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Cincinnati tea party leader Mike Wilson, though, is “watching and waiting.”

Mr. Wilson’s favorite candidate was Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor who dropped out in August. Mr. Wilson doesn’t share the worry about Mr. Romney becoming the nominee. He also said a respectable Iowa finish by Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann or Texas Gov. Rick Perry could give either of those conservative favorites some traction heading into the contests that follow.

Mr. Wilson said Mr. Romney can defeat Mr. Obama and would work effectively with a Republican-controlled House.

“I think we know who the ultimate opponent is — Barack Obama,” Mr. Wilson said. “With John Boehner as speaker, I think Romney will sign a lot of Republican legislation over the next four years.”