10 Things Mitt Romney Must Do To Turn It Around
You probably don’t remember me. I had a chance to work for you for a short period of time prior to your 2008 presidential campaign. I did some early spade work in New Hampshire with you and your team. I have great respect for you personally and believe that not only can you win the GOP nomination and the presidency, but that you would make a damn fine President. America would be lucky to have you at this critical time.
That said, I would like to offer you some free advice. I know you have a large, talented staff, with lots of consultants, pollsters and campaign pros all of whom are much smarter than I am, but please bear with me as I offer my take.
This nomination fight should be over by now. Rick Santorum is a guy who couldn’t attract a crowd at a circus sideshow up until a few weeks ago. But many of the most conservative in our party align themselves with the aptly named “Tea Party” because they are a rebellious lot who have had it with the status quo.
These folks are especially weary of you, sir. They believe you are a “conservative of convenience.” They’ve seen the old tapes of you debating Ted Kennedy during your Senate race. You remember, the ones where you were not quite so strongly opposed to abortion and gay rights. Then there was that ‘RomneyCare’ thing when you were governor. The Dems jumped right on that, with the President himself giving you the left handed compliment of serving the Massachusetts law up as a “model” for national healthcare reform – ouch! You have argued that the healthcare mandate in the commonwealth was a state’s rights issue and that it worked for your state. You also say you would repeal ObamaCare on your first day in office. But many in the conservative base simply don’t believe you. They believe your “evolution” to positioning yourself as a “severely conservative governor” is a blatant attempt at re-packaging and they’re not buying it. You are supposed to be the front runner, and you were supposed to have this wrapped up by now, but the voters want decide it, not you or your endorsers or all that Super-PAC cash. Bottom line - as long as they have a totem to taunt you with, they will continue to do it.
The Boston Bean Counters are not helping things with their arguments, spreadsheets and mathematical equations for the inevitability of you becoming the party’s nominee. “It’s done, it’s over, there’s no way Santorum can win a plurality of delegates in time. There’s no way based on their Pythagorean delegate formulas to be changed, it’s pre-ordained, whether the voters or the media like you or not, you are the unpleasant medicine that they will have to swallow and that’s that.” All this effort is doing is making the anti-establishment social conservatives stay up all night trying to figure out ways to make this nomination harder, not easier for you. Please, sir, stop doing this yesterday!
Instead, why not be who you are? Mitt Romney is a successful Chief Executive who turned around companies, created free market economic opportunities and real private sector jobs. You turned around the Olympic Games after 9/11 at a time when our country desperately needed to feel proud. You were a damn good governor of a state that was controlled by a liberal legislature and you still managed to stand up for the things you believed in (cutting taxes, balancing the budget, creating jobs, reducing debt and even occasionally getting support from some of those very same Democrats). You are a CEO, a fixer, a turn around expert. So now it’s time to eat a little of your own cooking and turn around your OWN campaign.
Here’s what I suggest:
1. Be who you are. Nothing wrong with “campaign casual”, after all you don’t want to come off like Richard Nixon, a guy who allegedly slept in a suit and tie. At the same time, whoever is buying you the GAP jeans needs to be told to stop. There is a joke out there that when you do become President your secret service code name will be “Denim.” You are a lot of things, but a jean wearin’ sheep herder or cool college hipster you are not. Wear slacks and a blazer, and occasionally put on the President costume (that’s a suit and tie). The jeans have become a comic metaphor for the repackaged candidate the right of center crowd in your own party does not like.
2. Get a message. There is no narrative left to the story of Mitt Romney’s campaign. Sure, Newt hit you hard on Bain, so what! Newt has proven himself to be a nitwit only prepared to organize a democracy on Pluto. He got slapped hard for attacking a core tenet of the GOP: free market capitalism, for which you are the poster child. Don’t be timid, get that back. Also, keep pushing the idea that Santorum and Newt have spent their whole lives in Washington and Obama acts like he has. Remind all voters what is at stake in this election. There will be no do-over, we won’t get another chance. If Barack Obama is re-elected, the effect on this country will be lasting and irreversible. Mitt, you’re the guy fighting this for all Republicans and Independents - tell them that! The message in this race is still jobs and the economy. If it becomes about the Republican nominee (which Obama and his billion will try to make sure of) then we lose. If the race is about $5 a gallon gasoline, unemployment still at 8%, high taxes, government spending, bailouts and gutting our military in the most uncertain time in America since the Cold War - then it becomes about him and you win! Your message should be that you are the one guy uniquely qualified to challenge the President on the very things he disdains: free markets, economic opportunity, a thriving private sector and a government that is not growing, but shrinking. You’ve done it, you know how, you’ll do it again. And by the way have you seen Obama’s new slogan: “America’s back!?” What the hell does that mean? Where does he think we went? And if America was somehow gone for a while it happened on his watch. How dare this ne’er-do-well, anti-capitalist, neo-socialist make such a statement about our country? America’s not back, America’s never been gone! We’ve never given up, despite Barack Obama’s dim-witted attempts to destroy the very soul of this country. This guy’s a megalomaniac and a fraud. That’s a bad combination and one you can surely beat. So talk about big ideas, reform, and America’s place in the world. Give some solid policy speeches; don’t waste election night victories thanking every two bit political hack who jumped on the establishment bandwagon by endorsing you! You gave a victory speech in New Hampshire that was substantive and impressive. Beg Peggy Noonan to help. I know she’s out of politics and writing thoughtful things for the New York Times, doing the TV talking head thing, but she’s the kind of story teller who can help craft speeches that will capture the true essence of Mitt Romney and the imagination of voters. I know you like trees, and cars, and lakes - so do I - but what in God’s name does that have to do with you and your qualifications to turn this nation around? Project a sense of confidence and leadership like the good CEO you are.
