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Monday, September 17, 2012

In Response to Reports That the Romney Campaign Is Incompetent, the Romney Campaign Announces a Major Shift in Strategy

Posted by on Mon, Sep 17, 2012 at 10:12 AM

Yesterday afternoon, Politico ran a story that suggested Mitt Romney's campaign manager, Stuart Stevens, was proving to be incompetent. It's a long, interesting insider's view of the campaign, and it begins like this:

Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s top strategist, 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.

Not a word Wehner wrote was ever spoken.

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.

Today, Stuart Stevens announced that the Romney campaign is shifting its focus:

Mitt Romney, sensing an opening in the Middle East mess and catching flak from conservatives for giving too little detail about his policy plans, is rolling out a new and broader strategy to make the election a referendum on “status quo versus change,” chief strategist Stuart Stevens told POLITICO.

The shift, which is to include much more emphasis on Romney’s policy prescriptions, means he is scrapping the most basic precept of his campaign. From the time he began contemplating running again after his loss in the 2008 primaries, Romney’s theory of the case has been a relentless and nearly exclusive focus on the listless economy.

But with polls showing Obama for the first time moving clearly ahead in important swing states— most notably, Ohio—Romney advisers concluded they had to make a painful course correction.

I always assumed that, since the Romney campaign has had four years to plan for this Romney/Obama matchup, they must've had a plan for the general election. I figured this plan would include some way for Romney to battle his unlikeability, and to frame the president as a failure while framing Mitt Romney as a competent businessman. But this news is proof that they didn't have any kind of a plan at all, or that their plan was hopelessly naive. In this stretch in between the conventions and the debates, a presidential campaign is supposed to be running more or less smoothly, hammering home a solid message to voters. The fact that they're changing course now has to be worrying for Republicans. I can't recall a modern winning presidential campaign that's publicly admitted to a course correction this late in the game (barring McGovern's VP drama, I mean). There's a chance this might work; if you don't have a plan, your opponent can't really make a coherent plan against you. But if this doesn't work, Romney and Stevens are both going to be villainized by the entire Republican party, starting the evening of November 6th.

UPDATE: Talking Points Memo wins the headline of the day award early with this gem:

Romney Camp Won’t Offer Specifics On New Pledge To Provide Specifics


Comments (10) RSS

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Lindy's friend rob delaney's been great at keeping us abreast of all this. He let us know Forbes did a spinoff of the Politico piece very much worth seeing: "How Bain Would Fix Mitt Romney's Campaign".
Romney is way too smart not to know that he should be doing these things — so there must be a deeper reason for his flailing. Ultimately it may not be so much that Romney does not know how to manage his campaign well but that he does not really want to win.…
Posted by gloomy gus on September 17, 2012 at 10:34 AM · Report this
Cascadian 2
The ironic thing is that as bad as Romney is, he's not the problem for the GOP. The GOP base voters are the problem. They insisted on purity and dragged the party so far to the right that even conservative-leaning moderates are offended.

This is probably their best chance, too. The economy will be better in four years, and demographics will have shifted even more in the long-term favor of the Democrats. They can't keep pitching their message to an aging and shriking pool of angry white guys. Any advantage they gain by an open election in 2016 is more than offset by these factors. If they don't win this year, I don't see how they win a presidential election until they gain a completely new coalition of voters. I'm sure they'll have good years winning back seats in Congress, but it's hard to see how they win the presidency without changing dramatically.
Posted by Cascadian on September 17, 2012 at 10:57 AM · Report this
kcrobinson 3
In the Politico article, it said that the following quote was going to be in Romney's RNC speech but was pulled by Stevens.

“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.”

Wow, what a powerful quote. I disagree with it, but can you imagine how the discussion of this election would be different right now if Romney had said it. It would be played over and over and would be quoted by all your conservative friends on Facebook. Pundits would be talking about whether or not a vote for Obama is a vote for settling for less. It's just that good of a quote, and I thank Stevens heavily for giving us the speech that Romney actually gave.
Posted by kcrobinson on September 17, 2012 at 10:59 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 4
"Economy Bad, Rmoney Good" may be a pathetic plan, but that doesn't mean it can't win. People are stupid

Also, voter suppression and vote count fraud. See: 2000, 2004.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on September 17, 2012 at 11:02 AM · Report this
Indy 5
@2: I know you meant "shrinking", but a "shriking pool of angry white guys" is such an awesome image that I must prefer the typo.
Posted by Indy on September 17, 2012 at 11:04 AM · Report this
"Ultimately it may not be so much that Romney does not know how to manage his campaign well but that he does not really want to win."

Yeah? So you won. Big deal. I wasn't even TRYING to win.
That's the biggest WTF from Forbes, ever.
Why would anyone put that much money and effort and time in trying to be the loser?

"Either that, or he has a huge political blind spot."

It's called "a sense of entitlement".

He's not running on any policy.
He's running because he wants to be the POTUS.
Facts be damned!
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on September 17, 2012 at 11:15 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 7
@3: if by "powerful", you mean ridiculous,untrue, and in line with the rest of the talking points they're flogging, then yes, it was very "powerful". good thing they didn't use it - talk about a game changer.
Posted by Max Solomon on September 17, 2012 at 11:47 AM · Report this
This is the part of the campaign where major staffers start resigning to "spend more time with the family."

I'm now reasonably sure that Romney will lose this election. The only way I think he can win at this point is if Obama commits a major, major gaffe. And I don't see that happening. In fact, I expect Romney to commit a few himself.
Posted by GermanSausage on September 17, 2012 at 11:53 AM · Report this
"I always assumed that, since the Romney campaign has had four years to plan for this Romney/Obama matchup, they must've had a plan for the general election."

Given the Republican Party's amazing ability to deny the most obvious and imminent portions of reality, is not possible that the Romney campaign spent some large portion of those four years preparing to run against the "legitimate" president, and are therefore rather unprepared to run against Obama?

It is also worth noting that Bain made a large proportion of their money off of "failing" companies. It may be that we're simply confused by our assumption regarding what winning would look like. It may be that in their own ways, lots of people end up "winning" this upcoming election.
Posted by Huge Loans Before Declaring Moral Bankruptcy on September 17, 2012 at 12:31 PM · Report this
bad as romney is?? yes he is the problem what person in there right mind insults half the country on film ...only one mitt the twitt if ya havent seen this well its just no words can describe just watch…
Posted by fourmoreyears on September 17, 2012 at 11:26 PM · Report this

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