Romney’s Big Problem Isn’t His Chief Strategist
Any reporter who’s covered Mitt Romney this election season knows there are people in his campaign—and legions more in the GOP professional class—who don’t like Stuart Stevens, his chief strategist. Thanks to pieces yesterday in Politico and The New York Times, we’ve learned something new: These people really don’t like Stuart Stevens.
The basic knock on Stevens to this point has been that the campaign has lacked imagination or ambition: There’s been nothing remotely innovative about any policy it’s proposed or any message it’s field-tested. Just a monotonous insistence that Obama hasn’t revived the economy, which looked like a winning strategy a year ago but has felt a bit lacking in recent months. Well, that and people consider Stevens a self-promoting dilettante. (Did I mention they don’t like him?)
The recent stories review these old charges and add a new one: that Stevens mismanaged the GOP convention, which, when compared to Obama’s more successful affair, left Romney vulnerable two months from Election Day. In particular, the Politico piece alleges that the making of Romney’s speech, which Stevens oversaw, was a minor disaster, leading to such unforced errors as the omission of the word “Afghanistan.”
I’m not a die-hard Stevens defender. While profiling him this summer, I became convinced he underestimated the power of conservatives, then overcompensated when it became clear Romney had a rebellion on his hands in the primaries. My feeling is that Romney has basically been running backwards this whole election cycle. He kicked off the campaign as a relative moderate, moved rightward to lock up the nomination, doubled-down on his conservative positions early in the general-election, and has yet to move back to the center. Romney did this even though the conservative desire to oust Obama is so complete that, as a practical matter, he had near-endless room to maneuver in.