If you didn’t know that Mitt Romney was the likely Republican presidential nominee, you wouldn’t figure it out listening to the speeches at tonight’s Iowa GOP Lincoln Dinner.
Speaker after speaker, including the keynote Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia, avoided mentioning the name of a single Republican presidential candidate.
I don’t know about you, but that seemed weird to me. It was as if the GOP caucus race was just starting, and everyone was worried about neutrality.
It might have had something to do with the fact that Texas Congressman Ron Paul’s shadow is still looming large in Iowa. Today’s nomination of a delegate slate to the national convention, heavy with Paul supporters, is just the latest example of why the party is reluctant to act like the primary season is effectively over.
Cuccinelli hasn’t endorsed a presidential candidate, but he told me in an interview (link below) that he accepts that Romney will be the nominee. He’ll even campaign for him, if he’s asked. He says that without any indication that he thinks he’ll be asked sometime soon.
The first mention of Romney from the podium tonight came at the very end, when Iowa GOP co-chairman Bill Schickel introduced a short video message from Romney and his wife, Ann. Mostly Ann, actually.
The Romney campaign also had a table in the vestibule outside the ballroom, where there was a reception.
Cuccinelli did make a point of pressing for Republicans to work to defeat President Obama. “The rule of law itself is at stake in this election,” he said. He called the 2012 presidential race “the year to leave it all on the field” in Iowa and Virginia, also a swing state.
Still, the size of the crowd here (not quite 270), the fairly muted enthusiasm and the tenor of the speeches suggests Iowa Republicans are not yet focused on a Romney-Obama contest in the general election.
- I live-tweeted most of the speeches, as did several others. Here are some highlights:
- This is not a hopeful sign for adjournment of the legislative session any time soon.
- That should be "voting machine."