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Mitt begins new balancing act

Presumptive nominee seeks broader appeal, conservative support

Published: Monday, June 29 2015 10:35 p.m. MDT

Mitt Romney has launched a campaign against President Obama that straddles sometimes conflicting ideologies.   (Associated Press) Mitt Romney has launched a campaign against President Obama that straddles sometimes conflicting ideologies. (Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney will need independent voters in November, but he isn't abandoning his "severely conservative" record.

The likely Republican presidential nominee has embarked on an aggressive campaign against President Barack Obama that straddles two sometimes-conflicting political ideologies.

On some days, the former Massachusetts governor is a social conservative and social moderate, a right-wing conspiracy theorist and promoter of political compromise. With the primaries over, it's an evolving balancing act that, so far, is leaning decidedly right.

Romney spoke out Friday against China's "one-child policy," in an apparent nod to social conservatives. But later in the same Fox News interview, he defended his decision to hire an openly gay staffer who just quit under pressure from social conservatives.

Romney said he hires people "not based upon their ethnicity, or their sexual preference or their gender but upon their capability." He said the ex-aide, Richard Grenell, who was to become foreign policy spokesman, was a "capable individual" and that many senior campaign advisers had urged him not to leave. But Grenell's departure pleased some on the religious right.

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2012, file photo Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, talks with fellow candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, left, after a presidential debate in Arizona. Romney on Friday met privately with Santorum, who has indicated he will ultimately endorse Romney. Since the day Santorum left the race, Romney's campaign has been recruiting former Santorum staffers and courting his key allies, including his donors.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) (Associated Press) FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2012, file photo Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, talks with fellow candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, left, after a presidential debate in Arizona. Romney on Friday met privately with Santorum, who has indicated he will ultimately endorse Romney. Since the day Santorum left the race, Romney's campaign has been recruiting former Santorum staffers and courting his key allies, including his donors. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) (Associated Press)

The matter offered a look inside a Romney campaign that would like to broaden his appeal to the political center, while harnessing the anti-Obama intensity from his party's right. It's a tricky move, but Romney is trying to prove he won't turn his back on his party's most passionate voters.

He's devoting significant attention to skeptical conservatives who have supported his Republican rivals until recently. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum gave up his bid last month, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich made his departure official this past week.

"We're moving quickly," said Romney senior aide Peter Flaherty, who is leading the campaign's conservative outreach. "We are going to work very hard to continue to work with conservatives, to work with the base, to keep them energized."

Romney on Friday met with Santorum, who has indicated he will endorse Romney. Since Santorum quit, Romney's campaign has been recruiting former Santorum staffers and courting his key allies and donors. Romney has hired Santorum's former campaign manager to broaden coalitions with conservative groups.

FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2012, file photo Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, top left, looks over Iowa Republican presidential caucus returns with his campaign manager, Michael Biundo, center foreground, and other campaign staff in his Iowa hotel room. Romney met privately Friday with Santorum, who has indicated he will ultimately endorse Romney. Romney has also hired Biundo, to broaden coalitions with conservative groups.  (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) (Associated Press) FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2012, file photo Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, top left, looks over Iowa Republican presidential caucus returns with his campaign manager, Michael Biundo, center foreground, and other campaign staff in his Iowa hotel room. Romney met privately Friday with Santorum, who has indicated he will ultimately endorse Romney. Romney has also hired Biundo, to broaden coalitions with conservative groups. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) (Associated Press)

At the same time, the Romney campaign is paying lots of attention to the conservative media.

He and his wife met this past week with right-leaning bloggers, reporters and columnists for an off-the-record discussion on Capitol Hill. He has granted interviews recently to conservative publications such as The Weekly Standard, the blog "Hot Air," National Review and Human Events magazine.

Romney will deliver a commencement address next week at Liberty University, the evangelical institution founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell in Lynchburg, Va. He will be the first Mormon to speak at a Liberty graduation.

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