Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is spending Monday hopping between states in the final hours before Super Tuesday, selling himself as the true conservative choice in the race.
“It’s a very tight race,” Romney told reporters in Nashville, where he spent Sunday night watching the Super Bowl in the lobby of his hotel. “Across the country, conservatives have come together and they say, ‘You know what? We don’t want Sen. McCain; we want a conservative.’”
Romney has been lagging by double digits in national polls since his loss to Arizona Sen. John McCain in last week’s Florida primary, but his campaign is continuing with the message that McCain is too liberal on issues like immigration and taxes.
And he is not alone. Bloggers and talk show hosts, including Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, are rallying around Romney as the last hope against McCain.
McCain is “simply loathed by many fellow Republicans, often for the very bipartisanship and maverick streak that attracts independents,” reported the Wall Street Journal.
And that dislike has lead to an 11th-hour call for conservatives, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s supporters, to back Romney.
“Conservatives now face a very clear choice: McCain or Romney. A vote for Huckabee or Paul is a vote for McCain,” wrote conservative columnist Hugh Hewitt.
Over the weekend, Romney easily won the non-binding Maine caucus with 52 percent of the vote to McCain’s 21 percent, despite both the state’s Republican senators endorsing McCain.
Romney’s campaign hopes it will be a boost going into Tuesday’s 21 GOP contests, despite McCain’s lead in national polls. During a Sunday appearance on ABC’s This Week, Romney called the primary a “battle for the heart and soul of the Republican party.”
Romney’s campaign has now turned its attention to a handful of the lower-profile Super Tuesday caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota in addition to some of the bigger contests in California and Georgia.
He is counting on his home state of Massachusetts and heavily-Mormon Utah to come out in support of him.
Recent polls gave him renewed hope in Super Tuesday’s biggest contest, California. McCain has the benefit of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’ s endorsement, but the primary is open only to registered Republicans, which could help Romney. Additionally, the state allocates delegates by Congressional district, so the winner of the popular vote there doesn’t necessarily get the most delegates.
Romney is stopping in Atlanta, Long Beach, Calif., and Oklahoma City on Monday. He will appear at the West Virginia GOP convention Tuesday morning where 18 delegates will be selected. He has also dispatched his son to campaign in Alaska and his wife to North Dakota.