Nick Roch, a freshman at Roanoke College in Virginia, was the only person among those interviewed who expressed outright enthusiasm for Romney.
"I'm a big Mitt Romney fan," said Roch, who was impressed by the former governor's CPAC speech last year. Roch stood out Thursday in another way. He described himself as a moderate conservative, a term rarely heard at a convention that draws crowds of GOP officials, radio personalities, advocacy groups and political vendors.
Romney, Gingrich and Santorum are scheduled to speak at the CPAC gathering Friday. Rep. Ron Paul, also in the GOP race, does not plan to speak.
Scott and Donna Olson, who own a small business in the Milwaukee suburbs and were making their first trip to CPAC, said their dislike of Obama outweighs their feelings, pro or con, for the GOP contenders. Scott Olson, 59, said he wishes there were other candidates, but any of those still running would be an improvement.
"Obama doesn't care about what Congress wants, he doesn't care about what the people want," Olson said. "It's like he wants to be a king."
Donna Olson said she fears Romney would be "a compromiser," but she would have no qualms about backing him if he's the party's choice.
"No one who wants to get rid of the Obama agenda will sit out the election because Romney's the nominee," she said.
Bill Ouren, 59, another Houston Republican, summed up the day's theme.
"I'm not particularly excited about any of the candidates," said Ouren, who is retired from the oil and gas industry. "I don't think we have a true conservative."
He supported Michele Bachmann and then Herman Cain before they dropped out. No matter who prevails, however, Ouren said conservatives will rally to that person's side, even if the motivating factors are more anti-Obama than pro-GOP.
"The enthusiasm against what has happened in the past four years," he said, "will overpower anything else."
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