GOP Lawmakers Unhappy With Course Of Romney Campaign

Republican lawmakers are starting to express frustration with the course of the Romney campaign.

With the poll numbers not looking so great, and Electoral College projections continuing to show Mitt Romney’s path to victory being a very narrow one, it’s not surprising to hear Republican lawmakers, most of whom will be up for re-election in November, expressing some concern about the direction the campaign is taking at the moment:

Republican lawmakers are grumbling about the direction of Mitt Romney’s campaign and say he needs to change course.

The complaints come as polls show that Romney lost ground on President Obama following the party’s respective conventions in Tampa, Fla. and Charlotte, N.C.

The GOP members say Romney must do a better job of communicating to voters what to expect of him, either by making a bold pledge akin to George H.W. Bush’s 1988 “no new taxes” promise or fleshing policy proposals with more details.

“Papa Bush was down after the Democratic convention in 1988, people worried he couldn’t come back and then he made his ‘read my lips, no new taxes’ pledge,” said one senator who requested anonymity.

The Republican said Romney should make a concise, bold promise to reform wasteful spending in Washington.

“He should say, ‘I’m a money manager and I will manage your money in Washington. I will eliminate waste, fraud and abuse. Obama wants you to send more money so he can spend more money.'”

(…)

Another GOP lawmaker said the aura Romney’s advisers are trying to create around the candidate has muddled the most compelling rationale for his candidacy: he is a no-nonsense problem-solver who can turn the economy around.

“My advice is don’t try to turn him into something he’s not,” said the senator. You’re never going to turn him into a teddy bear.

“He needs to say if you elect me, this is what you’re going to get, someone who’s going to bring common sense to the White House,” he said.

Lawmakers spoke to The Hill about Romney’s campaign on background to avoid publicly criticizing their party’s nominee.

Other lawmakers are anonymously quoted in the article, and their message is essentially the same. Romney, they say, is making a mistake by not being more specific about the kind of policies he’d adopt to stimulate the economy and help fix the nation’s fiscal problems, and he’s hurting his campaign as a result. Indeed, there have been many pundits and observers who have wondered why the campaign didn’t take the opportunity of the Republican National Convention to roll out something far more specific than the somewhat bland general statements that are part of the Romney and Ryan stump speeches, and even conservative pundits are starting to complain:

The Weekly Standard published an open letter to Romney from contributor Peter J. Hansen urging him to be more specific in his policy prescriptions. Conservative media titan Rupert Murdoch this week tweeted: “Romney must draw clear line: offer specific path to restore American dream versus ugly Obama class war with jobs disappearing.”

Wall Street Journal columnist and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan on Wednesday said Romney struck the wrong note by calling Obama’s response to the deadly attack on American diplomats in Libya “disgraceful.”

“I don’t think in his statement on what happened in Libya last night and in his remarks today I don’t think he did himself any favor.  At a moment of crisis like this, I think it’s kind of a water’s edge moment,” she said during an interview on WSJ Live.

“Romney looked weak today, I feel,” she added.

Much of this, of course, is an example of the old proverb that “success has a thousand fathers, while failure is an orphan.” Perhaps sensing that the Romney campaign is letting its chances of victory slip through their fingers, and likely endangering the GOP’s chances of taking the Senate with it. Obviously, the Romney campaign doesn’t seem to be all too interested in taking advice from outsiders, so these lawmakers are turning to other outlets to both send a message to Boston and to begin to distance themselves from what they obviously fear is going to be a losing campaign.

There’s nothing new about this, of course. There comes a time in the course of nearly every election campaign when party insiders start to distance themselves, even subtly, from a candidate that appears destined to lose. Nobody wants to be associated with a losing campaign, after all, and when the inevitable intraparty battle comes after a loss, people seem to prefer to be on the side of not having to defend the losing campaign. The only thing that’s somewhat unusual this time around is that this nitpicking and distancing seems to be starting earlier than usual. In a Presidential campaign, you don’t usually start to see stuff like this until mid-October or so when there are less than three weeks left until Election Day. The fact that we’re seeing it now, albeit anonymously, strikes me as, perhaps, a last ditch effort by party insiders in Washington to get Boston to start paying attention to them before it’s too late. If past behavior is any practice, that effort won’t succeed and, unless there’s a massive turnaround in the polls, we’ll begin to see more open criticism of the campaign from pundits and lawmakers alike as Election Day inches closer. None of this is good news for Romney, of course. The last thing you want as a Presidential candidate is to see your party starting to abandon you.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Congress, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    Other lawmakers are anonymously quoted in the article, and their message is essentially the same. Romney, they say, is making a mistake by not being more specific about the kind of policies he’d adopt to stimulate the economy and help fix the nation’s fiscal problems, and he’s hurting his campaign as a result.

