- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 31, 2009

RICHMOND | Taking the governorships in Virginia and New Jersey are an important step for the recovery of the Republican Party, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Friday.

“What is happening in Virginia and New Jersey is really critical to conservative principles nationally. These are two states where Republicans can pick up governors’ offices,” Mr. Romney said at a press conference.

The former Massachusetts governor and presidential contender spent two days stumping in Virginia before addressing GOP convention goers at the party’s kickoff dinner, where he told the delegates that “Republicans must stay true to their principles.”

Mr. Romney said he believes the Republicans can regain their footing in the state.

While Mr. Romney says it is too early to decide whether he will be running for president in 2012, he told The Washington Times that he has been spending the last year since losing his bid for the party’s presidential nomination working with his political action committee, campaigning for candidates he supports and writing a book about the issues affecting the Republican Party.

“I am campaigning for Republican candidates who I think can make a real difference for their country and their state,” he said, after finishing two days of campaign and fundraising appearances with Attorney General Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling.

Citing Lt. Gov. Bolling’s early support, Mr. Romney said he owed a great deal to people in Virginia, which was why he had come and would return before the elections. Mr. Romney also campaigned in New Jersey for governor hopeful Christopher J. Christie.

He dismissed the setbacks the party has faced in recent years, saying that such issues are natural but that the party can regain its standing because overall, he said, the state and country are “center right.”

“If you put country first and do what is right for America and what is right for Virginia, then the voters are going to follow,” Mr. Romney said.

Stressing party unity, Mr. Romney noted that Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Bolling have been “working as a team, not in a battle in the Republican Party.”

At the press conference, he also dismissed the disparate voices in the party of former Vice President Dick Cheney, radio host Rush Limbaugh and House Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor. “When you don’t have the White House, then you have a lot of voices that are all … expressing their own views,” Mr. Romney said.

While the party has faltered in recent years, Mr. Romney expressed his support of the party’s congressional leadership and the handling of the Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

“I think we can take our cue from Sen. [John] Cornyn, [Texas Republican] for instance,” he told The Washington Times. “This is a process that should be followed with respect and dignity. It should be a thorough, complete and fair evaluation of the judge’s record, and we’ll have a change to inquire about some of the troubling statements that have been attributed to her and assess her judicial philosophy and her record. But at this stage we’re getting to know her better, and we’ll keep an open mind.”

Mr. Romney dismissed concerns about alienating Hispanic voters. “I think the most important thing is to select a justice who has the right judicial philosophy and the right record, and I don’t think trying to tilt the evaluation on the basis of other factors would make sense.”

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