Add Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to the list of conservative Republicans who are less than thrilled with the idea of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney winning the GOP presidential nomination.
Asked by The Daily Caller how, in a nation of a roughly 310 million people, the Republican Party is set to nominate the only person other than President Barack Obama to sign an individual health insurance mandate into law, Cuccinelli said he was “not quite sure how to answer.”
“He just outlasted everybody else up to this point,” Cuccinelli, one of the GOP’s most outspoken critics of the individual mandate, said. “[Rick] Santorum’s not out yet, but the math is looking pretty ugly for him.”
Cuccinelli said he believes Romney became the front-runner “more by default, as everyone else has been defeated one at a time.”
“Really, I don’t know if he chose all of it, but he had a wonderful course of divide and conquer,” Cuccinelli told TheDC. “I mean it was really one person at a time, which turned out to be, by and large, fairly manageable for him.”
“I will say, I don’t think anybody really doubts his commitment to signing a repeal bill if it gets to his desk, so I don’t think that creates a real problem, but it is surprising, when the biggest issue of 2010 for Republicans taking so many seats in the House was the health care issue, to see the presidential race work out the way it has.”
Romney, who holds a commanding lead among Republican delegates and a large financial advantage over his GOP opponents, has won a number of tepid endorsements in recent weeks.
After backing Romney last week, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio acknowledged to TheDC’s Matt Lewis that other options would have been preferable.
“There are a lot of other people out there that some of us wish had run for president — but they didn’t,” Rubio said. “I think Mitt Romney would be a fine president, and he’d be way better than the guy who’s there right now.”
In early March, former New York Gov. George Pataki had similar sentiments.
“Now, Mitt is not a perfect candidate,” he said. “He has a number of problems. It’s hard for blue-collar families like mine to identify with him. It’s hard for economic conservatives to identify with him. He needs to do more to reach out to the Latinos. But I think he has focus on that and on defeating President Obama as opposed to winning the next primary in the next state, and it’s time to do that.”
Cuccinelli said that while he doesn’t doubt Romney’s commitment to sign a repeal of Obamacare, should it land on his desk, he still worries that Republican enthusiasm heading into the general election will be muted.
“I think the zeal factor goes away with a lot of the activists, though — a lot of the volunteer help you want,” he said. “There will be more of a motivational issue there, but regardless, I think the economy is going to be the No. 1 issue and the president’s performance, or failure of his performance, so while this will be important, it won’t be the top issue like it was in 2010.”
UPDATE 9:20 a.m.: An earlier version of this story cited reporting by the Washington Examiner holding that Romney’s new senior advisor, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, lobbied for a nationwide individual mandate before Obama ever embraced the idea. Gillespie contacted The Daily Caller after publication, and said he never lobbied for a mandate. NRO has more on this.