    What’s interesting is that Romney’s proposed tax cut, replete with more deficit spending as far as the eyes can see, is a definitely a stimulus action. the problem is, the anonymous lawmakers want austerity measures, which will definitely not stimulate the economy.

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    On the upside Bob Dole’s 1976 campaign is looking better everyday.

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    Oops – should read 1996 campaign.

  4. Latino_in_Boston says:

    It’s incredible to me how easily people can dupe themselves. I know we’re all guilty of it, of course, but I’m nonetheless amazed when it happens in situations like this:

    “He should be more specific about how he’ll fix the economy,” they say. Right. Because giving more specifics about helping the rich, spending cuts and social issues is really going to do the trick. The fact is that the GOP brand is damaged and unless they do something about that brand, it will never be a winner. Now Romney could have been a winner in that on paper he’s a perfect generic Republican who could pretend that he has some plans to fix the economy, the problems is that he comes across as a plutocrat. Christie would have been a much better choice because he seems more like one of us, the 99%. The problem is that Christie would never have been elected in the present GOP primaries, he’s way to the left of the base. So if they want to blame anyone, they should blame themselves.

    I’m encouraged by these news. The circular firing squad has started early, and I’m hopeful that the party will start to come back to sanity, slowly, but surely.

  5. @Ron Beasley:

    Ironically, Bob Dole was Gerry Ford’s running mate in 1976 too.

    He didn’t perform much better then:

    A vice-presidential debate between Robert Dole and Walter Mondale also hurt the Republican ticket when Dole asserted that military unpreparedness on the part of Democratic presidents was responsible for all of the wars the U.S. had fought in the 20th century. Dole, a World War II veteran, noted that in every 20th-century war from World War I to the Vietnam War, a Democrat had been President. Dole then pointed out that the number of U.S. casualties in “Democrat wars” was roughly equal to the population of Detroit. Many voters felt that Dole’s criticism was unfairly harsh and that his dispassionate delivery made him seem cold.

    Here’s the video of that classic meltdown:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6G9AePwl1AE

  6. Herb says:

    Man, they’re really in trouble if they’re actually looking for a “Read my lips” moment…..

    Isn’t that just courting an even greater level of embarrassment?

  7. michael reynolds says:

    I had much the same reaction as @Latino_in_Boston when I read this piece yesterday.

    It is wonderfully heartening to see a) the circular firing squad forming up early, and even more, b) the fact that the suggestions are so utterly clueless. My favorite is the one where the guy thinks Romney can win with a message of, “I’m a manager, I will take on waste, fraud and abuse.”

    Yes! People totally want to deal with waste, fraud and abuse. Because it’s not like they’ve been promised that in every campaign since Noah ran for Inspector of Watercraft. W, F and A: because the problem isn’t Medicare, Defense and debt service. It’s just a wee little trim around the edges that’s needed. That and another tax cut for rich people! Yay! We’re saved!

    When the outside-the-campaign suggestions are even stupider than the collapsing campaign itself, then it’s just barely possible that your party is brain dead. Someone quick: see if there’s a pulse.

  8. The campaign was “looking bad” before the full import of the “3 AM phone call” sank in.

    Now it’s over.

  9. superdestroyer says:

    I wonder if the Republican lawmakers are also unhappy with their own performance from 2001 to 2006. The Republican Party would still be relevant if the Republicans from 2001 to 2006 had not been such massive failures.

  10. ratufa says:

    The Republican said Romney should make a concise, bold promise to reform wasteful spending in Washington.

    “He should say, ‘I’m a money manager and I will manage your money in Washington. I will eliminate waste, fraud and abuse. Obama wants you to send more money so he can spend more money.’”

    WTF?!??!! A Republican Senator says that the “bold” plan is for Romney to say that he’ll eliminate waste, fraud and abuse and to use a reworded “Democrats want to tax and spend” line? Is everyone phoning it in at this point?

  11. Me Me Me says:

    Welcome back, ma’am. Here’s your gigantic gavel.

  12. Mr. Replica says:

    I wonder once Ryan realizes that the jig is up, whether or not he will go “rogue” like the last VP trying to save face.
    I read the other day that Ryan was still running for his house seat, while also campaigning for VP. How much you want to read into that, is up to you.

    While there is still plenty of time till the election for something catastrophic to happen that would swing the race for Romney. It obvious to everyone, even those in severe denial, that Romney can not possibly turn this race around with his charisma(the lack there of), speeches, and policies.

    I really do fail to see how acting like Bush Sr. would help Romney at all. Considering Bush was a one term-er for raising taxes. Romney has also said that his Bain tenure should be off-limits. Meaning he wouldn’t be able to stomach running on business experience, as the first thing people will do is bring Bain back to the forefront of the campaign.

