GOP Lawmaker: Party Kingmakers “Whispering” About Drafting New Candidate

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.)<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/38921076@N04/5733942050/sizes/m/in/photostream/">Rep Pete King</a>/Flickr

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With Mitt Romney, the GOP establishment’s pick in the 2012 presidential nomination battle, still unable to win over dyed-in-the-wool Republicans, the chatter about drafting a new, more popular candidate continues to grow.

On CNN Tuesday morning, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chair of the House homeland security committee, hinted at a whisper campaign among “top Republicans” who want a GOP favorite such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to enter the race if Romney loses the Michigan or Arizona primaries or struggles on Super Tuesday, when ten states controlling 437 delegates hold GOP primaries on March 6. “I think there’s going to be more of an interest, more of an emphasis on having someone ready if on Super Tuesday… Mitt Romney does not manage to break loose, and to have that candidate ready to come in,” King said. He added, “Again, I have no inside knowledge. Just whispering and mumbling here among top Republicans who are concerned that Governor Romney has not been able to break loose.”

King told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien that he sees the Michigan primary as a make-or-break moment for the Romney campaign. “From my perspective, if Romney does not win Michigan, it creates real problems for his candidacy,” he said. “I think you then will start seeing more activity among the Republican establishment, whatever that is, talking to people like Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Mitch Daniels, people like that.”

Romney heads into the Michigan primary with a razor-thin 1 percentage point lead over former US senator Rick Santorum, according to RealClearPolitics polling data. Romney fares even worse in national polls, trailing Santorum by 3 percentage points, according to RCP. The pressure on Romney to dig out a win in Michigan is huge, given that he grew up there and that his dad, George Romney, served as governor from 1963 to 1969. Yet Romney’s opposition to the federal bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler has dented his support there, and he finds himself locked in a bitter fight with the surging Santorum.

Romney could very well pull off a win in Michigan. Even if he does, though, he’s been humbled in a state he once called home.

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