Jump to content

Romney’s Playbook


Recommended Posts

romney-s-playbook-robert-costaNational Review:

Denver — The elements of Mitt Romney’s Rocky Mountain rout were hatched weeks ago in Vermont’s Green Mountains. In early September, Romney slowed down his campaign schedule and retreated with a small group of advisers to the home of Kerry Healey, his former lieutenant governor. Ohio senator Rob Portman, a trusted ally, joined Stuart Stevens, Eric Fehrnstrom, Bob White, and a handful of other Romney confidants. They spent days holding mock debates, and nights reviewing President Obama’s stylistic tics. When they needed a break, they roamed around Healey’s secluded estate, which is 100 miles south of Burlington, Vt. But mostly they talked, over hot chocolate and coffee, about how best to communicate Romney’s message.


Portman says Romney’s willingness to fully commit to the prep was striking. Day after day, he’d get up early, exercise, and then join the team for hours of work. Advisers certainly played a role, but according to Portman, it was the candidate who drove his advisers. Even when he had a busy week of campaigning, Romney would always find time to study or hold a brief mock debate. “It was all him,” Portman tells me. “Honestly, I’ve spent a lot of time with Mitt Romney for the past month or so, and what I saw on stage is who he is. He’s smart, he’s articulate, and he’s got a big heart.”


During the opening prep sessions, the group quickly came to a consensus: At the podium, Romney would be forceful, nearly as assertive as he was in Healey’s living room. His advisers have always admired Romney’s ability to peel apart arguments in private, and they encouraged him to do the same at the debate, with a little polish. The goal was to overwhelm the president with liveliness and information, to force him to confront the messy details of his economic and fiscal record. The strategy, sources say, clicked with Romney for two reasons: He did not want to spend hours tinkering with his mannerisms, and he wanted to focus on internalizing data. He’d take advice on his voice, his posture, and the rest, but he wanted his prep time to be a policy workshop.


“This whole thing about ‘zingers,’ I never even heard that word discussed in debate prep,” Stevens says. “If you go back to the history and look at Governor Romney’s 20 debates, he likes policy, he likes substance, and he likes strong arguments that are based on merits and on differences. He’s never been one for debate tricks and sleight of hand.”


During the mock debates, Portman engaged Romney as if they were testy undergraduates at the Oxford Union. Portman, acting as Obama, hammered Romney on every part of his agenda, sometimes to the point of belittling him. “I’ve never seen Rob Portman lose a mock debate,” Stevens says. “He’s undefeated — but he cheats. He knows the questions and has notes.” (Stevens and Portman both advised George W. Bush before debates.) On September 6, as he visited a hardware store, Romney told reporters that Portman was getting under his skin. “I’m just glad I won’t be debating Rob Portman in the final debates,” Romney said, smiling. “He’s good.”


The practice made a difference. One longtime Romney friend tells me that Romney markedly improved throughout September as he devoted himself to his briefing books and the mock debates. The friend says Romney didn’t think of the debate as a political dialogue but as a grueling, 90-minute competition that demanded discipline. He prepared in the same way he used to review pending business deals at Bain Capital: He challenged his closest advisers about the most minor points, he spent a lot of time reading, and he constantly bantered with his aides about the other side’s weaknesses and strengths.


Link to comment
Share on other sites


Once again, this is what impresses me the most about Romney. He WORKS at getting better. WORKS at it.


That is something that will serve the country well, something I saw during the primaries. He never lets an "opportunity for learning" (aka failure) go to waste.


I admire that in people, and I believe it is one of the most important character qualities one can possess. GWB had it. RWR had. WMR has it.


I want to be more like that when I grow up.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another good read by Micheal Barone


Barone: Thoughts on the first presidential debate


Did Mitt Romney win the first presidential debate between him and Barack Obama? Did Sitting Bull win at Little Big Horn?


You would have been surprised, if you had been the proverbial man (or woman) from Mars, to guess which candidate—the incumbent president of the United States or the former one-term governor of Massachusetts—had a better command of either the details of public policy. Obviously Mitt Romney did. And you would have gotten the sense that one of the two candidates had a sense of command and the other was hugely on the defensive. Romney was looking confident, with consistent smiles; Obama was constantly looking downward, on the defensive, irritated and—astonished.


Astonished, because during most of his public career Obama has been received by his audiences with undiluted adulation. He has been totally unused to being challenged on his talking points.


As a Democrat in Michigan in the 1960s, I opposed Romney’s father George Romney in his races for governor in 1962, 1964 and 1966. When he ran for president in 1968, he was unprepared for dealing with an unsympathetic press; the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press were, to varying degrees, pro-Republican in those days. When he ran for president in the 1968 cycle, he was caught off guard when local area Detroit TV talk show host Lou Gordon got him to admit that he was “brainwashed” by administration or military personnel in Vietnam. George Romney was used to being protected by the press from the consequences of spontaneous comments; when he wasn’t, because he had entered into the realm of national politics, he was caught off guard and, soon enough, his candidacy collapsed.


Barack Obama has a similar problem. The mainstream media has been playing protective guard around him for the last five or six years. He has seldom faced tough questioning, having managed to avoid open press conferences (as I recall) since last June. And of course mainstream media is extremely unanxious to ask him embarrassing questions about a whole host of issues. To his credit, moderator Jim Lehrer didn’t zero in on these things but didn’t prevent the interaction between the candidates from raising such questions.


Obama suffered tonight from his lack of scrutiny from mainstream media. As I like to say, there is nothing free in politics, but there is some question about when you pay the price. In this first debate Obama paid the price for the hands-off treatment he has received from mainstream media. His talking points, advanced by his spokesmen in the confidence that they will not be seriously challenged, were refuted by an energized and articulated and well-informed Mitt Romney. He stood there petulantly and pathetically, nonplussed by the fact that his flimsy talking points were effectively challenged.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • 1685386812
  • Create New...