WASHINGTON -- Conservative House Republicans on Tuesday tried to find things about Mitt Romney that make them excited about their likely presidential nominee, but just about all of them seemed to fall short.
"We're excited about the opportunity to beat Barack Obama more than anything," Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said in response to a question about conservatives' level of enthusiasm for Romney. The question was posed to a dozen conservative lawmakers who took part in a panel discussion hosted by conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation.
"I think Gov. Romney is the nominee," Jordan continued. "You're going to see conservatives unite behind him and do everything we can to help him win this November."
Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) concurred with Jordan and said "the excitement, the passion ... will come from getting Barack Obama out of the White House."
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) similarly avoided directly saying he is enthusiastic about Romney. "I am excited that the process is over," he said. Labrador said he still hasn't endorsed anyone, but nonetheless urged conservative Republicans to "get behind a nominee. It's time for conservatives to get excited."
One conservative lawmaker had a different perspective as to why people should be excited -- one that doesn't quite help Romney fend off Democratic critics who accuse him of flip-flopping on issues.
"If you're not sure about wanting to support Mitt Romney, whether you're liberal, whether you're very conservative, you ought to be excited because he's been on your side one time or another," Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) said to laughs.
Gohmert later tried to clarify what he meant by his comment, but didn't exactly pay a compliment to Romney in the process.
"I'm not as excited as I am desperate," he said to more laughs. "I'm serious ... People in America, conservatives I know, are very desperate to replace this president with someone who will not destroy energy," he said, referring to skyrocketing gas prices.
Not everyone on the panel struggled to come up with reasons to like Romney. One lawmaker said Romney's experience as a business executive is a plus for the GOP party's presumptive presidential nominee.
"Folks, American exceptionalism is alive and well. All we need is a federal government that will get out of the way and let the private sector grow," said Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio). "I believe we've got a candidate in Mitt Romney that's got experience as a businessman, as a senior executive ... and I believe we're going to see America move forward."
"So I think there's a lot to be excited about," he said.
Other House Republicans on the panel included Reps. Tim Huelskamp (Kansas), Jeff Landry (La.), Allen West (Fla.), Mick Mulvaney (S.C.), Jeff Duncan (S.C.), Ted Poe (Texas), Sandy Adams (Fla.) and David Schweikert (Ariz.).
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