If you’ve been wondering why Mitt’s campaign is such a disaster, Politico has an interesting, insider-y article* that basically gangs up on Stuart Stevens, the campaign’s top strategist, and Mitt himself.
Everyone agrees that the convention speech was the important speech of Mitt’s life, yet Stevens decided not to use the campaign’s speechwriters, but to have Peter Wehner write it. Fine, except that Stevens decided not to use any of Wehner’s draft, which at least talked about Afghanistan. A week before the convention, when Mitt should have been practicing the thing, Stevens told John McConnell and Matthew Scully, who were writing Paul Ryan’s speech, to hurry up and finish, so they could write Mitt’s speech. They too wrote a speech for Mitt, which Stevens ignored, except for the part about Mitt’s father bringing his mother a rose every morning. With just a few days to go, Stuart Stevens and Mitt wrote the speech. In their rush, they forgot to mention Al Qaeda or Afghanistan or thank our troops.
I encourage you to read the whole Politico piece, but here are some excerpts:
“To pin recent stumbles on Stevens would be to overlook Romney’s role in all this. As the man atop the enterprise — in effect, the CEO of a $1 billion start-up — Romney ultimately bears responsibility for the decisions he personally oversaw, such as the muffling of running mate Paul Ryan’s strict budget message and his own convention performance.
“In what many in the campaign now consider a fundamental design flaw, Stevens is doing three major jobs: chief strategist, chief ad make and chief speechwriter.
“Stevens enjoys little of the internal affection that surrounded the brain trusts of the Bush and Obama campaigns. ‘I always have the impression Stuart must save his best stuff for meetings I’m not important enough to attend,’ said one Romney campaign insider. ‘The campaign is filled with people who spend a lot of their time either avoiding him or resisting him.
“A mad-professor aura, combined with post-midnight calls to sleeping senior staffers, have led some colleagues to express increasing concern about what the campaign is doing to Stevens — and what Stevens is doing to the campaign.
“But whatever Stevens’s shortcomings, presidential candidates get the campaigns they want. And Romney…has take a very active role running his own campaign.
“In a way, that’s the problem. Romney associates are baffled that such a successful corporate leader has created a team with so few lines of authority or accountability.
“Romney has allowed seven distinct power centers to flourish inside his campaign, with the strategy pod, headed by Stevens and [Russ] Schriefer, handling the most essential ingredient — the candidate’s public message and image.
“Then there is the conventional staff, led by campaign manager Matt Rhoades, who functions as an air-traffic controller. For months, Republicans inside and out of the campaign have said the structure is problematic. Rhoades, for instance, is as disciplined and methodical as Stevens is improvisational and disorganized.
“Add to those the old Boston hands — Beth Myers, Peter Flaherty and Eric Fehrnstrom; longtime friends and advisers — Mike Leavitt, Bob White and Ron Kaufman; newcomers with juice, especially Ed Gillespie; the family, with his sons and Ann Romney involved in many decisions; and the money folks, headed by a longtime Romney friend and helper, Spencer Zwick.
“[Spencer] is not particularly ideological, and has a big-city, Hollywood aura that grates on movement conservatives.
“A Romney official explained: ‘Mitt is a sticker — he stays with you. He had a reputation at Bain for sticking with people. They made a bad investment, he hung with them. … None of this is going to be fixed. This is the organization, and this is who Mitt is betting on to win. There aren’t going to be further changes.’
“A growing number of conservatives are blaming Stevens for advocating a campaign of caution, one that puts all the emphasis not on how good Romney could be but how bad Obama is.
“Stevens was a big, early, advocate of a bland vice presidential candidate, privately talking up former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty…. But Stevens is hardly to blame for what many conservatives consider a campaign that is specifics-free and lame. That blame goes straight to the man running his own campaign: Romney himself, according to a number of people in and out of the campaign.” Emphasis added.
How can you win if you have a terrible economy? Run against an opponent with an even more terrible campaign.
* “Inside the campaign: How Mitt Romney stumbled,” Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei