Republicans to Romney: Fix your message
March 14th, 2012
02:57 PM ET
6 years ago

Republicans to Romney: Fix your message

Washington (CNN) – In the wake of Mitt Romney's two disappointing losses in Mississippi and Alabama on Tuesday, behind-the-scenes frustration about the state of his campaign among leading Republicans is once again trickling out.

With Romney's message seemingly consumed with delegate math, arguments about electability and attacks against his chief rival Rick Santorum, some of his supporters are asking the candidate to re-calibrate his strategy and make a stronger case to voters about why he deserves to be president.

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Even before the results trickled in Tuesday and showed a possible win in Mississippi slipping away, the calls for Romney to enhance his campaign message were already breaking through.

"Note to Mitt R: please, please, please stop talking delegate counts and process!!" tweeted veteran Republican strategist Mike Murphy, a former Romney adviser. "Run for POTUS not county Rep party chairman."

The sentiment was echoed Wednesday morning by Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, a leading Romney backer who called on the former governor to articulate in greater detail his specific accomplishments in Massachusetts and in the private sector.

Lott pointed to Newt Gingrich's recent focus on lowering the cost of gasoline as an example of how the candidate might drive a message tailored to the pocketbook concerns of everyday citizens.

"Newt has been like a dog with a bone over gasoline prices," Lott told CNN. "Romney needs to focus more on the consistency of a positive message. What's the number one thing people are concerned about? The economy and jobs."

The advice from Chris Devaney, the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, was straightforward: Romney "needs to be himself."

Devaney recalled sitting in on a private lunch with Romney and Nashville business leaders two years ago at Vanderbilt University.

Romney, he said, seemed at ease and made an impressive case as to how he would use his experience running Bain Capital and managing Salt Lake City Olympic Games to turn around the economy.

"I think if he got back to doing that, I think he would probably have more success," Devaney said. "I think he needs to focus more on what his strengths are: being a strong business person, being good on the economy and just being himself."

The latest round of Romney head-scratching might not have come about had a few thousand votes in Mississippi broken his way on Tuesday night.

While the Romney campaign did no private polling in the state, public surveys showed that Mississippi offered the best chance for Romney to capture a symbolic victory in the south and put to rest the troublesome narrative that he can't connect with the Republican base.

Romney lined up support from top Republican officials including Gov. Phil Bryant and barnstormed the state proclaiming his newfound respect for grits and catfish.

Lott said while he and other Romney supporters had been optimistic about Mississippi, election results showed that Romney had problems with Baptists and Pentacostal voters in rural parts of the state who are "still very leery of the Mormon faith."

He also said Romney and his allied super PAC miscalculated by showering voters with negative ads and phone calls.

"You better be very careful in Mississippi if you go negative," Lott said. "It tends to backfire."

Henry Barbour, a veteran party operative in Mississippi and a member of the Republican National Committee, told CNN that Romney's insistent focus on his electability in the general election can only take him so far in the heated context of a Republican primary.

"The reason Santorum won is he is perceived as the most conservative," said Barbour, a Romney supporter. "Primaries in Mississippi are more driven by ideology than electability. Electability is not enough. It takes more than that. You've got to lay out your conservative bona fides. And Romney has them, but the people don't know them."

Despite the nagging questions about his candidacy, more than a dozen Romney supporters and financial backers who spoke to CNN in the wake of Tuesday's votes expressed confidence that he will ultimately capture the nomination based on his robust lead in delegates and his superior organization.

"There is no sense of panic or angst, I just wish it was it a little smoother ride," said one well-connected Romney supporter who did not want to be named. "The tone is more of frustration rather than anything else. It's not real concern. We're going to get there."

Jim Talent, a former Missouri senator and one of Romney's most loyal surrogates, defended his candidate from the criticism about his campaign message.

He said if people are concerned that Romney is not projecting a presidential air on the trail, they aren't listening to his speeches that include both economic proposals and paeans to American exceptionalism.

"I don't know what else you can do about going big, other than what he is doing on the stump," Talent told CNN. "I think he is right in not going so big that he's not talking about the economy. The economy is clearly the number one issue. He has gotten that across. That's working."

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Poll: Santorum leads in Pennsylvania

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Republicans
soundoff (247 Responses)
  1. Dave

    This is bogus! The liberal media criticizes Romney when he wins votes, states and delegates (and suggests he can't close the deal). Some tell Romney to be harder on his opponents and then claim he is running negative ads. In contrast, the other candidates can run negative ads but they are just campaigning. Then, you have the right wing nuts like Rush, Lavin and Ingraham who bash Romney all day long (but fail to see any weakness in their prefered candidate). I say let the people decide – and so far, they have chosen Romney!

    March 14, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Unintentionally Hysterical Quote of the Day:

    "Romney "needs to be himself.""

    Translation: Rove gave us this presidential lookin' robot but it ain't got no personality showin'!

