“So now we have a problem, Governor,” said Gov. Romney’s mythical Spinmeister.
“What problem? We just won the Florida primary and the Nevada caucuses, and we destroyed Gingrich with tens of millions of dollars of ads attacking his character — so what’s the problem?” the governor might have responded.
“Are you forgetting about Tuesday night? Santorum
walloped you bad in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado. There goes your momentum.”
“Don’t worry about Santorum — we’ll destroy him with personal attack ads the way we destroyed Gingrich. Of course, I know nothing about that if my . . . I mean the . . . Super PAC is doing them.”
“You know, you have to be careful about attack ads. Newt actually takes your personal attacks personally. Imagine that. He may not forgive you. Huckabee still hates you from what you did to him four years ago.”
“Oh, come on. Newt has no place to go — no matter how much I attack him, he’ll have no choice but to support me.”
“Well,” the Spinmeister replied, “the unemployment statistics just went down to 8.3 percent — 200,000 new jobs in the last month, over 3.7 million since Obama took office.”
“Oh, darn. That’s a big problem.”
“Governor, you can’t seem to be upset that more people are working.”
“Well, I can say unemployment isn’t going down fast enough — with a smile,” the governor responded, hopefully.
“Then, on Sunday night, during the Super Bowl, the Democrats ran that Clint Eastwood ad, reminding everyone that the federal government’s loans to GM and Chrysler saved the U.S. auto industry — and helped bring Detroit back.”
“So what does that have to do with me?”
“Well, you opposed that bailout in an op-ed piece at the time.”
“Can’t I just say I was for it before I was against it?”
“But people would call you a flip-flopper.”
“Who, me? No one would believe that.”
“Then there’s that statement you made you don’t really care about the very poor.”
“Oh, come on, that was taken out of context.”
“But didn’t you run an ad last fall taking one of Obama’s statements out of context — and admitted it?” the Spinmeister asked.
“Well, yes, but that was different. Just tell everyone that was different. They will believe it.”
There was silence in the room.
The Spinmeister finally spoke. “Governor — what’s your reaction to Monday’s Washington Post-ABC poll, which found that 52 percent of the American people liked you less the more they got to know you, and only 24 percent liked you more?”
“Well, maybe the answer is that we shouldn’t let them get to know me.”
“But you keep letting them know what you are really made of — like when you went to Las Vegas to accept Donald Trump’s endorsement — the same man who attacked you and mocked you over and over again throughout the last year. How could you possibly do that?”
“Hey, didn’t you see me and my family looking like we were feeling ill behind The Donald’s back — letting everyone know that we didn’t really want to be there?”
“But that is insincere, Governor,” the Spinmeister responded.
“Me insincere? Oh come on, no one would believe that. I’m a compassionate conservative.”
“And what about how you favored sending an illegal immigrant out of the country, even though he has lived here with his family for 25 years, paying taxes and following our laws?”
“Well, that was just because Gingrich favored forgiving him — so I had to disagree with Gingrich, don’t you agree?”
The Romney Spinmeister was looking more and more depressed.
“Hey, Mr. Spinmeister, you’re supposed to be giving me the right spin, cheering me up! You’re not helping me much.”
“Honestly, Governor, I can’t stop thinking about Seamus, your Irish Setter, who you put on top of your car in a kennel for a 12-hour ride. I love dogs. There are more than 77 million dog owners in America — and when they find out what you did, many of them, including a lot of conservative Republicans, won’t vote for you.”
“But I told you and everyone — Seamus loved being there.”
“Then how come Seamus had diarrhea while he was stuck on top of that car, his bowels turning to water out of sheer terror — and all you did was hose him and the car down and keep driving?”
“You know people can get diarrhea because they had a bad meal,” the governor responded.
“Hey, you are my Spinmeister — you can find a way to spin that diarrhea.”
“Governor — some things can’t be spun.”
Lanny Davis is the principal in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, which specializes in strategic crisis management. He served as President Clinton’s Special Counsel in 1996-98 and as a member of President Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in 2006-07. He is the author of the forthcoming book to be published by Simon & Schuster, "Crisis Tales — Five Rules for Coping with Scandal in Business, Politics and Life."
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