Former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan is continuing her assault on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign but has added a couple of words of advice: James Baker.
Earlier this week, Noonan wrote in The Wall Street Journal
: “It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It’s not big, it’s not brave, it’s not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It’s always been too small for the moment. All the activists, party supporters, and big donors should be pushing for change. People want to focus on who at the top is least constructive and most responsible. Fine, but Mitt Romney is no puppet: He chooses who to listen to. An intervention is in order. ‘Mitt, this isn’t working.’”
On Friday, she wrote she was just being polite.
“The Romney campaign has to get turned around,” she said. “This week I called it incompetent, but only because I was being polite. I really meant ‘rolling calamity.’"
Noonan recounted the assessment of veteran Republican pollster and corporate strategist, Steve Lombardo, who worked in the 2008 Romney campaign. Lombardo believes the “pendulum has swung toward Obama” and that Romney allowed himself to be defined by the Democrats as elitist, rich, out of touch.
However, the economy is still weak and Romney has the upcoming debates to change the trajectory.
As a result of her earlier column Noonan wrote that she heard from many people who were “in despair at the Romney campaign.”
“Some, unbidden, brought up the name James A. Baker III, who ran Ronald Reagan's campaign in 1984 (megalandslide — those were the days) and George H.W. Bush's in 1988 (landslide),” she wrote. “What they talked about, without using this phrase, is the Baker Way.
“This was a man who could run a campaign. Twice in my life I've seen men so respected within their organizations that people couldn't call them by their first names. That would be Mr. Paley, the buccaneer and visionary who invented CBS, and Mr. Baker, who ran things that are by nature chaotic and messy — campaigns and White Houses — with wisdom, focus, efficiency, determination, and discipline. And he did it while being attacked every day from left, right, and center — and that was in the Reagan White House, never mind outside, which was a constant war zone.”
Noonan writes that Baker’s gift was the realization that the candidate could not run the show and also campaign.
“He can't be the CEO of the campaign and be the candidate,” she said. “The candidate is out there every day standing for things, fighting for a hearing, trying to get the American people to listen, agree and follow. That's where his energies go. On top of that, if he's serious, he has to put in place a guiding philosophy that somehow everyone on the plane picks up and internalizes. The candidate cannot oversee strategy, statements, speechwriting, ads. He shouldn't be debating what statistic to put on slide four of the Powerpoint presentation. He has to learn to trust others — many others.
“Mr. Baker broke up power centers while at the same time establishing clear lines of authority — and responsibility. When you screwed up, he let you know in one quick hurry. But most of all he had judgment. He delegated, and only the gifted were welcome: Bob Teeter, Dick Darman, Roger Ailes, Marlin Fitzwater. He didn't like hacks, he didn't get their point, and he knew one when he saw one.”
She concluded by noting a campaign is a “communal exercise.”
“Mitt Romney needs to get his head screwed on right in this area. Maybe advice could come from someone in politics who awes him. If that isn't Jim Baker then Mitt Romney's not awe-able, which is a different kind of problem.”
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