Craig Eisele on …..

March 6, 2012

The Last Time Romney Took Questions From an Audience Was January 13

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mr. Craig @ 4:34 pm

Mitt Romney Prefers to Give Mitt Romney All the Credit

There is accumulating evidence that Mitt Romney’s not much of a team player: He mocked advisers for thinking their work is “very, very important”; he has delegated the task of thanking staff and volunteers after primary victories to his wife; and his campaign fired his debate coach last week not because he did a bad job, but because he was getting too much credit for doing a good one. 

Just before the Florida primary, talking to Matt Lauer on the Today show, Romney mocked his advisers for thinking they had a lot to do with taking down Newt Gingrich. “I think you can expect advisers to think that the work of advisers is very, very important, but frankly, I think if you’re to go back and look at where the sentiment changed, it was with the debates,” Romney said, responding to a New York Times story about the campaign’s strategy. And even though Romney was widely seen as a changed, more aggressive man in those debates, and even though the major tangible change was a new debate coach, Romney wants sole credit for those performances, according to Politico. 

After the primary, there were headlines like “The Coach Who Revamped Romney’s Stage Presence,” and “Mitt Romney’s new debate coach may have been Florida primary game-changer.” They were about Brett O’Donnell, the former Liberty University debate coach and aide to Michelle Bachmann. O’Donnell started getting warnings that he was getting too much credit, Politico’s Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman report. Then last week, on a campaign conference call, “a clear message was delivered — Romney pulled himself back from the brink after South Carolina, and no one else did it for him,” Politico reports. O’Donnell was let go.

Maybe having zero tolerance for staffers celebrating in the end zone is understandable. But other decisions make it clear Romney doesn’t like saying “thanks.” Like that at post-election speeches, he has literally outsourced the act of saying “thanks” to his wife. Traditionally candidates thank their staff and volunteers for making their victory (or whatever) possible. (Here’s a transcript of Newt Gingrich, an egomaniac in his own right, giving lots of thanks in Florida.) But in Florida and Nevada, Ann Romney did all the thanking. Romney, whose speech was more likely to be carried on cable news channels, merely thanked the states’ residents.

Now, maybe Romney’s thinking he doesn’t need voters, either. He no longer does 55-minute town hall meetings, but instead favors 15-minute speeches with rope lines and Secret Service agents, The Washington Post‘s Philip Rucker reports. The last time Romney took questions from an audience was January 13.  In Florida a week ago, he did manage to say of the crowd, “Thanks, you guys. Wow!”

Ann Romney Is Talking Awkwardly About Money : ” I Don’t Feel Rich”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mr. Craig @ 4:31 pm

Speaking on Fox News Monday, Ann Romney showed that her husband’s habit of making uncomfortable references to their wealth is rubbing off. Attempting to make the point that there are things more important than money, she instead uttered, “I don’t even consider myself wealthy, which is an interesting thing. It can be here today gone tomorrow.” During the same interview, speaking about the horseback riding therapy she uses to treat her multiple sclerosis, she said, according toBoston Globe reporter Michael Levenson, “Some people have lovers in every port; I have horses in every port.” Surely she doesn’t actually have a horse in every port (though she does have a very expensive collection of horses). But with a Cadillac in at least two ports, as her husband so helpfully pointed out last month, the comment, along with “I don’t even consider myself wealthy,” is bound to get a few raised eyebrows.

Meanwhile, at an event Monday, Romney introduced his wife as “a heavyweight champion”before immediately laughing and correcting himself. “I didn’t mean weight,” he said. “That didn’t come out right. She’s just a great fighter is what I mean.” Kind of an endearing gaffe, since Ann seemed to take it in stride, but still. Monday has been quite a day for Team Romney.

Poll: Santorum slightly ahead in Ohio before Super Tuesday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mr. Craig @ 4:29 pm

The weekend before Super Tuesday, an NBC-Marist Ohio poll of registered voters shows Rick Santorum edging out Mitt Romney, but just barely.

The topline results:

  • 34% for Rick Santorum
  • 32% for Mitt Romney
  • 15% for Newt Gingrich
  • 13% for Ron Paul
  • 1% other
  • 6% are undecided

The poll, conducted February 29 – March 2 with 2,518 registered voters, has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.

Gingrich Goes after Home State Voters

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mr. Craig @ 4:27 pm

Romney is ‘very good at deceiving voters,’

Gingrich in Brunswick, Ga. Mar. 2 (Evan Vucci/AP)

ATLANTA–Newt Gingrich intends to recapture the national spotlight on Super Tuesday with a first-place win in his home state of Georgia, strong finishes in Tennessee and Oklahoma, and delegate pickups in Idaho, Ohio and North Dakota.

“Twice in this process I’ve been the frontrunner in national polling,” Gingrich told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News on Sunday. “I think we have a chance to get back.”

But after a series of mostly third- and fourth-place finishes and the decision to virtually sit out last week’s high-profile contest in Michigan as well as Arizona, talk of Gingrich as a serious contender has waned. His Jan. 21 win in South Carolina’s winner-take-all primary has been mostly forgotten, and he is in third place in the delegate race.

