From Iowa: Moderates mob Mitt's caucus eve event

CLIVE, Iowa—While much of the coverage of Mitt Romney’s last rally before the Iowa caucuses focused on hecklers from the “Occupy Des Moines” movement who were shouted down by supporters of the Republican presidential hopeful, there was another story emerging from the event Monday night: Namely, the unusually large number of Romney backers in the audience who proudly proclaimed themselves “moderate.”

At a time when the Republican Party is increasingly perceived as conservative and any candidate with a chance of winning its nomination for President must appeal to right-of-center activists, more than a few of the 500-plus supporters for Romney cheering him on at the Competitive Edge Advertising building here told HUMAN EVENTS they were in his corner because they liked his appeal to moderates and independents.

That is precisely what Sally Fisher of Des Moines told us, in fact.  Brandishing a sign that read “Iowa Picks Corn and Presidents,” Fisher said she supports the former Massachusetts Governor “because he’s moderate.”

“And he can bring back the sheep who have gone astray—namely, the independents,” noted Fisher, adding that “if the Republicans nominate anyone other than Romney, I’ll jump.  I’m not that upset with Obama.”  (She did admit she supported John McCain in 2008, however.)

Don Beeson of West Des Moines, retired businessman and local GOP activist, agreed, saying he preferred Romney out of the present Republican field “because so many of the others are extremely conservative.”

“Barack Obama lacks leadership,” said Beeson, pointing out that the President “hasn’t demonstrated an ability to work with both parties” and former Gov. Romney, he felt, has demonstrated this sense of bipartisanship.

Susan Murphy, GOP precinct chairman in Des Moines, supported John McCain for the nomination in ’08 but now supports Romney.  Her chief reason for doing so, she said, is “Romney is electable.”

Topping off the middle-road contingent for Romney in Clive last night was the Hawkeye State’s most revered moderate GOPer: former Gov. (1968-82) Robert Ray, who was more often than not at dagger’s ends with his party’s conservative wing during his years in the statehouse.  Ray, however, said his principal reason for believing Romney would be the best candidate and the best President was that “he has run a business.”

Perhaps aware of the moderate aura coming out of the last Romney event before the caucus voting Tuesday, his state and national campaign operatives were on hand to underscore the Bay State contender’s conservative credentials and to explain why he has support among the not-so-conservative.

“Mitt certainly has quite a few prominent backers who are conservatives,” David Kochel, the top Romney campaign operative in Iowa, told HUMAN EVENTS.  He specifically cited former State Party Chairman Brian Kennedy, State Rep. Rene Schulte of Cedar Rapids, and Dallas County Recorder Chad Airhart as respected right-of-center leaders in the Romney camp.

“This is a big crowd tonight, so you expect to have some people who are moderate,” conservative former Sen. Jim Talent (R.-Mo.) told us. “Mitt Romney transcends ideology.  I have been campaigning with him through Iowa and the Midwest and what I have found is that he is really gaining a sense of acceptance across the board.  People aren’t looking for a sense of orthodoxy but for competence and for someone they think can beat Barack Obama.  In that sense, Mitt Romney transcends ideology.”