Mitt Romney's five-day tour of swing states, which rolled into Pennsylvania and Ohio over the weekend, is intended to portray him as attuned to the needs of small-town Americans. But the visits also put Romney in step with a politically riskier group: Republicans who lead Congress.
Romney has largely kept his distance from Congress, which polls show to be a highly unpopular institution. But on Sunday, he campaigned with House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Rob Portman, both of Ohio, and on Monday he is to appear with Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House budget chairman known for writing Medicare and spending plans that staked out a new, more-conservative budget agenda for his party.
Romney has taken other steps to move closer to congressional Republicans. He has hired two senior policy advisers from the staff of Ryan's budget committee, and the campaign has named a point man to coordinate with Capitol Hill Republicans.
The moves by Romney defy fears among some conservatives that he would tack to the center after clinching enough delegates for the Republican presidential nomination. Instead, Romney is identifying himself with Ryan's plans to rein in the size and scope of government -- and he appears to be shrugging off the political risks of embracing its measures to curb the growth of Medicare and other safety-net programs.
"He's our guy," said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the Republican Study Group. "We've been pleased that he's embraced the Ryan budget plan."