MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Although former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the Michigan Republican straw poll overwhelmingly, delegates who attended the state party’s Republican Leadership Conference report that they’re still looking for the right candidate to take on President Obama next year.
“You look across the board — Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry — all of them have something to say,” said Jeff Barry, a venture capitalist who attended the conference. “Somebody really has to come to the forefront, and for me personally, that hasn’t happened.”
Conference participants heard Republican front-runners Romney and Perry speak on this resort island in Michigan on Saturday. Many said they are leaning in favor of one or the other but have yet to make up their minds.
Mike Gerard, another conference participant, said he is leaning toward Perry. “First of all, he is a Christian, he is a conservative, he is fiscally responsible,” said Gerard, who is studying to become a teacher. “He seems to have a good track record in Texas. [There’s been] a lot of job growth in Texas over the last eight or 10 years when most of the country has been taking a hit.”
Gerard also was sympathetic to Perry’s explanation for his widely panned performance in Thursday night’s candidate debate in Florida. The next day, Perry said the candidate with values and vision should win the nomination, not the “slickest” candidate. “He brings up a good point," Gerard said. "He is not the smoothest talker. He is not going to be the best debater, but his policies are strong. He votes what he says he is going to vote.
“Mitt is a little bit too central for me. His record in Massachusetts is a little scary to me, really,” Gerard said. “It’s kind of Obamacare-ish. I don’t like the idea of being forced to buy a product by our government.”
Barry, however, liked a lot of what he saw in Romney and said he was impressed by how “feisty” Perry is.
Of Romney, he said: “I could definitely see myself supporting him. You can just tell that he is an optimist by nature. I like the fact that he has been able to go in to unsuccessful companies and turn them around. I like that he has a very private-sector viewpoint.”
Of Perry, Barry said: “Throughout the whole speech, one thing kept going through my head is that he is feisty, and I think the next president is going to have to be a bit feisty. … He knows what he believes in, and that is something that is going to be positive for him throughout this campaign. For me, it is not about who can beat President Obama. It is not the way I think politically. For me, it is who is going to say, ‘I have a plan. I’m going to set up the steps to do it. I’m going to implement that plan.’”