Republicans to Romney: Fix your message
March 14th, 2012
02:57 PM ET
3 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.

– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

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:

When Romney says 'get rid of' Planned Parenthood he means…

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. J.C.

    Willard, Willard, Willard...bow out, let Ricky have his run against Obama and expose the ugly underside of the Republican Party in a national campaign. Disavow the hatred, the misogyny, and the rampant ignorance and defect to the Democrats. You know in your heart you are philosophically closer to a centrist Democrat than a Tea Party Republican. It'll be a story that could propel you to the W.H. in 2016.

    March 14, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  2. geg

    WHAT MESSAGE–IAM RICH WITH A LOT OF TIME ON MY HANDS–TRICKLE DOWN WORKS GREAT–off shore banking is working ,my overseas profits are doing ok-oh yeh i love america

    March 14, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  3. judith

    Romney is simply a lousy candidate. He has a personality only a mother could love. He also constantly screws up by referring to his billionaire friends and keeps reminding people that he has utterly no connection with anyone who has actually worked for a living.

    March 14, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  4. chill

    It's pretty hard to go big when your inclination is to go small and basically do nothing but let thing bottom out. I wouldn't think that Newt's model of promising something neither he nor any other candidate could possibly produce like $2.50 gas. the only way he could do that would be to drive us into another recession. Come to think of it, maybe that's his plan.

    March 14, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  5. Jeff in San Diego

    Newt as gas czar! Santurum as POTUS (Pope of the Unites States)! Romney as the rich guy buying everyone's lunches to be class president of his high school. I love watching this complete meltdown of absolutely everyone in the Republican Party. I can't believe what I'm seeing. The once goose-stepping with solidarity party for rich white guys now turning on each other and imploding with such ferociousness. Unbelievable!

    March 14, 2012 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  6. Bag of Hammers

    It's good to have self confidence. It's just nice to have a reason for it.

    March 14, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  7. maf

    @ Four, really??? I almost threw up when I was reading your post! The incredible thing about all of your posts is that you TRULY believe what you are being fed. Even if I was a Republican, I would acknowledge the funding for 2 wars that was not on the books BEFORE President Obama has significantly contributed to the rising debt. The debt limit ceiling that needs to be raised is because of current spending that was approved BEFORE President Obama took office.

    Mitt Romney, yikes, NOT qualified. Regardless of whether or not you believe the current President was qualified before hand, with his Democratic primary election and now 3+ years in the White House, MAKES HIM SIGNIFICANTLY more qualified than anyone the GOP has on their slate at the moment!

    I know you believe your statements to be true, but when you repeat something that is untrue enough times, it's what makes sociopaths and pathological liars!!

    March 14, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  8. Four and The Door

    Rebecca
    Name one good reason a person should vote for Mitt Romney.
    __________________________________________________________________________________
    You said pick one. Okay. The economy. There are many more great capabilities Mitt Romney brings, but the most important issue facing Americans today just happens to be an area where he has unique expertise. He knows the economy inside and out and has demonstrated his ability to bring companies back to health and success. He knows the federal government's role where clearly our current President doesn't. This is a big part of what is necessary to get the economy back to where we need it to be.

    March 14, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "confident he will make it happen in the General Election."

    And I'm confident he's going to get slapped around like an ornery 2 year old, which will prompt the MSM to do even more on his behalf to help keep it a tight race on which they can report breathlessly and with much drama. Robot Mittens and his avoid-a-position position on everything. The only things driving his campaign right now are his fellow richies and a deep-seeded anger and resentment, pervasive throughout the GOP/Teatroll base, that we have a liberal, educated, black POTUS who functions as a giant reminder that the country won't be white-majority for very much longer. Oopsy, guess you shouldn't have spent over half a century alienating minorities with BS like the "southern strategy" and attacking social safety net programs as if they're only used/abused by minorities. Good thing you GOPers/Teatrolls have decided to ramp up all the hate speak and attempts to attenuate minority rights with nonsense like the birth certificate issue, immigration, refusing to believe the POTUS is christian, voter ID laws, baseless and unsupported accusations of widespread voter fraud, and the upcoming meme of accusing Obama of being an anti-white radical (Jabberwocky Barbie and Fox have already started) to coincide with the conservative SCOTUS turning back the clock 50+ years SCOTUS precedent regarding on affirmative action. If there's anything that will help you fix the problem of demographic shifts towards groups of people you've alienated with your policies and rhetoric, it's trying to attenuate their rights and render them in an attempt to simply bury them?

    March 14, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  10. Bob

    Romney's case for being President: "It's my turn, for Pete's sake!"

    March 14, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  11. JuanVonDinklus

    If you don't have a consistent message, then there is nothing to fix. Romney is a product of his own making. Kind of like trying to turn a horse into a zebra – just painting black and white stripes on the horse, doesn't make it a zebra.