3. It’s time for them to go. Time for a reorg, a restructuring, a re-tooling, re-branding, facelift, makeover, fresh start or whatever you want to call it. Whoever is whispering in your ear (besides Ann) will need to be replaced. I’m talking about the guys who are failing to create a narrative, the guys whose idea it’s been to promote process over vision and ideas, guys way past their sell by date. Do what you did at Bain - restructure, get the dead wood out and bring in some clever, talented people who understand you and your voice, which can help articulate your vision. Bottom line: this is not about the ad war - this is about articulating who you are and what you are everyday in a disciplined, coherent and effective manner. The current guys on the payroll just ain’t cuttin’ it.
4. Target fiscal conservatives, mainstream Republicans and those who believe you are the best candidate to beat Obama in the general. Be conservative, but don’t pander to the right - it’s disingenuous and they are onto you. You missed a chance to clobber that nitwit Rush Limbaugh over his ridiculous remarks about a young woman who happened to have a different view of things than he did. Fine to disagree, but you had a chance to be the adult in the room and tell Limbaugh that he was a bloated gas bag who stepped over the line. You should have told him that a real man and a true conservative doesn’t call young women juvenile, locker room names. Instead you dodged, ducked and in the process missed a chance to show them who you are and what you’re made of. Oh and the endorsement thing: It’s not working so well either. You have more endorsement deals than Tiger Woods did before his domestic problems. All these pols piling on are only adding to your perceived “establishment problem” with the right.
5. Start running stuff about what you will do differently. Shoot a great policy speech in front of a throng of enthusiastic voters and cut it into a powerful TV campaign and web video series. As for Santorum: Time for Pat Toomey to go on the air in Pennsylvania.
6. Use Ann more! She’s good and crowds seem to like her.
7. Let your sons introduce you more often. The family thing seems to be working for Santorum-even Newt uses those professorial daughters of his.
8. Slow it down a tad. When you’re speaking at a town hall event, don’t act like you are trying desperately to force every person in the hall to like you. It’s like a comedian begging for laughs. If you stick to your big ideas, core message points and the fundamentals of this race you will win over more than your share.
9. Tell them your view of the world. As you know better than anyone in a global economy one needs to understand global economics, and you do. Our energy policy is critical, our trade agreements with other countries and their imbalance creates a lack of economic opportunities. Finally, with the crazy men running Syria, Iran, North Korea and some new uncertainty in our relations with China and the former Soviet Union we need a president who understands that we must maintain a clear understanding, oversight and awareness of our friends and enemies abroad. Obama can’t do it, Santorum won’t do it and God knows we don’t want Newt to try doing it!!
10. RELAX! I know that’s easy for me to say. But the bottom line is that you are quite qualified on any number of levels to be President. Try to lose the nervous laugh, you don’t have to answer every question within nanoseconds, and remember that gaffes (which we are all capable of) usually happen when you are tired, over scheduled or off message.
At the end of the day, the social conservatives will come your way. The one thing they distrust far more than you is Barack Obama. Give them a chance to come to you on their terms and in the process please don’t lose your street cred with the rest of the voters you will need in the general election. Rick Santorum has a ceiling and he’s just about there. He too will come around. Sure there might be a little drama in Tampa, so what! We’ll get the ratings and America will get to see you bring this thing together masterfully. All this talk by the lefties in the main stream media about a brokered convention? You and I both know your campaign and the RNC will employ bigger badder whips than any defensive line any NFL team could put up. Speeches will be made, deals will be cut and at the end of the day Republicans will rally around the one guy who they believe can and will defeat Barack Obama in November. That person is you!