GOP Not Ready to Let Romney Move to the Center Yet

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Most Republican voters have closed all tabs to the right of Mitt Romney, but conservative politicians won't let him maximize his window. House Republicans are openly warning Romney not to deviate from their message on spending cuts the way George W. Bush did in 2000, when he said "I don't think they ought to balance their budget on the backs of the poor." Romney had better not try that, or else, The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman and Jennifer Steinhauer report. 

The gravity of the threats in this story seem inversely proportional to the size of the nationwide mandate of the elected official making them. There's Louisiana Rep. Jeff Landry who says,  "We’re not a cheerleading squad. We're the conductor. We're supposed to drive the train." (Landry was elected to his first term in 2010 with 108,963 votes. In the first 29 primaries, Romney won 4 million.) There's Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, who noted, "On the big issues -- spending, taxes, what we do with the deficit -- I just don’t see much difference… and more importantly, I don’t see an escape." (Cole was reelected in 2010 with 32,589 votes. He faced no Democratic challenger.) It's only one story of several Monday that show the how tricky it's going to be for Romney to move to the center after the long Republican primary.

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At a fundraiser in Florida this weekend, Romney was overheard saying how he'd like to cut the federal bureaucracy -- but that he'd like to avoid being specific about it in the campaign, NBC News' Garrett Haake reports. Romney said, "I'm going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I'm probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go... Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later. But I'm not going to actually go through these one by one." Whoops. Then there are the social issues. Despite falling far behind among female voters after the Republican primary started focusing on social issues, Penny Young Nance, president of the conservative group Concerned Women of America, says Romney should get more religious, not less. Politico's Lois Romano writes, “His religion isn’t the issue -- he’s the issue... At some point you need to be honest about who you are." And when he spoke to the National Rifle Association convention Friday, he defended gun rights, but he said the word "gun" only once, and mostly talked about economic issues. Romney will give a speech to the Philadelphia Tea Party Monday, MyFoxPhilly reports. Politico notes that speech comes as Americans say the more they hear about the Tea Party, the less they like it, an ABC poll shows. 

But there are a few positions Romney plans on taking to reach out to the center. At the Florida fundraiser, he called for  "Republican Dream Act," NBC reports, referring to the Democratic legislation that would help illegal immigrants who joined the military or go to college become citizens. And he said his general election message, The Wall Street Journal's Sara Murray reports, would be "jobs and kids." Who could argue against either?

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