Still, Gingrich and his team say they’re in for the long haul.

Gingrich is banking that strong support in his home state will hand him a delegate-rich win in Georgia, where 76 delegates are up for grabs–more than any other state on Super Tuesday. A loss in Georgia would spell the end of his campaign.

But Gingrich remains confident.

“I think I’ll win Georgia by a much, much bigger margin than Romney won Michigan,” Gingrich said Sunday.

“In southern Georgia people know what they’re hunting,” R.C. Hammond, a Gingrich spokesman, told Yahoo News, quoting a recent conversation. Romney has not made Georgia a priority–understandable given Gingrich’s home state connection–but he and wife Ann Romney hosted a pancake brunch in Snellville, Ga., on Sunday.

Gingrich sat out last week’s primaries in Michigan and Arizona to focus his resources on the South, a strategy outsiders say is expected as well as savvy. “Gingrich is smart to play to his traits and use what he has,” Ron Bonjean, a longtime Republican congressional leadership aide turned public affairs representative, told Yahoo News.

Gingrich’s campaign readily concedes that it remains at a financial disadvantage in the race. “It would be a much different race if [Romney] didn’t have this money,” Hammond said.

Still, Hammond argues the campaign’s lack of resources means they are being smarter about allocation. “We’re in a business of actually winning elections,” Hammond said. “Not punching an hour clock.” While you may not see Gingrich actively campaigning everywhere, Hammond said the campaign is advertising everywhere they want to be competitive.

Gingrich and his staff believe they can overcome Romney’s financial advantage by offering “big ideas”–such as Gingrich’s pledge to make $2.50 per gallon gas a reality–and by energizing conservative voters.

Hammond said Romney has become “very good at deceiving voters and keeping voters distracted from who he really is,” but he believes the race is headed to places where that’s no longer going to work.

Even though Romney has won five consecutive contests–which includes Saturday’s non-binding Washington caucuses–the Gingrich camp remains convinced the contest for the Republican nomination will stretch on for many months. “Americans are used to having their nominee picked by Super Tuesday,” Hammond said. “Not this time.”

Gingrich is talking up contests in Kansas (Mar. 10), Alabama and Mississippi (Mar. 13), a yet-to-be-finalized primary in the delegate-rich state of Texas, (which appears headed for an election in late May and where Gingrich can boast the support of Gov. Rick Perry), and California, which isn’t scheduled to vote until June 5.

Additionally, the Gingrich campaign is operating as if the candidate may still win delegates out of Florida and Arizona.

Gingrich placed second in Florida’s winner-take-all primary Jan. 31, where 50 delegates were at stake and third in Arizona’s winner-take-all primary, where 29 delegates were up for grabs. Gingrich has petitioned the Republican Party of Florida for failing to award delegates proportionally and Hammond says Arizona can expect a similar challenge. (Republican National Committee rules stipulate that any state holding a contest before April 1 must allocate proportionally.)

Unofficial counts of pledged delegates put Romney in first with 180, Rick Santorum in second with 90, Gingrich in third with 29 and Ron Paul in fourth with 23. A total of 1,144 delegates is needed to win the nomination.

Gingrich’s third-place spot in the delegate race is doing the candidate no favors. On Saturday, the co-chairman of Gingrich’s Tennessee campaign–state senator Stacey Campfield–announced his decision to switch allegiance to Santorum, whom he referred to as the conservative with the best chance of winning the presidency.

Despite Gingrich’s confident rhetoric, many question whether he has any shot at winning the requisite number of delegates even if he regains some momentum.

“His path to the presidency is very slim at this point,” Bonjean said.

Gingrich campaigned Monday in Tennessee, will appear in Georgia and Alabama Tuesday and has a full and detailed schedule planned through Mar. 10 in Alabama, Mississippi and Kansas.

The Fight for Blue Collar Workers in Ohio

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mr. Craig @ 4:24 pm

If Mitt Romney defeats Rick Santorum in the bellwether primary here on Tuesday, it will be in no small part because he managed to win over one of the most hotly contested and elusive segments of the electorate: white working-class voters.

 At a metal works in Canton and a welding factory in Youngstown, in mailboxes and on the radio, Mr. Romney’s intense focus on these Republican-leaning voters was in evidence on Monday as he made his closing appeal in Ohio — if not as an every man, then at least as a chief executive who knows how to generate blue-collar jobs and get factories running again.

“Other people in this race have debated about the economy, they’ve read about the economy, they’ve talked about it in subcommittee meetings, but I’ve actually been in it,” Mr. Romney told workers at a guardrail factory in Canton, where he walked among huge coils of steel. “I understand what it takes to get business successful, and to thrive.”

Introducing a new slogan — “more jobs, less debt, smaller government” — Mr. Romney’s factory visits were not just about the Ohio primary. They were part of a broader strategy, hatched at his Boston headquarters, to fight Mr. Santorum for both working-class voters and conservatives on what aides consider to be Mr. Romney’s turf, the economy, rather than on social issues.

