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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Hatch, if reelected, wouldn't run again

Ridge endorses Romney

Poll: Santorum leads in Pennsylvania

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

    It appears Willard has no core convictions to stand behind, as a result messaging is a difficult task for the mom jeans wearing shell from MA.

    March 14, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  2. PTBarnumboy

    Their problem is not so much the candidate as it is the people who are doing the voting. When the rednecks are running the show you can expect to see a few dogs and ponies.

    March 14, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  3. babs

    "I'm Bob Dole, er Mitt Romney, and it's my turn."

    March 14, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    If by "fix his message" they mean "stop freekin talking," then yes, please do fix your message Mittens.

    March 14, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  5. anagram_kid

    Don’t worry GOP, I am sure he will have an entirely new message next week. I hope no one ever tells him about those new fangled things called TV and the internet.
    Obama 2012

    March 14, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  6. Suleiman the Magnificent

    No more grits or talk like that. He seems to lower himself to the level of real people. Grotesque, even if it is humor. May Allah show his displeasure by putting the fleas of 49 thousand camels in Mitt's armpits

    March 14, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  7. KeithTexas

    No one with that much money can understand me or my problems, I will not vote for him under any circuumstances. Better the bad one I know than the bad one I don't know.

    March 14, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  8. Al-NY,NY

    He has no message. All he has is whatever blather comes out of his mouth without thinking. And that depends on where he is. It's either grits, or poi, or, well you get the "message"

    March 14, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  9. ...a Kentucky long-rifleman...

    First, Mr. Romney, YOU SHOULD note THE HEIGHT OF THE TREES, the SIZE OF THE LAKES, and the 'cheeziness' of the grits WHEREVER YOU MIGHT BE SPEAKING.
    In Kentucky, we do not have 'cheezy' grits. AND WE WEAR OUR BLUE JEANS A BIT FADED and SNUG !!

    March 14, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  10. The Real Tom Paine

    In order to fix a message, you need to have one.

    March 14, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  11. Terry - Indiana

    I have told the GOP Leadership if they do not come up with a better candidate than what we are seeing right now, I will vote for the current President just so they know I am not kidding.

    March 14, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  12. Indy

    The trickle down economics message is not working anymore.Mitts needs to quit pretending he was a job creator while he was providing financing at alarming profit margins for himself or else call all bank 'job creators".The old cut taxes for the wealthy and cut regulations for big corporations is not going over well for Romney, problem is he can't fix his message, he can only flip flop to pander more effectively in the moment,depending where he is at any given time.

    March 14, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  13. Four and The Door

    Americans are fortunate to have a candidate so ultimately qualified, capable and interested in public service a Mitt Romney is right now. The federal government has gone astray with programs so huge that only the US Federal Government could come up with them. Unfortunately they have been painful failures. For 2 years the Democratic Party on the heels of their historic 2008 elections ran unchecked through our nation's treasury and our financial position is in ruin. $16 trillion of debt and growing, with nothing but more expensive new programs to pay for and an economy that has not been bought back to life.

    Mitt Romney comes into 2012 with an unmatched set of qualifications, experience, values and ambition to take the challenge of making a positive outcome from the mess that has been created. Who else has the intense business success coupled with the Public Service experience and the impeccable values brought by Mitt Romney? Nobody. He is the right guy in the right place at the right time. I am glad to see his resolve through this brutal primary process and confident he will make it happen in the General Election.

    March 14, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  14. Bob E

    I can't believe how Romney changed so munch from the moderate as governor of Mass to the conservative he is now. This guy seems to want to erase everything he did or said in the last 10 years and start all over. How that works in the general election I don't see how. All I can say is if he doesn't make the 1144 by the end of the primaries he's not going to get the nomination. The whole process is wearing him down and draining resources and energy, He either limps to the finish line or can say goodbye to the whole thing.

    March 14, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  15. DIANA

    I want him to talk more about – self deportation. For those of you who don't know what it is – it's a joke started by two latin men making fun of the Republican's solution to immigration. Romney must have decided anything he hears must be the truth without checking where it came from.
    If he's bad about vetting information that he uses in his speeches, imagine what a good job he's going to do vetting his VP if he wins – another Palin.

    March 14, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  16. Rebecca

    I find that to be true of every single candidate that ran, save Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. You want to know why Rick's getting the votes? He's genuine. I despise every single thing the man stands for, but at least I know what his positions are. Name one good reason a person should vote for Mitt Romney. Not why they shouldn't vote for the other candidates, but one single, good, solid reason why Mitt Romney should be the leader of the free world.

    March 14, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  17. Mt man

    Mitts big problem is that he wins the blue states that obama will win in the general, and loses the red states to real conservatives. If you cant win in the south, you cant win. Sorry mitt.
    Obama 2012!

    March 14, 2012 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  18. Stephan

    Cheesy grits – what kind of message was that? "Hey, vote for me – let's have some Bar – Be – Que?"

    March 14, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  19. Bill

    As noted above, Romney blows with the wind and says whatever is politically expedient. He is already a weak candidate and by August will be an even weaker one. A real gift for team Obama. Time for the GOP to get serious about 2016. Obama 2012 all the way.

    March 14, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  20. ltinny

    Romney is a phony, in every sense of the word. He does not even know what he stands for. He's a sham, it's so obvious.

    Obama 2012:)

    March 14, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  21. PatriciaD

    I think Romney IS being himself, and that's just not good enough.

    March 14, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    I can't wait for Mitt Romney to go to Times Square and say "I like thin crust pizza." while he eats it with a fork.

    March 14, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  23. cisom

    Not a surprise the South will not pick Mitt over Santorum. I doubt Mitt is counting on one win there. The south will vote Mitt over Obama though. Santorum contributed plenty to the debt when he was Senator. Santorum is NOT more conservative or consistent than Mitt when it comes to finances and everyone knows it. No worries.

    March 14, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  24. Romney 2012

    Why fix what isn't broken? Even with losing two states, he won the overall delegate haul on Tuesday. I sure hope he doesn't go on a logic-defying soapbox about gas prices like Gingrich. He might win more redneck votes, but he'd lose the "educated" vote, which he wins in almost every state.
    Romney 2012

    March 14, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  25. WatchDawg's not just Mitt that needs to fix the's the entire GOP...

    The One & Done mentality was over before it got started...but the GOP leadership missed that memo...

    March 14, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
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