    March 14, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  3. Linda

    This is not rocket science. Some religious people are so afraid of Mormons, they'll vote for a Catholic instead. Also, with 74% and 80+ % evangelicals in those two states, plus dems pushing voting for Santorum, as well as most of the media, including many on fox news and the right wing radio talk show hosts, it is truly a miracle that Mitt was even close in those states. Really.

    March 14, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  4. Natalie

    "Fix your message" they say? Does that not prove the guy can't stand on his own two feet? So, say whatever can get you votes is the GOP way? They keep on lying and expecting intelligent people to follow them to the voting booth? Only the gullible and ignorant will and sadly do.

    March 14, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    "Run for POTUS not county Rep party chairman."
    Mitt Romney is trying really hard not to come across like Herman Cain, as someone running for Chairman-In-Chief. But, if he follows the advice to "be himself" then that is most likely how he will come across.

    March 14, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  6. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Mittens is lying like a dead skunk on a Florida highway now, and that usually helps him. How much more can he lie about to appease the rich folks and Fox foreign owned media with a hint of Saudi?

    March 14, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  7. diridi grab POTUS and to ruin this nation and sell it to China, India, etc, for Cheap labor....nonsense. idiots.

    March 14, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  8. Peace

    "You better be very careful in Mississippi if you go negative," Lott said. "It tends to backfire."
    I wish every voter can follow this example. Going negative does not benefit anyone and that is not what the voters are looking for.

    March 14, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  9. daris

    What plan ? He does't have one but tickler down sorry repub aren't buying it either

    March 14, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  10. Laverne

    Mitt Romney does not have a message, he is a one trick pony who will have nothing to say or run on if the economy continues to improve.

    March 14, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    " He [ Jim Talent ] said if people are concerned that Romney is not projecting a presidential air on the trail, they aren't listening to his speeches that include both economic proposals and paeans to American exceptionalism. "
    "He's dead, Jim." Your candidate is dead wood, who keeps drowning his own message in a sea of stunning gaffes.

    March 14, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  12. Joefrombflo

    Mitt needs to 'be himself" – a rich right-winger who is totally out of touch with working people.

    March 14, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |

    Just tell me how Mitt will fix the message, u dont fix message, u are endowed with the ideas that are inherent in you, but for Mitt, whenever he is offscript, that spells a lot of trouble for him. Just Imagine him debating Obama in a town hall style debate, that will be a colosal disaster for the GOP

    March 14, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  14. Thomas

    Romney needs to tell a few of his sons to join the Marines .

    March 14, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  15. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Mittens privileged life has alienated republican voters. He cannot relate with other voters who do not launder money, do not send jobs overseas, do not own several multi million dollar properties, do not evade taxes, but do serve in the military, do need health care, do survive on social security, do respect women's rights, do believe that all men and women are created equal not just the upper class.

    March 14, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  16. The Real Tom Paine

    If, after more than 5 years of campaigning, Mitt Romney has not found a message that will resonate with both a primary and a general election audience, he needs to do more than recalibrate his message: he needs to ask himself why he's doing this. What does he have to offer in terms of solutions? If he can't offer something that meets the smell test, he's going to be roadkill after Election Day.

    March 14, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  17. Data Driven

    Jeeeez. So much hyperventilating blather, so much unnecessary verbiage, just to say that conservatives don't like Romney.

    March 14, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  18. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Why can't Mittens just invite 1144 delegates to his California home for a sleepover? That should convince them to vote for him.

    March 14, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  19. Kevin

    Romeny message don't need to be fix, his message is what he ran on 4 years ago, and he hassn't and won't change his message. Romney message is " I AM RICH AND YOU ARE NOT. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAH) . Now, dummy get in their and vote for me.

    March 14, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  20. TomInRochNY

    What message? Cut taxes on the "Job creators"? Cut spending on those who need the help the most? Keep funding a huge military we don't really need? The republicans don't have a message most people in American want to hear. They just refuse to come to that realization.

    March 14, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  21. ME

    The advice from Chris Devaney, the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, was straightforward: Romney "needs to be himself."

    But Mittens has been being himself. He's the kind of man to make an off-color or inapporpriate joke and not understand why people aren't laughing. The man can't relay a message because he's given every message possible. A man of all convictions stands for none.

    March 14, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |

    The teabaggers won't vote for Mitt McCain. Obama 2012!

    March 14, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  23. Tony

    It is not the message. It is the candidate. Unfortunately for Republicans, there is no good alternative.

    March 14, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  24. SA in OO

    The public to Romney . . . Get a message !
    "I'm the only one with the delegate count to win the nomination," is not a message.
    "I can beat Obama," is not a message.

    March 14, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  25. cali girl

    Sounds a lot like what the mccain camp was trying to do with palin.
    To funny, your own party wants you to change. Your own former people and other in the know strategists.
    Good luck with that, we already know you lost the women, latinos, gays, and the lower 99%.

    March 14, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
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