Mitt Romney speaking about job numbers on Friday at Bradley's Hardware… (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)
WASHINGTON -- Leading Republicans refused to join in some recent friendly fire aimed at Mitt Romney over the state of his campaign, arguing that any recent stumbles would not have a lasting impact.
John McCain, the last GOP presidential nominee, said the unsolicited criticism and advice from some leading conservatives is to be expected.
"The fact is there's one person in the arena. Mitt Romney has been through a very tough primary. He not only survived it but prevailed over a number of candidates," the Arizona senator said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "He has a good strong campaign. I will leave it up to the pundits as to who should be fired and who shouldn't. ... I am confident that Mitt Romney, if adjustments need to be made, will make those adjustments. And I'm confident he will prevail."
Asked whether he agreed with the likes of the Wall Street Journal editorial board or conservative columnist Bill Kristol, who've argued Romney needs to shake up his campaign, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a separate interview that "a better use of my time is to criticize the guys we are running against."
"I'm not here to critique the Romney campaign. I do think that we've got plenty to run against. The president has got a very, very poor record. That is why he does not want to talk about it," McConnell said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former party chairman, said Romney ultimately will need to make a case for voters to elect him, and not just to unseat the president. But it's still early in the campaign, he suggested.
"Right now, Romney is smart to wait before he starts laying out proposal after proposal," he said. "The people will then compare that to Obama's record, and that referendum on his record will happen."
Barbour said there is "a lot to love" about Romney, responding to a quote from House Speaker John Boehner that the American people "probably aren't going to fall in love" with the GOP nominee. Boehner had gone on to say that 95% of voters will show up to either vote for or against the president.
There were other pundits still willing to pile on Romney, however. On ABC's "This Week," conservative columnist George Will warned that Romney seemed "risk-averse."
"He does seem to be in something like a four-corner stall in basketball," he said. "But you can't get to the NCAA championship, you can't get to the presidency running out the clock. So he's going to have to do something more than say Obama's not working."