WASHINGTON—Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has struggled to ignite the passion of conservative activists, and with less than two months before the election, one prominent free-market leader still isn't sure what kind of president Romney would make.
Chris Chocola, president of the influential Club for Growth, a group that promotes lawmakers who pursue lower taxes and spending, said Thursday that Romney still had not convinced him that his administration would pursue a "pro-growth agenda" if elected in November.
"We'll see if he's going to be a pro-growth president," Chocola told reporters during a breakfast meeting in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "I think he has potential to exceed expectations, I do, but it's a mixed bag with Romney and that's his problem. People don't really know."
The club, which spends millions of dollars each election cycle to influence the outcome of congressional races, isn't putting a penny toward Romney's campaign. The group declined to endorse a Republican primary candidate earlier this year after studying the candidates' economic records. "There wasn't a candidate that we thought we could recommend to our members," Chocola said.
Chocola, who emphasized that he supports Romney, expressed disappointment in the candidate's comments opposing Chinese trade practices—"he knows better"—and scrutinized his record as governor of Massachusetts. Still, he hopes Romney will "exceed expectations" if elected.
"That's the knock against Romney, you don't really know how he'll serve," Chocola said. "There's always a question, because how he has served in the past gives you some uncertainty as to how he will serve in the future. So our expectations are uncertainty."
Chocola's comments echo that of other conservative leaders who say they back the Republican candidate, but the primary reason for their support is not wanting the alternative—President Barack Obama. For instance, the day before Romney spoke at the Republican National Convention in August, Matt Kibbe, president of the tea party organizing group FreedomWorks, said conservatives are still "trying to figure out what he's for."
With several weeks before Election Day, Chocola said he's not concerned that Romney won't govern by the same conservative platform he has campaigned on, but added that there was little the candidate could do between now and Nov. 6 to prove it.
"If he's elected and exceeds our expectations, we're all for that," Chocola said. "If he doesn't, then we'll try to push him in a pro-growth direction."