Months after he clinched the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney is still struggling to win over skeptical conservatives.
And the longer he waits to name a running mate, the more time conservative activists have to try to coax him to name one of their own — such as Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
"Why Not Paul Ryan?" asks an editorial in Thursday's Wall Street Journal. Ryan heads the House Budget Committee and is author of a House-passed budget that would slash federal spending and overhaul entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Romney's latest problem with conservatives flowed from a spokeswoman's reflections this week on the benefits of the Massachusetts health care law. That Romney-proposed law remains a touchy topic, since it was a model for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul — which Romney now condemns.
In criticizing an outside group's ad linking Romney to the cancer death of a laid-off steelworker's wife, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told Fox News, "If people had been in Massachusetts under Gov. Romney's health care plan, they would have had health care."
Some conservatives called that a tacit endorsement of an Obama-like health insurance mandate. "That's a potential gold mine for the Obamaites," Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show.
The president's campaign refuses to ask the group to pull the spot.
Responding, Romney told Bill Bennett's radio program "Morning in America" on Thursday, "I don't know what happened to a campaign of hope and change. I thought he was a new kind of politician."
Romney's continuing need to stroke the Republican base could complicate later efforts to sway crucial independent voters his way.
Romney raised cash in New York Thursday while his campaign prepared for a bus trip through battleground states and a decision on a running mate. Obama campaigned in Colorado for a second day.