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."

Also see:

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Ridge endorses Romney

Poll: Santorum leads in Pennsylvania

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

    Only in GOP-land can a politician say outright–twice, emphatically, in the same interview–that he doesn't care about the very poor AND have stated/proposed programs that prove it by slashing their "safety net" AND just days later say he "misspoke" AND *repeatedly* make it clear he is completely out of touch with everyday Americans....yet still be seen as the best person to help struggling Americans in a lagging economy–in the poorest state in the country, no less.

    There is only one thing Romney stands for: wanting to be President of the U.S. Everything else is inconsequential. The sad part is, he really is the best the GOP has to offer this year. And that should scare the bejeezus out of everyone.

    March 14, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  2. Publius Novus

    This is an easy one. Mitt Romney should be president because he is a good guy and was born to be president. He was educated to be president. His mother told him so. Or maybe it was his father. Ann, perhaps? One of those folks, anyway. Or maybe because he is a businessman. Yeah, that's it. Businessmen make good presidents. Especially ones with MBAs. Like George W. Bush. Running a consulting firm, firing people, and outsourcing jobs is really excellent preparation for being president.

    March 14, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  3. Mikey

    "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"
    The short answer is: HE DOESN'T !!!
    The guy's got no guiding principles. He simply adopts whatever position he believes will serve his self interest at the time. Let's see how fast he reverses many positions he's taken in the primaries if he gets the nomination.

    March 14, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  4. Logic N LA

    Maybe it's the party that needs to change it's message! Turn out is down- that says more than any sound bite from these candidates

    March 14, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  5. rs

    I am more curious about when the GOP is going to fix its message.
    From all I have seen to date the GOP is the party of the sixteenth century, battling to take rights away from people; turn women into property; and redistribute all the wealth to the rich. You know guys, feudalism didn't look good 400 years ago, and it looks no better today.

    March 14, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  6. Wayne

    Romney "Which message would you like?"

    March 14, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  7. ourjungle


    (1) will have a billion dollar campaign war chest from Super PACs.

    (2) will have increased tax payer campaign transportation;as he has pulled nine cargo aircraft from the U.S. Airforce military operations,to support his stepped up visits to campaign sites.

    (3) will continue to receive free media coverage from the usual liberal news (propaganda) media outlets.

    (4) has successfully "gamed" the legal systems of nine States;such that voter ID will not be legal, and even an octopus with a wig can vote for him....twice.

    (5) will have another stimulus bill, that will include much for women,and will forgive all federal student loans.

    (6) will be involved with taking out Iran's Nukes,before they become deliverable.

    (7) will get a 400 million dollar campaign donation from the Union bosses,along with 400 thousand Union members for door to door campaign support.

    (8) Limbaugh is rapidly becoming one of Obama's most effective vote getters. Limbaugn's diatribe mouth is causing the women to run fast,and far from the GOP. Yes, there are faithful Republican women,and faithful Democrate is the Independent women's vote that can be won or lost.


    March 14, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  8. John from Florida

    honestly, none of the GOP candidates are electable. This is a big dog and pony show that is going to just continue to highlight how out of touch the GOP are with the rest of America. And for that I say: Hoorah!

    March 14, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  9. Roland

    Republicans to Romney: Fix your message
    America to Republicans: Fix your message

    March 14, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  10. GI Joe.

    He needs to stop walking that prissy short-step walk and maybe give to charities other than the Mormon church for starters. Then he can work on his stuttering and sputtering and pandering and bragging and being just plain ignorance of the way the 99% REALLY live.

    A tour in a car thru Mingo and McDowell Counties in WV to get out and talk to (not down to) the people that live with too little food, too little heat, no air conditioning, poor education, second-hand clothes and shoes, etc. He's way to out of touch. I dare him to go there and spend two days. (He can take a luxury bus to sleep in, doubt they have any 5-star hotels).

    March 14, 2012 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  11. Sorensen

    Very difficult for him. He does not have a message. Or a personality !

    March 14, 2012 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  12. Dvet

    I am an independant and i am voting straight democrat. The republicans dont have a plan to fix the economy. All they do is vote no and obstruct progress.

    March 14, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  13. ja

    it is to late, sounds like a pimp from the seventies , wife has two caddys, my billionaire pals, and yall vote for me now, be mitt, you shouldn't pander to

    March 14, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  14. Namejkane fl live from teapublican moon base no taxes, no regulation no health care, free gas.

