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Mitt Romney Consolidates Support, But Faces Enthusiasm Challenge

Mitt Romney

First Posted: 01/02/2012 9:47 am Updated: 01/02/2012 10:26 am

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- Witness the risk of giving too much weight to any one interview with a voter in Iowa.

On one side of the room here at the first of four Romney events the day before the Iowa caucuses, Pat Moylan, a 61-year old retiree, stood waiting for Romney to arrive despite his reservations with the candidate.

Moylan's lack of excitement about Romney was palpable.

"It's just a gut feeling," he said. "I like somebody who's a little more aggressive. I don't think he's aggressive enough."

But Moylan seemed to be leaning toward supporting Romney anyway, based on the former Massachusetts governor's business background and on the fact that he said he's choosing between Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) based on who has the better chance to beat President Obama in a general election.

"It's electability almost exclusively. We've got to have something different," Moylan said.

If Romney is the nominee, however, Moylan said the most he'll do to help him is talk to his friends and neighbors.

"I'm not going to go out and pound on doors or anything like that," he said.

Moylan said that he doesn't like any of the GOP candidates all that much, and said he would really like to see another candidate jump into the race "and muddy it up so much that they have to draft somebody," though he acknowledged this was a "fantasy."

But on the other side of the room stood Twila Brownell, a retired hairdresser, whose eyes lit up when asked about Romney.

"I think he's going to be the one. I just have that feeling," Brownell said. "I think he wants to save our country. I really do."

There is a clear sense that Romney is consolidating support in Iowa. His wife Ann spoke to that feeling in her remarks introducing her husband here.

"I sense something happening as we've been going across Iowa. I sense a feeling, a coalescing, a momentum -- or whatever it is you want to call it -- around Mitt," Ann Romney said. "I think people are starting to figure out that this is the guy that is going to beat Barack Obama."

That may be true, but even if it isn't in Iowa the path to the nomination is hard to imagine for anybody but Romney. Yet comments from voters like Moylan capture a deeper dynamic that seems common in many voters: they are resigning themselves to getting behind Romney but aren't enthused about it.

If that remains the case through the rest of this year, that will be a major problem in a general election showdown with an incumbent president.

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