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Political Notebook

Romney seeks Tea Party support

Mitt Romney greeted veterans yesterday after addressing a VFW conference in San Antonio. Mitt Romney greeted veterans yesterday after addressing a VFW conference in San Antonio. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)
By Associated Press
August 31, 2011

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As Texas Governor Rick Perry gains popularity among Tea Party members - and threatens to give former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney a run for his money - Romney is trying to court Tea Party support of his own.

The Romney campaign confirmed yesterday that Romney will attend a Tea Party Express event on Labor Day weekend in New Hampshire, a must-win state for him. Levi Russell, Tea Party Express spokesman, said this will be the first time Romney has come to a Tea Party Express event.

The Romney campaign insists that his reaching out to Tea Party activists is nothing new. Spokesman Ryan Williams said Romney already committed to a Sept. 12 Tea Party Express debate in Florida. He has been in touch with Tea Party leaders across the country and has spoken at Tea Party events, including a New Hampshire dinner hosted by the fiscally conservative group Americans for Prosperity.

“Romney campaigned vigorously for Tea Party-minded candidates during 2010 in New Hampshire and across the country on a state and federal level,’’ Williams said.

But Romney has generally appealed to more moderate Republicans, with Tea Party groups favoring such candidates as Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, who started a Tea Party caucus in Congress, and now Perry. A Gallup poll released Friday found Perry earning support from 35 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Tea Party supporters - compared with 14 percent who favored both Romney and Bachmann.

Jennifer Horn, a former Republican congressional nominee from New Hampshire connected with the conservative wing of the party, said Romney has been reaching out one-on-one to conservative activists. “I’m sure there are a lot of voters who associate themselves with the Tea Party mentality who are looking seriously at Romney because of his strong private sector background, his limited government, limited spending, limited taxation policy that’s he’s promoting,’’ said Horn, who supported former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty and is now unaffiliated.

Russell said the Tea Party Express invited all presidential candidates to speak on the tour, and will remain neutral until after the Sept. 12 debate.

The Tea Party Express will make three stops in New Hampshire over Labor Day Weekend - Sunday evening at Rollins Park in Concord, Monday at noon at Veterans Square Park in Manchester, and Monday at 5 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in Nashua.

— Shira Schoenberg

Three replaced after gun program proves flawedWASHINGTON - The Justice Department replaced three officials yesterday who played critical roles in a flawed law enforcement operation aimed at major gun-trafficking networks on the Southwest border.

The department said the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the US attorney in Arizona had resigned and an administration official said a prosecutor who worked on the operation was reassigned to civil cases.

The operation, known as Fast and Furious, was designed to track small-time gun buyers at several Phoenix-area gun shops up the chain to make cases against major weapons traffickers. It was a response to longstanding criticism of ATF for concentrating on small-time gun violations and failing to attack the kingpins of weapons trafficking. A congressional investigation of the program has turned up evidence that ATF lost track of many of the more than 2,000 guns linked to the operation.

— Associated Press

Romney opens fire on Perry in governor’s home stateSAN ANTONIO - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney castigated “career politicians’’ yesterday as he tried to distinguish himself from chief rival Rick Perry while on the governor’s home turf in Texas.

“I am a conservative businessman. I spent most of my life outside of politics, dealing with real problems in the real economy,’’ Romney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars annual convention in San Antonio. “Career politicians got us into this mess and they simply don’t know how to get us out.’’

Romney didn’t mention Perry by name during the speech, which comes as national polls show Perry with more support than Romney.

A Perry spokesman dismissed Romney. “Governor Perry was a farmer and served in the military for a combined 19 years,’’ Mark Miner said. “Mitt Romney must have been talking about someone else in his remarks today.’’

— Associated Press