Whatever Your Preferred Metaphor, Romney’s Campaign is ImplodingPosted: September 17, 2012
Buzzards circling overhead…
Sharks smelling blood in the water…
Whatever metaphor you use to describe it, the Romney campaign is searching for answers and playing the blame game.
Last night, based on unnamed sources within the campaign, Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei posted a long analysis of “how Mitt Romney stumbled,” and named the designated the scapegoat for Romney’s failures, top campaign strategist and ad man, Stuart Stevens. Stevens has been picked to shoulder the blame for Romney’s lackluster convention speech and his failure to even mention the ongoing war in Afghanistan or the American servicepeople who are fighting and dying far from home. According to Allen and Vandehei, Stevens:
knew his candidate’s convention speech needed a memorable mix of loft and grace if he was going to bound out of Tampa with an authentic chance to win the presidency. So Stevens, bypassing the speechwriting staff at the campaign’s Boston headquarters, assigned the sensitive task of drafting it to Peter Wehner, a veteran of the last three Republican White Houses and one of the party’s smarter wordsmiths.
Stevens junked the entire thing, setting off a chaotic, eight-day scramble that would produce an hour of prime-time problems for Romney, including Clint Eastwood’s meandering monologue to an empty chair.
Romney’s convention stumbles have provoked weeks of public griping and internal sniping about not only Romney but also his mercurial campaign muse, Stevens. Viewed warily by conservatives, known for his impulsiveness and described by a colleague as a “tortured artist,” Stevens has become the leading staff scapegoat for a campaign that suddenly is behind in a race that had been expected to stay neck and neck through Nov. 6.
Allen and Vandehei write that, although campaign insiders are throwing Stevens to the wolves, so to speak, Mitt Romney himself deserves a great deal of the blame too. Stevens is his guy, and Romney is likely to stick with him. But back to the convention speech snafu:
As the Tampa convention drew near, Wehner, now a “senior adviser” and blogger for the campaign, was laboring under an unusual constraint for the author of a high-stakes political speech. He was not invited to spend time with Romney, making it impossible to channel him fluently.
Nevertheless, Wehner came up with a draft he found pleasing, including the memorable line: “The incumbent president is trying to lower the expectations of our nation to the sorry level of his own achievement. He only wins if you settle.” It also included a reference to Afghanistan, which was jettisoned with the rest of his work.
Instead, eight days before the convention, at a time when a campaign usually would be done drafting and focused instead on practicing such a high-stakes speech, Stevens frantically contacted John McConnell and Matthew Scully, a speechwriting duo that had worked in George W. Bush’s campaign and White House. Stevens told them they would have to start from scratch on a new acceptance speech. Not only would they have only a few days to write it, but Romney would have little time to practice it.
The speech McConnell and Scully came up with was also largely scrapped, and Stevens and Romney “cobbled together” the final unimpressive acceptance speech that failed to even mention the war in Afghanistan or the Americans fighting and dying overseas.
The entire Politico article is well worth reading, since the Romney campaign frequently uses Politico to disseminate their desired campaign narratives, one of which is that Stevens is not a committed conservative, but an ivy-league educated, “creative,” “eclectic,” “artist” type who isn’t particularly ideological and maybe just doesn’t understand the Republican base. And besides, he’s disorganized and undisciplined. But Allen and Vandehei say that “Romney associates” are “baffled” that Romney himself hasn’t gotten a grip on the campaign, since he was such a successful corporate CEO.
This morning both Politico and Buzzfeed posted more insider revelations about the Romney campaign’s latest strategies. Politico’s quotes Stuart Stevens on the supposed new emphasis on “status quo vs. change.”
Stevens said the economy is likely to remain “the dominant focus” of the campaign. But ads and speeches will focus on a wider array of issues, including foreign policy, the threat from China, debt and the tone in Washington.
Stevens said the big, unifying question will be: “Can we do better on every front?”
On Monday, Romney unveiled a new ad, “The Romney Plan,” that punches back at Obama’s consistent emphasis on growing the economy for the middle class, and emphasizes what the Republican would do.
