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Romney camp: ‘We’ll all have to suck it up’

Is there some kind of Minnesota curse this campaign season? John Edwards made his last stump stop a rousing one in St. Paul before he called it quits. Then Mitt Romney bailed less than 48 hours after he cleaned up in the Minnesota GOP caucus. What gives?

Either way, Romney’s army here never saw it coming, and now they — like self-described “true conservatives” across the country — are faced with ambivalence about supporting John McCain. As if he’s some sort of Paul Wellstone or something.

“I thought he would at least see how the next round of caucuses would turn out,” Brian Sullivan, Romney’s Minnesota co-chair, said Friday. “We’ll all have to suck it up.”

Sullivan believes Romney hanging it up was a matter of simple number crunching — not the notion of aiding the terrorists by staying in the race, as the candidate hinted. “If you look at the math in detail, the numbers don’t add up,” Sullivan noted. “Even if he picks up 70 percent of the remaining delegates he’s still short.”

Romney spokesman says McCain must modify immigration stand

Most core Republicans are miffed with McCain over a litany of issues, but Sullivan believes the key for the Mac attack is immigration, stupid. “He has to repudiate his earlier position on immigration, which is, he has to say the borders will be enforced,” Sullivan said, admitting that McCain has to walk “a pretty fine line.” “But it’s an issue that 80 percent of Americans agree on. It’s not that complicated of a position. It’s not a racist position; it’s about security and sovereignty. It’s a fundamental responsibility of government.”

Immigration may be one way to gain votes, but Sullivan knows that’s not enough. “Most Romney supporters will support him,” Sullivan said. “But the question is, how enthusiastically? It’s one thing to vote; it’s quite another to work for a candidate and go out and persuade your neighbors.”

To further fuel the base, according to Sullivan, McCain has to hold out for extending President Bush’s tax cuts and staying put against any tax increases. Then, who knows? “McCain may not have been my first choice,” Sullivan sighed, “But I’ll do what I can.”

Looking ahead to the general election, though, McCain considers a contest against Barack Obama to be a difficult prospect. The polarizing Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, could end up doing a lot of legwork for McCain, energizing the base just by her mere presence in the race. “The prospect of Hillary,” Sullivan concluded, “makes it easier.”

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