    I think these GOP Lawmakers/writers are only saying this type of stuff because they know Romney won’t do it and it will allow these people to distance themselves safely. Well, maybe they are hedging their bets. Romney doesn’t do what they suggest and loses…they come out of it looking good. Romney does what they suggest and wins…they come out of it looking good.
    Of course they all could go down kicking and screaming if Romney does what they suggest and he still loses.

  13. Mr. Replica says:

    (Also if Bain is brought back in a big way, the tax-return problem would not be far behind.)

  14. Peacewood says:

    @Me Me Me: That seems awfully premature.

    There are better odds of Reid retaining his, and I put his odds at south of 50 percent.

  15. Me Me Me says:

    @Peacewood: A few weeks ago I would have said it was impossible but then the Republicans put on a convention that was even worse than I imagined possible and now Romney is imploding. The Republican majority is just 25 seats.

  16. Woody says:

    Said this before, but after a lot of debates, Romney was the best of the GOP candidates in this cycle.

    Paul Ryan was brought aboard to firm up the specifics, I thought. The problem is that the “specifics” that have been publicized haven’t particularly helped the campaign.

    Lots of this seems like clients blaming the ad agency rather than the actual product on offer.

  17. Mr. Replica says:

    I think the recent news from the GOP darlings in VA is going to not only hurt the brand even more, but it will also be held against Romney. As Mitt toes the party line regarding abortion. Even campaigning on wanting to overturn Roe v Wade.

    I find it odd that I have not heard a peep on this site about the VA AG using his personal feelings to pressure The State Board of Health. I would have thought that after a Obama questioning google to review their stance on their infamous Islam video post…something like this abortion issue, which has happened certain author’s home state, would have had least gotten a “both sides do it” post.

    But, hey, maybe a state AG strong-arming the state’s health board into acquiescing to their demands, I guess that’s not such a big deal. I mean it’s not like this same AG is running for governor next election…oh wait…

  18. Argon says:

    There a a mutation in C. elegans, a worm extensively studied by developmental biologists, that produces a blockage in the worm’s birth canal. The mutation is called ‘vulvaless’. Unfortunately these worm are also hermaphrodites, this means that the eggs hatch inside, leading to what biologists call the ‘bag of worms’ phenotype. Eventually the newborn worms explode from their parent.

    Somehow, Romney’s campaign seems reminiscent of that. Make that the whole damn GOP.

  19. Mr. Replica says:

    @Mr. Replica:

    I would like to take this time, again, to say that I wish I knew why google chrome does not allow the edit functions to appear. Firefox has those functions available. (Maybe I need to go back to that browser so that I know I have a second fail-safe after the preview function.)

  20. cd6 says:

    No, no, no you guys

    Once it gets out that Obama has totally abandoned freedom of speech, Romney’s going to turn this thing right back around

  21. Smooth Jazz says:

    “With the poll numbers not looking so great, and Electoral College projections continuing to show Mitt Romney’s path to victory being a very narrow one, it’s not surprising to hear Republican lawmakers, most of whom will be up for re-election in November, expressing some concern about the direction the campaign is taking at the moment”

    Well, Isn’t that just grand: The most quotable person in the article is “Anonymouys” & “Some unidentified Republican Senator”. Good Grief; Did you even read the article you posted whose entire premise is based on “someone, anyone” behind the curtain”. I have to give “The Hill” credit: Gin up a story, based on the obligatory “Mr or Mrs Anonymous”,and run with it as a fact. The least you could do is caution or, at a mimimum, inform your readers the article is largely unsourced. The tried and true “Republicans are against Romney without Naming Names” to push a story line is par for the course for far left Liberal rags like POLITICO, Buzz Feed, The Hill, et al.

  22. michael reynolds says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    Actually The Hill frequently uses anonymous Hill sources. It’s how they get access. Most people in DC credit The Hill with being pretty accurate, I believe.

  23. Mr. Replica says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    The least you could do is caution or, at a mimimum, inform your readers the article is largely unsourced.

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Other lawmakers are anonymously quoted in the article, and their message is essentially the same.

    2nd Paragraph, first sentence.

  24. al-Ameda says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    I have to give “The Hill” credit: Gin up a story, based on the obligatory “Mr or Mrs Anonymous”,and run with it as a fact. The least you could do is caution or, at a mimimum, inform your readers the article is largely unsourced.

    Of course nobody wants to go on the record, standard operating procedure. Problem is, the base was skeptical of Romney from the beginning, but really, he was the best of a mediocre group. o everyone put up with his nomination – somewhat analogous to Democrats nominating John Kerry in 2004. Kerry turned out to be a stiff and kind of clunky, as is Romney.

  25. Mr. Replica says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I have a feeling any news source that is to the left of WND is going to be called a “liberal rag”.

