Is Tagg Romney Wielding New Power in Mitt’s Campaign?Posted: October 9, 2012
Politico is out with a new “insider” piece on the Romney campaign by the usual suspects, Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei. They report that there has been a “family rebellion,” led by Ann Romney and articulated within the campaign by the Romneys’ eldest son Tagg.
According to Allen and Vandehei, Ann and Tagg have been fuming for months about how campaign aides–especially previous Politico-identified scapegoat Stuart Stevens–have forced Romney to avoid specifics about what he would do as president and instead focus on attacking President Obama’s economic policies.
Chief strategist Stuart Stevens — whom the family held responsible for allowing Romney’s personal side to be obscured by an anti-Obama economic message — has seen his once wide-ranging portfolio “fenced in” to mainly the debates, and the television advertising that is his primary expertise, according to campaign officials. Tagg Romney, channeling his mother’s wishes, is taking a much more active role in how the campaign is run.
The family rebellion, long building despite Mitt Romney’s initial reluctance to change, reached a climax in September, amid mounting evidence that the status quo was doomed to failure. The course correction came after internal polls showed him losing nearly every swing state and a loud chorus of second-guessing among prominent conservatives.
Allen and Vandehei claim that:
When the history of this campaign is written, the family intervention will be among the most important turning points in the Romney saga. Until the weeks before the first presidential debate, the candidate sided with Stevens over his family’s skepticism, accepting the strategist’s view that the best way to win was to point out President Barack Obama’s flaws and articulate generic promises to do better.
The campaign is hopeful that the new supposedly moderate Mitt can now reveal his “true self” with the support of the right wing Republican base which is now so thrilled over Romney’s debate performance that they’ll give him some leeway to be more like the Romney he was as Governor of Massachusetts.
Behind the scenes, the high command has changed with the candidate. Senior adviser Ed Gillespie, for instance, has rising responsibility for the campaign’s broad message. Campaign manager Matt Rhoades is commanding the stagecraft, the insiders said. And Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), originally brought in as Romney’s debate sparring partner, has become a close and trusted adviser.
But the biggest change in the ecology, according to the insiders, is the more assertive role of Tagg Romney, who has been “making sure that his father’s environment is such that he’s relaxed when he goes up to do things, and making sure that he’s not over-programmed, and is protected from the cacophony of advice,” a family friend said.
There’s just one problem with this new Politico narrative: Tagg Romney told the New York Daily News today that the Politico story is nonsense.
A recent POLITICO story quoted an unnamed family friend as saying Tagg Romney would be working behind the scenes at being “more assertive in making the organization work better, cleaning up some of the organizational dysfunction.”
But Tagg Romney said that’s simply not the case.
In fact, he said he hasn’t been to a strategy meeting in more than a year, and the last time his father specifically solicited his advice on a campaign issue was in considering his selection of a running mate.
“It sounds like a great story, but it’s not based in reality at all,” he said of the suggestion that he’d be the one to broker peace between warring factions inside Romneyland.
“I’ve never approached anyone about wanting to play that role. No one has approached me,” he said.
“This is not spin, the team really gets along well. There’s no internal squabbling or fighting for territory or turf.”
Tagg says, although he has been involved in fund raising and made campaign stops in support of his dad’s presidential bid, he’s just too busy with his own private equity firm and his six kids to get involved in the nut’s and bolts of the Romney organization in Boston.
I don’t know which of these stories is more accurate, but here are a few blog reactions to the Politico story.
Taylor Marsh bought the Allen-Vandehei version completely–she says it’s “the story of the fall campaign season.” I don’t read her daily, but based on this post, Marsh appears to have reverted to her old anti-Obama ways and seems to be almost rooting for a Romney win.
The man who was elected governor of Massachusetts was always going to be Mitt Romney’s strong suit in the general election. It’s why Eric Eric Fehrnstrom’s Etch-a-Sketch gaffe was so alarming. Wiping the slate clean from the hard right primary contortions that allowed Romney to win the nomination had to be the move they’d make at some point. Not finding it sooner will be the reason Romney loses if he doesn’t prevail.
Mitt Romney’s challenge was not only to seduce the Republican base and get the nomination, but to be able to shed the wingnuttery in the general and present himself as Governor Mitt when it mattered, the man closer to his core. A core founded in fundamentalist patriarchy moored in deep religiosity, which is different from wingnuttery.
Ann Romney saw him through the first task, but she and Tagg Romney saw that the second shift wasn’t happening and with it the man they believe can fix this country was losing his chance at history. So, they stepped in and the result is what we saw at the debate.
Love Romney or hate him, what the debate revealed was a man comfortable in his own skin for the first time in over a year. Was that the Romney rebellion manifest setting Mitt free? To Team Obama’s chagrin, just maybe, though it’s too soon to tell.
Apparently Marsh doesn’t know much about Romney’s record in Massachusetts. And she thinks Romney has a core!
Ed Kilgore is more skeptical.
Somewhat counter-intuitively, the Politico Pair argues that “the family” combined forces with restive conservatives wanting a “clear choice” message to topple the steady-as-you-go approach of Stevens. Here’s how they square that circle:
[O]ne big reason for hope inside the Romney campaign is that conservatives were so down on the campaign before the debate — and so rapturous during it — that they will give him a lot of maneuvering room to talk in more moderate ways.
As I’ve tried to demonstrate here and here, however, the Moderate Mitt Meme is mighty thin and based on an infrastructure of lies and evasions. Under sustained attack from the Obama campaign, how long is Romney going to be able to get mileage out of such brave defiance of the Right as admitting there might be some place in the world for regulation of business; how long can he get away with pretending his “health care plan” prevents discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions; how long can he brazen his way through the mendacious math of his tax plan, or avoid the many extremist positions that Obama did not bring up during the first debate? Remember, BTW, that the first time Romney (or Ryan) must engage seriously with criticism of his actual agenda, all that conservative tolerance for “moderation” will vanish.
That makes more sense to me, but I think TBogg’s take is my favorite so far: Gang Ann Style
Smug future-dowager queen Ann Romney is very sick and tired of You People not loving that man of hers like she loves that man of hers, so she and her gang of lying-ass sons, led by eldest crazy-eyed blank-shooter Tarkus, held down Romney campaign chief strategist (I know… I was surprised they had a “strategy” too) Stuart Stevens and cut off his
This had to be done because Mitt Romney, who has been sold to us as a decisive and brilliant businessman who SAVED THE OLYMPICS and made BILLIONS of dollars which he then stashed in off-shore tax havens, is actually just one of those goofy hapless bumbling dads (Homer) from the sitcoms who must be continually reined in by his adoring yet amusingly exasperated wife (Marge). Except, in this case, the role of the sensible mom with a heart of gold is played by Angela Landsbury from the Manchurian Candidate (without the oily style but with 70% more bitchface) and Mitt is dopey drunken empty-headed James Gregory.
Feel free to either discuss the Romney rebellion or use this as an open thread.