gun-owners and religious zealots.
Im going to cling to my Bible and my gun, Cain said, paraphrasing Obamas own words to rapturous applause.
Friday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley urged the PLC to back Romney. Though Haley was well-received, the Romney surrogates explanation for the former Massachusetts governors perceived flip-flopping received a lukewarm reception.
Is he a flip-flopper? Ultimately thats going to be up to you, Haley said.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh County, gave his strongest nonendorsement of Romney to date during his Friday appearance at the conference.
I think Mitt Romney is a conservative, and I think if hes president hell govern as a conservative, said Toomey, who maintains he will not endorse in the nomination race.
The conference kicked off Friday with a scathing admonition of state GOP lawmakers by Fred Anton, described by Toomey as the senior statesman of the conservative movement in Pennsylvania.
Anton, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association and chairman of the conference, reminded convention goers in his opening remarks that the PLC was a meeting of conservatives, not a meeting of the Republican Party.
Anton then dressed-down the GOP-controlled state house for marginalizing commonly held conservative initiatives, such as privatizing state liquor stores and enacting school choice through vouchers.
We conservatives are interested in enacting politics in accordance with our principles, he said. Unfortunately, the [governors office, state House and Senate] ... have not had that as its objective.
This years conference, which drew more than 800 attendees, was replete with activists intent on shifting Republican Party authority to the grassroots.
My concern is that its top-down, Union County GOP Chairwoman Yvonne Morgan said of the state party. Its not state committee that endorses [candidates], its leadership [and] Im offended by that.
This is a bunch of nonsense. Santorum was in Gettysburg the other night, and the entire South Central PA area turned out for him. The town square was packed and not everyone could get into his venue because of the size of the crowd.
BTW, bankrupt, Rat-run Harrisburg is one of the four relatively isolated liberal claptraps in the Commonwealth.
Stewart is a Gleason buttboy who probably loves the choice of Obama-voting Steve Welch for the GOP Senate nomination in 2012.
“Santorum was in Gettysburg the other night, and the entire South Central PA area turned out for him.”
Just curious—Why couldn’t he get re-elected in PA then?
Why? the majority of voters said no to Newt. They don’t like him.
They can’t get the images of his liberal bent of the last years from their minds. His authoritarian personality is a turnoff.
People just view Newt as a spoiler that has soundly lost but won’t admit it.
Outisde of the Pittsburgh and Philly area PA is pretty conservative. The GOP candidate wins the state by about 250,000, then loses Philly County by about 400,000.
This carpetbagger is voting for Newt!
Several factors. First, 2006 was a bad year for pubbies in general. Second, the MSM launched a full broadside of attacks against him - some of which have been shamelessly and uncritically re-used by his opponents on FR. And third, the Dems finally ran an ostensible pro-lifer against Santorum - Bob Casey Jr. might be weak-chinned, but his father was about the last great pro-life Dem, and pro-life Dems remembered the name. Throw all of those together and the deck was stacked against Santorum in 2006.
Why? Because of Pittsburgh and Philly. And also because of the voter fraud that goes on in those cities. Most of the rest of the state is conservative. Hopefully, with the new voter ID law passed recently, the ‘dead voters’ won’t come back.
When Newt said he was happy to see Rick “pull back that comment”I was reminded of the Sunday School lesson about a
little girl who told stories about other people. So her mom —as an object lesson had her pick a dandy lion-gone to seed—and blow the grey puffball to the wind. Then told her gather up all those seed again. When the little girl said “but momma that’s impossible.” Her momma agreed and said when you say things about others it’s like that dandy lion -gone to seed. Once you say it you can’t get it back. I for one agree with the sentiment that Romney is so like Obama a vote for Romney would only continue the evil empire of Maobama(and Soros at the strings) And “taking back” such is futile.for it suggests those things said don’t mean squat.
The last presidential election Philadelphia had more votes than registered voters. Don’t tell me there was not massive voter fraud!
Santorum is the one who volunteered this: You win by giving people a choice. You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone whos just going to be a little different than the person in there. If theyre going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk with what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate for the future."
Santorum was the one who clarified because of blowback: I would never vote for Barack Obama over any Republican and to suggest otherwise is preposterous. I was simply making the point that there is a huge enthusiasm gap around Mitt Romney and its easy to see why Romney has sided with Obama on healthcare mandates, cap-and-trade, and the Wall Street bailouts.
Voter fraud in Philadelphia.
Do you see any consensus emerging about any of the GOP alternatives to Steve Welch? The only one I see even running advertising out here is Smith.
The one good thing is that Gleason has left a bad taste in the mouths of Philly-area Republicans, and that could hurt Welch down this way.
I am tired of defending Rick. He seems unable to check his mouth and says the dumbest things anymore.
Who to vote for? Are these the best the GOP can scare up? Where is the best and brightest? Where are the firebrand,rock-ribbed conservatives? These guys running has to be the most un-appealling bunch this conservative has ever seen.
Think Dole,Ford,McCain on steriods. These goofballs could screw up a cup of coffee. And When Mitt gets the nod, it will spell the end of the GOP and the republic.
Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.
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