  26. Jr says:

    @michael reynolds: Exactly, Romney/Ryan sucks…..but the entire GOP is bankrupt of ideas.

  27. MM says:

    Romney can’t run on specifics because he really doesn’t have any. His strategy to date has been to be not Obama, and hope that the voters who don’t like Obama allow their own opinions to define him further.

    When you get specific you might alienate people.

  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Argon:

    Eventually the newborn worms explode from their parent.

    HA! Argon wins guys.

    Tho, what is scary is that might be an all too accurate prediction. If you think things are bad now, just wait until the last shred of sanity has left whatever is left of the GOP>

  29. The GOP members say Romney must do a better job of communicating to voters what to expect of him, either by making a bold pledge akin to George H.W. Bush’s 1988 “no new taxes” promise or fleshing policy proposals with more details.

    The problem is that even if Romney did make a bold pledge, no one would believe him.

  30. michael reynolds says:

    Has anyone already linked to this on Politico? This marks the official beginning of the Not My Fault food fight.

    Stewart Stevens thrown under the bus by Romney staffers. And then backed over. Repeatedly.

    So of course Team Stevens throws the candidate himself under.

    Now that’s entertainment.

  31. michael reynolds says:

    Sorry, that links to page 4 of the Politico piece. Here’s page 1: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0912/81280.html

  32. Motopilot says:

    @Jr: “the entire GOP is bankrupt of ideas.”

    GOP’ers I talk to say they do have ideas… that government is the (imagined) problem and the (rigged) free market fixes everything.

  33. Barry says:

    @michael reynolds: Agreed.

    What’s really hysterical is: ““He should say, ‘I’m a money manager and I will manage your money in Washington. I will eliminate waste, fraud and abuse. Obama wants you to send more money so he can spend more money.’”

    Romney made most of his money by ‘managing’ money such that he and his cronies ended up with the money, and everybody else ended up with worthless IOU’s.

  34. Barry says:

    @MM: “Romney can’t run on specifics because he really doesn’t have any. ”

    He could, but he doesn’t want to:

    ‘Obamacare was a copy of Romneycare’.
    ‘I made huge sums of money as a vulture capitalist, looting companies and destroying the lives of peons like you’.
    ‘I personally know a whole passel of Wall St CEO’s, and will let them run amok again.’
    ‘I love wars, and plan on starting a couple immediately. I figure I’ll be worth a cool billion from them, by the time that I leave office. Enjoy $10/gallon gas.’

  35. Mr. Replica says:

    @Mr. Replica:

    I wonder once Ryan realizes that the jig is up, whether or not he will go “rogue” like the last VP trying to save face.

    OLDSMAR, Fla. — Mitt Romney’s campaign for president appears to have quietly abandoned its guiding assumption, that the election would center on the struggling economy, and has visibly begun to feel for a new message.
    Romney and — particularly — his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, have spent a week road-testing alternatives, going positive and going negative, swinging at the president on everything from faith to foreign policy. The new efforts mark a shift from a summer of fruitless discipline and a convention in which attempts to present a friendly, moderate tone trumped any policy substance. And campaign planners said their moves mark a new campaign consensus.
    “No one in Boston thinks this can only be about the economy anymore,” one top aide said last week. “The economy narrows the gap and puts us in contention, but we have to bring more to the table.”
    The core factor in the search for a new message, aides say privately, was the August jobs report. The anemic job growth was widely viewed as bad news for Obama even as the unemployment rate dropped due to people leaving the workforce. But the national shrug confirmed Romney campaign concerns that the most visible economic indicator would remain muddled through Election Day.
    Ryan himself has emerged as a central player in this calculation, making the case internally for a clearer conservative policy message. One high level Republican with ties to the campaign told BuzzFeed that Ryan was chaffing at Boston constraining him from talking about and defending his policy ideas from Democratic attacks. Ryan wanted to be “unleashed,” the Republican said.
    And Ryan’s latest campaign swing offers the clearest indication that he’s gotten his wish. On Friday at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., Ryan offered a new gambit on offense, attacking Obama on social issues and income inequality in one fell swoop.“’We’re all in this together’ – it has a nice ring,” Ryan said, quoting a frequent Obama line. “For everyone who loves this country, it is not only true but obvious,” he said. “Yet how hollow it sounds coming from a politician who has never once lifted a hand to defend the most helpless and innocent of all human beings, the child waiting to be born.”On Saturday at a rally at R.E. Olds Park Amphitheatre here, Ryan laid into the Federal Reserve for “undermining the credibility of our money” and “debasing our currency,” with the latest round of stimulative monetary policy.

    At least the Romney campaign is smart enough to allow/back-up their VP candidate. Rather than trying to constrain him.