Hoping for a Two-Man Race With McCain
By Glenn Kessler
NASHVILLE--At 1 a.m. Monday, Kathryn Huddleston powered up her PowerPoint and produced a sign that, for her, crystallized the Republican primary race.
"Mitt Romney: Sanity. Intelligence. Civility. Experience," the sign said.
Huddleston, a 62-year-old devotee of the local conservative talk radio station WLAC, was ardent. "You can't have someone who is crazy and delusional," she said. "Romney is sane, the only reasonable candidate in the race. McCain is utterly dangerous," she said, adding with emphasis: "He is more dangerous than Hillary."
Huddleston calls herself an independent thinker, but she acknowledged that her concern about Sen. John McCain was echoed by her hero, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who has denounced McCain as a conservative turncoat for sometimes siding with Democrats on issues like taxes and immigration.
It's a wave that Romney is hoping will help him pull an upset over the surging McCain. Sitting down this morning for a plate of steaming pancakes at Nashville's storied Pancake Pantry, Romney called himself the one true conservative in the race and urged supporters to help make it a two-person race against McCain.
"If it's a two-person race, I win," he said. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, with his appeal to evangelicals, is currently splitting the conservative support with Romney.
But Romney has attracted small crowds as he has campaigned in recent days. A little more than 50 people showed up for the campaign event at the Pancake Pantry, where Romney greeted die-hard fans like Huddleston as he worked the crowd with several well-known conservative lawmakers. It was his only appearance in Nashville.
Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, campaigning with Romney here, denounced the Republican politicians who he said were "lining up like lemmings around McCain." When Romney attacked McCain for some of his positions, Santorum was at his side, whispering more suggestions. "I have a long list," said Santorum, once a leading conservative in the Senate.
Robin Goode, who said her family has backed Romney since August 2006, said she attended a McCain rally last week just to be fair, but was disgusted when he urged making President Bush's tax cuts permanent, since he had voted against them in the first place. "McCain wants to snow people," said the homemaker, whose 7-year-old son Daniel had his baseball mitt signed by Romney. "He is saying he is for something he voted against."
As Romney worked the room, past patrons wolfing down huge stacks of chocolate chip and blueberry pancakes, Huddleston thrust her sign at Romney for his signature. Next to the word "sanity," Romney scrawled, "I hope!"
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