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In Crucial Northern Virginia, Republicans Learn To Love Romney

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LEESBURG, Va.-- Republican governors Bob McDonnell (Va.) and Scott Walker (Wis.) took the podium to cheers and waving campaign signs at a rally in a key swath of Northern Virginia this Saturday. A crowd had gathered to hear the two GOP superstars voice their support for Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee who, in some respects, carries a bit less conservative star power.

Indeed, for many in the crowd of roughly a hundred gathered in the parking lot behind the local Romney campaign office, support for Romney has meant learning to love, rather than love at first sight.

"No," said Marianne Canham, a rally attendee who has favored GOP candidates for the past 20 years when asked if she had supported former Massachusetts Gov. Romney in the Republican primary. "But once he was chosen as our candidate I'm behind him all the way."

The intensity and divisiveness of the GOP primary, in which attacks from fellow candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum forced Romney to defend his right-wing credentials to the Republican base, wasn't entirely forgotten by the crowd in Leesburg. But few wanted to harp on their one-time reservations about the current Republican nominee, at least not with the election just over 90 days away.

"No, I wouldn't change horses now," said Canham as to whether she'd rather have seen a candidate like Gov. McDonnell or Gov. Walker as the GOP standard-bearer, "... I think he's a good man for the job as opposed to, you know what I obviously think, Obama."

Saturday's rally even attracted some Northern Virginia independents, who could be crucial in tipping the scale toward Romney in an important swing state.

"Everybody in my family's Republican, so if I didn't vote for McCain ... actually I didn't like McCain," said an Ashburn, Va., man who supported former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman during the GOP primary, "but I do like Romney."

"In a certain way I'm a little independent," said the man, who voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 and requested anonymity. "But at the same time I'm going to fall in line when it comes to the end."

Tea Party supporters -- many of whom vocally supported Romney's more conservative rivals -- showed a similar willingness to let go some of the ideological purity they demanded in the primary.

"No, not a Romney supporter throughout the whole primary," said rally attendee John Jaggers, director of operations for the Northern Virginia Tea Party. "As a matter of fact, I was hoping Sarah Palin would jump into the race, but she never did."

Still, according to Jaggers, Tea Party excitement for conservative candidates and the electoral fight against Obama remains "through the roof."

"When you look at the other side there is no other option, it's either Romney or Obama and Obama is the epitome of what we're against," Tea Party supporter Chris Minor said. "Not him the person, but he the politician and his stance, his viewpoints, his leftist leanings."

"It's not that we're pro-Romney because he's a better man; we're pro-Romney because he is not everything that Obama and his party represent at this point in time," Minor added.

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