And while Mr. Romney’s immediate goal is a strong showing in Ohio, one of 10 Super Tuesday states and a crucial test of whether Mr. Santorum can remain a credible challenger for the nomination, he is also seeking to prove he can maintain his party’s traditional advantage among working-class voters in a general election matchup with President Obama.

Mr. Santorum, who has mixed his faith-based appeal with a workingman’s sensibility born of his Pennsylvania coal and steel country roots, was not about to cede that ground.

At Dayton Christian School in Miamisburg on Monday, he urged a capacity crowd to vote for “a guy who grew up in a steel town in western Pennsylvania who no one gave any chance to be standing here in Ohio in March, because he went out and believed in free people” and in “building a stronger economy based on manufacturing.”

Noting that Mr. Romney’s far better-financed campaign had vastly outspent him in Ohio, he added: “Money’s not going to buy this election. The best ideas and believing in the American people is going to win this election.”

Mr. Santorum’s success with working-class voters in some states, notably Iowa and Michigan, has helped expose Mr. Romney’s potential vulnerabilities with them. Mr. Romney’s background as a wealthy private-equity manager and some of his off-the-cuff remarks — like his comment at Daytona two weekends ago that “I have some great friends who are Nascar team owners” — have only emphasized his challenge in connecting with blue-collar voters.

Advisers inside and outside Mr. Romney’s campaign headquarters had grown alarmed that such comments had opened him up to criticism that he was an elitist. But those concerns coincided with a recognition that a prolonged diversion into social conservative touchstones — abortion and contraception — had diverted the campaign from its core economic message, giving Mr. Santorum an opening.

The aides concluded that the only way for Mr. Romney to improve his performance among these critical voters was to spend less time talking about the modest upbringing of his father, who went on to become the governor of Michigan, and more time telling the stories of real workers he met at factories.

In the past few days, they staged events in more working-class settings like the campaign stops he made Monday.

The campaign carefully choreographed the stops, featuring images of Mr. Romney surrounded by heavy equipment and talking about galvanizing steel.

“This piece equipment behind you, you know what that does?” Mr. Romney asked, pointing to a big blue machine. “That shreds cars. In 12 seconds, you put a car in at one end, out the other end comes little pieces of metal and rubber and glass and whatever.”

Speaking at a rally here in Zanesville — a town in central Ohio with a median family income of $31,932 — Mr. Romney said the 2012 election revolved around “whether the stresses on families are going to be alleviated, where you’ve got a mom working the day shift and a dad working a night shift and the kids not sure who’s home when.”

Romney, whose net worth is estimated at more than $200 million, has consistently won high-income voters in primary states, according to exit polls.

Working-class voters have been less loyal to any one candidate, with Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum — and at times Newt Gingrich, who is not competing strongly here — often fracturing their allegiance.

In that sense, they have emerged as a potential decisive swing vote, particularly in Ohio, where voters earning $30,000 to $100,000 a year constitute 67 percent of the Republican primary electorate, making them an essential group for each candidate.

They will be no less important in the general election, and Mr. Santorum has argued that his ability to connect in these manufacturing regions would make him a stronger opponent against Mr. Obama.

Mr. Romney’s aides have made clear that they are thinking about how to compete for the Rust Belt constituency against Mr. Obama, who had similar struggles with working-class Democrats during the 2008 primaries and caucuses but overcame them in the general election. He defeated Senator John McCain in Ohio, for instance.

But the many ups and downs of the nominating contest have kept Mr. Romney’s aides from focusing heavily on a potential general election, and on Monday their concerns were far more parochial. With polls showing a very tight race here, they were on tenterhooks, believing that they had enough momentum to beat back Mr. Santorum in Ohio’s popular vote but hardly certain.

Mr. Romney’s struggles to connect with individual rank-and-file voters have become clearer as the Republican primary season has continued, and his challenges were apparent in interviews on Monday.

“I’ve heard some people say that Mitt doesn’t know how to pump his own gas,” said Scott Williams, a dentist, who saw Mr. Romney speak in Zanesville. But, he added, “I find that offensive. Who of us wouldn’t want to be rich? But he didn’t just inherit all his money. He knows how to work.”

Patrick Sullivan went to the Santorum event at Dayton Christian School, a converted NCR Corporation training center that had been shuttered. He pointed to Mr. Romney’s background as a rich businessman as a reason he was supporting Mr. Santorum.

“Obama will absolutely label him the 1 percent, especially when they get into what he did at Bain,” said Mr. Sullivan.

Bain is the leveraged-buyout firm that Mr. Romney led and that his opponents, even on the Republican side, have portrayed as preying on struggling companies (portrayals that Mr. Romney has called unfair).

But in a sign that Republican voters may be moving reluctantly toward accepting Mr. Romney as the nominee, Mr. Sullivan said he would support him, if only out of antipathy for Mr. Obama.

“Look,” he said, “I’d vote for a dead dog instead of Obama.”

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