    Dem landslide coming in Nov. The do nothing republicans have no chance, try2016!!!!

    March 14, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  15. travis

    Romney can win nationally because he can win or seriously challenge Obama in swing states.

    People say he is not a good candidate because he did not win in MS or AL?

    Those states are republicans states no matter who is on the ballot. They are anybody but Obama states period. The same goes for the rest of the south.

    What matters is who can beat Obaswing swind states like OH etc. Santorum challenged on OH but that irelevantlevent in the real world.

    I expect Romney to be the nominee. I will certainly vote for him if he is. If Santorum or Gingrich make it for whatever crazy series of events I will not vote for president this time around.

    There is no way I would vote for Obama. This country will become like Greece if her is re-elected. He obviously is a bog spender......but what will sink the country financially is ObamaCare. THe projections on that program are so far from reality that it is absurd. I am in that business and understand what it really means from a risk perspective.

    The unfunded liability of that program in its current form is absolutely financially irresponsible and certainly unsustainable when viewed under the umbrella of other governhealth cared healthcare fisk products i.e. Medicare, TriCare, Medicaid etc.

    March 14, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  16. GI Joe.

    If I had $250,000,000 I can guarantee I would set up companies to help provide jobs for more than just a few people. It's waaaaaayyyyyy too much money to just put off-shore. It's un-christian to hoard that way.

    March 14, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    ""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.""

    Just being himself? Hahaha...I'm pretty sure not even Mittens knows who that is.

    March 14, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  18. anagram_kid

    Gov. Romney to ‘fix’ his message? In other words, he needs to pander to the base on the level of their intelligence like Sen. Santorum and Spkr. Gingrich do. You know speak about things the POTUS doesn’t control like banning contraception and setting the price of fuel. Gov. Romney needs to recognize the base of the modern GOP know more about Jersey Shore and NASCAR than they do about what the president actually does.

    March 14, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  19. Sandy

    "Romney's going to win, and I think it's now time for us to focus on Obama, which we're not doing," Trump said. In a year when it looked like the Republican party had every opportunity to turn the country around, we see candidates staying in the race for what benefit? To toot their own horn? What are they trying to prove? That Obama will eventually win? What a pity! We don't need far right anymore than we needed far left. IT'S TIME TO RALLY AROUND MITT!

    March 14, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  20. DDanny1

    It's pretty funny when even the candidates SUPPORTERS don't like what he's doing. What's next? A GOP movement to elect Romney and a majority in both house and Senate so the Republicans will have enough votes to immediately impeached him the say after the inauguration?
    I've looked closely at some of the deals Romney did as the CEO of Bain Capital and I'm pretty certain Obama has too. I imagine they are going to sit on that information and after the GOP and Superpac's have spent the biggest majority of their money they'll make the information public. And it's really, really nasty. Either Romney hasn't told the GOP about what's out there on him, or the GOP knows and they are praying it doesn't come out, but I can promise you once it does, Romney would have a tough time beating out a plate of biscuits and cheesy grits for POTUS.

    March 14, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  21. vic , nashville ,tn

    Republicans don’t have message, like market everyday they change their messages base on geography of the contest

    March 14, 2012 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  22. ShawnDH

    Romney is a truly awful candidate. It's clear that not even Republicans like the guy very much and he can't even put away Rick Santorum...RICK SANTORUM! the primary which is obviously humiliating. If he can barely beat Santorum, he has zero chance to beat Obama, who is perhaps the most brilliant campaigner in US political history (and a pretty darn good president as well). Mittens is just weak and dishonest on every level.

    March 14, 2012 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  23. Senor Ed

    Hi, my name is Mittens and I deserve to be President because, well, I bought it fair and square!

    March 14, 2012 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. Romney is not My Hero

    "Fix your message?" He's been FIXING his message at every turn. He says one thing, takes it back, flip-flops, panders and then says he didn't say it at all. What more do they want?

    OBAMA 2012!

    March 14, 2012 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  25. The Real Tom Paine

    Romney's problem is that he's already concluded that he is the president, and he's having to backtrack to find the reason(s) why he should run. No, being bored does not count.

    March 14, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
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