Romney: Leading Off at the SRLC
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) got the distinction of being the first potential 2008 presidential candidate to address the Southern Republican Leadership Conference earlier this afternoon.
Romney delivered his basic stump speech -- for those looking for a full treatment of those remarks, make sure to check out the post I wrote during my recent trip to South Carolina to cover the Massachusetts Governor.
The biggest applause line of Romney's address came when he discussed his opposition to same-sex marriages in Massachusetts. "Marriage is primarily about the raising and nurturing of children," said Romney. " Every child in America has the right to a mother and father." A prolonged chorus of applause followed.
Romney stayed away from any talk concerning his 2008 intentions, insisting that the reason he was at the SRLC was in his capacity as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. "Republican principles are working at the state level," Romney said. "I want you to go to work to elect Republican Governors across the south and across the country."
He offered a laundry list of governors or gubernatorial candidates on the ballot this November, making sure to plug South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Rep. Jim Nussle, who is seeking the open seat in Iowa. Both states will play a crucial role in choosing the next Republican presidential nominee.
Romney also urged conference attendees to back Alabama Gov. Bob Riley in his reelection race; "We need to keep him there," Romney said. Riley has drawn the scorn of some conservatives for his advocacy of a $1 billion tax increase to allegedly rescue the state's finances. The referendum he supported to enact the increase failed by a wide 67 percent to 33 percent margin in a September 2003 vote. Riley is being opposed in the Republican primary by Roy Moore, the controversial and conservative former Alabama State Supreme Court chief justice.
Romney did not make any direct reference to his Mormon faith, but it was a clear undercurrent in the room. Saul Anuzis, the chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, said Romney's belief system "is an issue because a lot of people don't understand the Mormon religion." Anuzis added, however, that in his home state "the Mormon issue isn't a big deal."
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