The Ann and Tagg Intervention

From “Inside the campaign:  The Romney rebellion,” Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, Politico:

“For months, Ann Romney and her eldest son, Tagg, were dutifully supportive of the political professionals running Mitt Romney’s campaign. All the while, their private frustration was mounting.

“Shortly before the first debate, it finally boiled over.

“What followed was a family intervention. The candidate’s family prevailed on Mitt Romney, and the campaign operation, to shake things up dramatically, according to campaign insiders. The family pushed for a new message, putting an emphasis on a softer and more moderate image for the GOP nominee — a “let Mitt be Mitt” approach they believed more accurately reflected the looser, generous and more approachable man they knew.

“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.

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.

Even now, many Romney officials wonder whether the change can be sustained. In essence, Romney is trying to undergo a political metamorphosis — to shed an image of personal stiffness, and to emerge loose and willing to compromise. Romney, advisers concede, is at his worst when improvising — and this shift is the biggest improvisation of the campaign. Right now, Romney is described as going with the flow, trying to quickly grow into this new public persona, most notably with his decision to tell personal stories on the stump.

“But one 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.”  Emphasis added.

Sure, he has all the maneuvering room he wants to talk like a moderate now.  But maneuvering room to govern like a moderate?  I don’t think so. 

That’s what voters need to understand.  The crazies still control the party, and they would control a President Romney with the hanging-sword of a primary in 2016.


Turmoil in Libya Causes Turmoil at Romney HQ

From “Romney advisers at odds over Libya,” Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, Politico:

“Advisers to Mitt Romney are split over how broadly and aggressively to attack President Barack Obama for his handling of foreign policy following the death of the U. S. ambassador to Libya….

“Some aides are arguing that the campaign has been given a huge gift:  a new opening to argue White House failure and incompetence.

“But the campaign is sticking with its day-to-day message on the economy — a view promoted internally by Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist….

“The truth is Romney now finds himself besieged with conflicting advice, internally and externally:  Attack Obama harder.  Offer a detailed agenda.  Pivot to foreign policy.  Pivot back to the economy.

“Romney’s response:  Ignore it and stick to the game plan, which does not include any serious, sustained detour into foreign policy.

“This is basically the Stuart Stevens doctrine.  And regardless of the passionate arguments of some other aides, including several outside foreign-policy advisers, the boss is going with Stevens on this until further notice.”

Because Stevens has been doing such a bang-up job so far!  It’s hard to imagine a more unhappy place to be than the Romney campaign right now.

Noonan to Mitt — You and Your Campaign Really Suck

From “Time for an Intervention,” Peggy Noonan, WSJ:

“It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one.  It’s not big, it’s not brave, it’s not thoughtfully tackling great issues.  It’s always been too small for the moment.  All the activists, party supporters and big donors should be pushing for change.  People want to focus on who at the top is least constructive and most responsible.  Fine, but Mitt Romney is no puppet:  He chooses who to listen to.  An intervention is in order.  ‘Mitt, this isn’t working.’

Romney needs to get serious here.  Or, he can keep typing out his stray thought with Stuart Stevens, who’s sold himself as a kind of mad genius.  I get the mad part.

“If you’re gonna lose, lose honorably.  If you’re gonna win, do it with meaning.”  Italics in original.

Too late.  All the GOP’s horses and all the GOP’s men can’t put this Humpty Dumpty back together again.  He’s going to lose, but it won’t be honorably.

Mitt’s Campaign May Be in the North End, But It’s Going South Fast

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

Another Unforced Error for Mitt

Ok, so the AP reported that Mitt wasn’t vetting Marco! Rubio! for Veep.  Then a couple of Romney advisers confirmed that to the Washington Post.  This on the very day that Rubio’s autobiography came out, when he’s trying to get people to go to Amazon and click because they think he might be VP.

Then Mitt himself said he wouldn’t get involved in the speculation.

Then noises began being made that not vetting Rubio was an insult to Hispanic voters.   It’s one thing not to choose him, but it’s another not to even have him on the short list.

Mitt realized he had a problem.  So Mitt then said Rubio WAS being “thoroughly vetted.”

This quells today’s negative tick-tock (so Mitt hopes), but it doesn’t change the final outcome — it doesn’t look as if Rubio will get the nod .

Two Romney advisers, Stuart Stevens and Russ Schriefer, worked for Charlie Crist in the 2010 Senate race that Rubio won.  They did oppo research on Rubio, and they may know things that would be embarrassing if Rubio were on the ticket.  Not all oppo research gets used at the time, some gets filed away.  They may know stuff we know nothing about, or they may know more about issues we’ve heard about, like Rubio’s improper use of an AmEx card.

Bottom line — this has been handled very poorly.  I keep hearing such great things about Mitt’s team, their smarts and their discipline.  I wasn’t impressed in 2008, and I’m not impressed now.

It’s all about winning the day.  Today Chicago won, and Boston lost.