Mitt Denies Story of Tagg's Intervention

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 9 2012 1:00 PM

Mitt Romney Wants People To Know That Only Mitt "Let Mitt Be Mitt"

Mitt Romney (L), his wife Ann (C) and son Tagg watch one of Tagg's son play soccer in Belmont, Mass,, on September 15, 2012

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/GettyImages.

Somewhat lost in the New York Times piece today on Mitt Romney's possible next moves is this nugget:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

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

At a breakfast on Wednesday for top advisers and donors ... [Romney] even took a gentle swipe at the news media, mocking what he said were inaccurate articles suggesting that his oldest son, Tagg, had staged an intervention to fix a tottering campaign and was playing a heavy role in shaping political strategy.

That's all we get on that particular topic, but it is pretty clear that Romney is referring to this article from early October penned by Politico's Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, in which a number of "campaign sources with direct knowledge of the events" told the story of how Tagg and the rest of the Romney clan stepped in to demand the campaign emphasize a softer and more moderate image for the GOP nominee. The article included this line: "When the history of this campaign is written, the family intervention will be among the most important turning points in the Romney saga." In short, the story went, Tagg wanted his father's team to finally "let Mitt be Mitt," a narrative that was quickly picked up by political reporters and pundits inside the Beltway and, to a lesser degree, outside of it.

The piece was headlined "Inside the campaign: The Romney rebellion" but, as I explained at the time, advanced a largely flattering narrative for Romney—at least for the candidate if not his campaign in general—and the tone of the off-the-record quotes made it clear the interviews were likely sanctioned by the campaign's brass (as the vast majority of all such campaign backgrounders are). So true or not, it was a story the Romney camp clearly wanted told.

The article's timing was particularly important for Romney because it came a little less than one week after the first presidential debate in Denver, where he appeared to surprise Obama by tacking toward the middle, earning what was widely considered to be a dominant debate victory in the process and laying the groundwork for the million "Mitt-mentum" stories that would follow.

Team Obama's post-debate response was to counter that it was not the real Romney on stage but instead an inauthentic version of the man we'd seen throughout the GOP primary and into this summer. The main thrust of the story told to Politico by Team Romney, however, worked to counter that line of attack, instead indirectly using the people who knew him best (his family) to make the case that this "new" Romney was in fact the real Romney.

As best as I can tell, the Romney camp never made an effort to refute the story before now (and, again, why would they?), and Romney's decision to cite that specific example the morning after the election seems particularly odd. After all, Romney doesn't really have much to gain by shooting down the report now, and in the process of doing so manages to remove the campaign-strategist item from his son's resume.

This post was updated at 4:35 p.m.


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