“My plan is to help the middle class,” Romney says in the ad. “Trade has to work for America. That means crack down on cheaters like China. It means open up new markets.”
A second Romney ad out Monday, “Failing American Families,” is harsher, with a male narrator saying: “Barack Obama: More spending. More debt. Failing American families.”
One of the new policies Romney will go with is an appeal to Latino voters on increasing “legal immigration.” Stevens also argues that the chaos in the middle east and the Fed’s decision to roll out QE3 demonstrate President Obama’s lack of leadership. He believes that Romney’s middle east policies will be more appealing to voters in the long run.
At Buzzfeed, McKay Coppins characterizes the new Romney strategy as a move to the far right, with “more God, less economy.”
Mitt Romney’s campaign has concluded that the 2012 election will not be decided by elusive, much-targeted undecided voters — but by the motivated partisans of the Republican base.
This shifting campaign calculus has produced a split in Romney’s message. His talk show interviews and big ad buys continue to offer a straightforward economic focus aimed at traditional undecided voters. But out stumping day to day is a candidate who wants to talk about patriotism and God, and who is increasingly looking to connect with the right’s intense, personal dislike for President Barack Obama.
Three Romney advisers told BuzzFeed the campaign’s top priority now is to rally conservative Republicans, in hopes that they’ll show up on Election Day, and drag their less politically-engaged friends with them. The earliest, ambiguous signal of this turn toward the party’s right was the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate, a top Romney aide said.
“This is going to be a base election, and we need them to come out to vote,” the aide said, explaining the pick.
The Buzzfeed report sounds a lot more reality-based to me than Politico’s. Romney will undoubtedly step up the race-baiting, not-so-subtly encourage the birthers, and hope he can tear Obama down with barrages of negative ads funding by his billionaire superpac donors. No doubt it’s going to get really ugly as we approach the debates and then move on to election day, especially if they follow the advice of Focus on the Family’s Bryan Fischer to turn Paul Ryan loose to fire up the base on social issues:
Fischer said he believed Romney would be leading national polls by double digits at this point if he had followed Paul Ryan’s lead and offered more detailed conservative positions on the budget and social issues.
“The biggest mistake is they put a bag over Paul Ryan’s head,” he said. Fischer said he was “deeply disturbed” that Ryan didn’t mention the campaign’s opposition to gay marriage in his speech to the summit on Friday.
“I got to believe that there was some kind of directive from the top of the campaign: We don’t want you to deal with this issue,” he said.
Will any of this help Romney recover from his lousy convention and his disastrous foreign policy missteps? Somehow, I doubt it, but only time will tell.
Here’s one of the new Romney ads.
It’s just more of the same, as far as I can see. Where are the specifics of what Romney would do differently? Here’s the other ad–I guess this supposedly provides specifics (but it doesn’t).
Meanwhile the vultures continue to circle. The New York Daily News is out with a piece by Mike Lupica, calling the Romney campaign a “band of clowns” and “one of the worst campaigns of recent memory.”
There was a lot of talk about Libya last week, because Mitt Romney didn’t know when to shut up about dead Americans, including Chris Stevens, a good man who was our ambassador there.
Somehow, in a terrible moment like that, Romney was boneheaded enough to hand political advantage over to the other side, despite the fact that the President went ahead with a scheduled campaign stop in Las Vegas the next day, as if delaying his appearance by an hour was a suitable mourning period.
But it is not just Libya. It is everything that has happened lately as Romney and the amateurs around him continue to run one of the worst campaigns of recent memory, even against one of the worst economies any sitting President has ever tried to defend.
The people around Romney don’t just look like amateurs, they look like clowns sometimes. Romney was never going to be a great candidate; he doesn’t have it in him, he too often comes across like some stiff poster boy for all the one-percenters who want him elected. But you thought he would do better than this, with the whole thing sitting right there for him, because of this President’s record on the economy and on jobs. Only Mitt Romney has taken an election that should have been his to win and made it something for Barack Obama to lose.