Romney Staffers Point Finger at Own Chief Strategist

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 17 2012 9:29 AM

Romney Campaign in Disarray, Says Romney Campaign

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) smiles at his top advisor Stuart Stevens during a sound check at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Florida, on August 30, 2012

Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/GettyImages.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in Mitt Romney's Boston campaign offices today.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Politico went live last night with what amounts to a rather blistering attack on the GOP hopeful's chief campaign strategist, Stuart Stevens, courtesy of a number of unnamed "Romney aides, advisers and friends" who spoke off the record to heap criticism on Stevens for pretty much all of the campaign's recent missteps—from Clint Eastwood's performance-art-meets-stump-speech to the candidate's own controversial late-night statement criticizing the Obama administration in the hours after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

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The main thread that runs throughout Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei's lengthy insider account is the story of how Stevens' handled last month's Republican National Convention, in particular his decision to scrap a pair of (already-hastily written) versions of Romney's speech in favor of one he and his boss threw together at the last second:

"[E]ight days before the convention, at a time when a campaign usually would be done drafting and focused instead on practicing such a high-stakes speech, Stevens frantically contacted John McConnell and Matthew Scully, a speechwriting duo that had worked in George W. Bush’s campaign and White House. Stevens told them they would have to start from scratch on a new acceptance speech. Not only would they have only a few days to write it, but Romney would have little time to practice it. ...
"The two finished Ryan’s text the next day and started crashing on Romney’s. That weekend, Stevens accompanied Romney as he went to a school auditorium in New Hampshire with his wife, Ann, to practice yet another version of the speech. Only one paragraph from the McConnell-Scully draft wound up being used, about a rose that Romney’s father had put on his mother’s bedside table each day. The speech that was actually delivered, it turned out, had been cobbled together by Stevens and Romney himself."

Stevens is the one left bruised and battered by the end of the nearly-3,000 word piece, but his boss also doesn't escape unscathed:

"But whatever Stevens’s shortcomings, presidential candidates get the campaigns they want. And Romney, who in an interview with POLITICO last month said his leadership style very much centers on having a variety of smart people offering advice and him being the decider, has taken a very active role running his own campaign. In a way, that’s the problem. Romney associates are baffled that such a successful corporate leader has created a team with so few lines of authority or accountability."

You can read the full piece here. It's noteworthy for the inside-baseball details, of course, but perhaps more so because it paints a picture of campaign willing to air its internal disputes in the press with less than two months left in a tightly contested presidential election. (This is the type of finger-pointing one expects to see from a campaign only after it loses.) 

Stevens, meanwhile, appears safe for now. Yet another unnamed Romney senior adviser told BuzzFeed last night that there's "no truth" to rumors that Stevens is on the way out despite the fact he's lost the support of so many of his colleagues.

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