Romney Aides: Obama Is Missing a Message

Friday, 27 Apr 2012 10:26 AM

By Ronald Kessler

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Ronald Kessler reporting from Washington, D.C. — Senior members of Mitt Romney’s campaign staff view President Obama’s re-election campaign as confused and lacking a message.

“They’re a very confused campaign right now,” Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades tells Newsmax. “They’ve had years to build out the infrastructure, and they’ve certainly done that. They say they have 700 people. But campaigns are really won on message and the candidates themselves. And they’re a campaign without a message right now.”

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Ed Gillespie 'smoked' David Axelrod his first week after joining the Romney campaign.
(Getty Images
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One senior aide cites an interview by Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” with top Obama adviser David Axelrod.

“We put Ed Gillespie, who’s been with us for about two weeks, out there,” the aide notes. “They had David Axelrod, who has been with Obama for seven or eight years, and he couldn’t articulate what their campaign thematic was.”

In fact, Axelrod inadvertently sounded as though he was endorsing Romney.

“The choice in this election,” Axelrod said, “is between an economy that produces a growing middle class and that gives people a chance to get ahead and their kids a chance to get ahead, and an economy that continues down the road we’re on.”

“The first week out, Gillespie smoked Axelrod on Fox News Sunday,” the aide says. “You would have thought that Gillespie was with Mitt for the last 10 years.”

The view from Romney campaign headquarters in Boston is that Obama lives in a White House bubble, talking with three or four aides. In contrast, Romney makes it a point of talking with citizens at every campaign event to find out what they think.

“Before we do events, the Gov meets with real voters,” a Romney aide says. “Real people, people that are struggling in the Obama economy, whether it’s Hispanic business people, whether it’s women in the workforce, whether it’s small business people, whether it’s college students. He does that all the time. So he’s connecting with these people.”

Going forward, “Our strategy is to go out and talk about the president’s record and highlight what Mitt’s going to do,” a senior aide says. “We’ve laid out plans to turn around the economy, whether it’s his jobs plan, whether it’s his tax plan. He’s been specific on what he would do in reining in the size of government.”

So, the aide says, “He needs to go out there and articulate that message, and he needs to introduce himself to a larger segment of people, and that’s why we’ve begun to do some of the larger interviews, the Diane Sawyers, just get him out in different markets and introduce him to a larger audience.”

Romney will be going to 12 to 15 critical states.

“Some are familiar states like New Hampshire, where the Gov has obviously campaigned quite a bit,” says Rhoades, a former deputy communications director in charge of research for the Republican National Committee. “And then others are states that he hasn’t campaigned in as much, like in North Carolina. So he’ll get to introduce himself to those states. That’s our plan.”

The campaign is planning to have Romney appear in more venues where he interacts with people — town halls, for example.

“Americans will now be focusing more clearly on the choice between Mitt Romney and President Obama,” Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s senior adviser, says. “On the one hand you have a conservative businessman with a vision for an economically strong America. On the other hand, you have President Obama and his record of failure.”

In Ohio, Obama said this is an election about competing visions for the country.

“He is wrong,” says Fehrnstrom, a former Boston Herald State House bureau chief. “Incumbents don’t run on their vision. They have to run on their record. We are going to hold him accountable.”

Asked about conservative support for Romney, aides note that polls show Romney has support from a higher percentage of Republicans than Obama does from Democrats.

This week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry endorsed Romney.

“The Gov’s not going to take anybody in our coalition of supporters in the conservative movement for granted,” an aide says. “Whether it’s the tea party groups, which the Gov continues to meet with, or whether it’s giving the commencement address at Liberty University. He’ll continue to meet with evangelical leaders quietly behind the scenes all across the country.”

One thing Romney will not do is boast about how he saved the life of the teenage daughter of his Bain Capital partner Robert Gay. As noted in my story Media Suppress Romney’s Human Side, Romney organized a successful effort to find her when she had disappeared in New York. He wound up rescuing her when doctors determined she was just on the verge of dying from a massive overdose of ecstasy.

“He’ll tell personal stories along the trail,” Rhoades says. “But he’s not someone who does a good deed and then goes out and says ‘Look at the good deed I did.’ That’s not his style.”

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is the New York Times bestselling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. Read more reports from Ronald Kessler — Click Here Now.

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