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'Stop The Stubbornness': Mass. GOP Official Urges Fellow Conservatives To Get Vaccinated

BOSTON (CBS) - Are you excited to submit your "VaxMillions" entry July 1?

That's the multi-million dollar giveaway program Gov. Charlie Baker has launched in an effort to persuade more residents to go get their shots. But recent CBS News polling suggests that may be a tough slog; when the vaccine hesitant were asked if a prize would get them to act, 84% said no with only 16% saying yes.

It comes as no surprise to one Massachusetts GOP activist who may be onto a better tactic.

Tom Mountain
Massachusetts Republican State Committeeman Tom Mountain (WBZ-TV)

"I was at best ambivalent and at worst, shall we say, adversarial toward any COVID precautions," says Massachusetts Republican State Committeeman Tom Mountain. But then Mountain caught the virus – at a maskless White House reception in late 2019, he believes – and it nearly killed him.

Since then, Mountain has become a self-described evangelist for his fellow conservatives to get vaccinated, and offers insight into why they have become one of the largest groups of vaccine resisters.

"They see it as an intrusion of the government from a libertarian standpoint where the government should not tell us what to do or how to do it," he says. "I try to use logic with them in that if a cancer vaccine came up tomorrow they would be among the first to stand in line to get it. My message to them is stop the stubbornness, stop the evasiveness and get yourself vaccinated for your own sake and for your ever-shrinking network of friends who won't get vaccinated."

Meanwhile, the example set by New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is also instructive. The conservative Republican, who was easily re-elected last fall, has parlayed his popularity into one of the nation's highest vaccination rates. How did he do it?

"Sununu has really balanced the pro-Trump forces within the Republican party and the anti-Trump forces and he's really walked the tight wire successfully and brought them under the tent," says Neil Levesque, director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

Baker's blunt criticism of Trump over the years and the resulting slump in his approval ratings among Republicans obviously complicate any effort to duplicate Sununu's feat. Perhaps a Trump supporter like Mountain can have better look with his own brand of straight talk.

"I say 'well, look, I'm one of you, I got the vaccine and I'm telling you to get it and this is why you need to get it and please get it," he said.

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