    March 14, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Coming up with a message that will appeal to voters is not hard. Audit the Fed and get them to stop printing money. Go to zero-based budgeting, and take any shortfalls out of unnecessary departments like HUD, HHS, Commerce, Transportation, and HUD. Oh, and EPA, of course. Kill all regulations enacted by Obama. Secure the border. That's enough to get anybody elected - even Mitt.

    March 14, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  13. Wvazoe

    ' fix your message'
    ie: get one and stick to it.

    March 14, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    edit:

    confident he will make it happen in the General Election."

    And I'm confident he's going to get slapped around like an ornery 2 year old, which will prompt the MSM to do even more on his behalf to help keep it a tight race on which they can report breathlessly and with much drama. Robot Mittens and his avoid-a-position position on everything. The only things driving his campaign right now are his fellow richies and a deep-seeded anger and resentment, pervasive throughout the GOP/Teatroll base, that we have a liberal, educated, black POTUS who functions as a giant reminder that the country won't be white-majority for very much longer. Oopsy, guess you shouldn't have spent over half a century alienating minorities with BS like the "southern strategy" and attacking social safety net programs as if they're only used/abused by minorities. Good thing you GOPers/Teatrolls have decided to ramp up all the hate speak and attempts to attenuate minority rights with nonsense like the birth certificate issue, immigration, refusing to believe the POTUS is christian, voter ID laws, baseless and unsupported accusations of widespread voter fraud, and the upcoming meme of accusing Obama of being an anti-white radical (Jabberwocky Barbie and Fox have already started) to coincide with the conservative SCOTUS turning back the clock on 50+ years of SCOTUS precedent regarding affirmative action. If there's anything that will help you fix the problem of demographic shifts towards groups of people you've alienated with your policies and rhetoric, it's trying to attenuate their rights and render them powerless. Good thinking. Why try to reverse course and stop alienating them when you can just turn it all up to 11 in an attempt to simply bury them?

    March 14, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  15. Russ

    FOUR AND THE DOOR.......are you freaking kidding? What the hell have you been drinking. Or maybe you're one of the 1% that Mittens will look out for. Yes, his experience like all rich business people has turned from job creating to profit taking. There is a big difference. I doubt you can understand that. He will continue to help his billionaire friends get more for less. Meaning cut staff, they can do more with less because it helps the bottom line, take bigger profits for your shareholders and screw creating jobs that will cost the company money. You're an idiot in ever sense of the word.

    March 14, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  16. Hair bear

    This just goes to show you, the great state of Florida got it wrong! Romney puts up a good act blue jeans plaid shirt not sure about the sneakers. All fake appearances! This is a guy who likes to fire people! He thinks he's got this campaign wrapped up in his favor. They forgot to tell him it's not over yet!

    March 14, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  17. Brad Arnsparger

    The Romney-Primary Ordeal – The GEEK FACTOR: Everyone has talked of Romney not being able to seal-the-deal (it's allegedly his "lack of conservative following..."). How bout', flat out, ordinary-people in mainstream America do not connect with him as he is obviously from the affluent and Upper-Crust elements – in ways, boasts about it. Truly, people don't dislike him personally for that...they just cannot see a person such as him representing the thrust of America. It's that simple. As well, (and nobody has once mentioned it...), Mit has a bit of the Geek-Factor too attached to him; his speaking characteristics and mannerisms – "Hi GUYS...thank you GUYS..." as he waves to crowds. Who does that? Mit... Geek and Presidential are not in the same bucket. Just sayen' [the geek factor is sort of like house-shopping; some houses have immediate curb-appeal and character; some need work.] Mit needs work and mainstream America sees it.

    March 14, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  18. John B.

    GoPers to Romney: You aren't telling us the lies that make us swoon. Tell us better lies!

    March 14, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  19. Detada

    I'm still yawning....

    March 14, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  20. dreamer96

    I'm not voting for a GOP candidate this time around..
    but many American religious extremist will..
    ....even if their GOP Candidate grows a beard,
    ....and even if their GOP Candidate starts wearing a turban,
    ....and even if their GOP Candidate starts calling himself the Supreme American Religious Leader...

    March 14, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  21. Mr. Izz

    Ok, people, I know you're not that dense. You are bashing Romney for talking about grits and things. Can you really not tell that he is making fun of himself? Everyone knows it, he knows it, and yet he gets this "backlash" because of it. Why are those meaningless quotes the only thing from his speeches that we hear? The media only shows the parts they want to, and apparently the people only hear the things they want to.

    Romney is talking about health care, the economy, and jobs. That is his message. It's about the "promise of America." Having the future be better for our children and ourselves than it is today. I haven't heard his every speech, but I can understand the gist of what he is running on. It isn't about vomiting when it comes to separation of church and state, it isn't about a moon base, and it isn't about these relentless social problems that keep coming up. What is Santorum running on? Social issues, the "republican base," his idea that he can fix Washington because he's been there but was an outsider when he was there? Sure, he is appealing to the deep south and strongly religious people, but that's not how you win elections; especially when you need to appeal to America. Not some deep south states.

    Has everyone already forgotten the massive gaffes that Santorum has said? People going to college are snobs? That one of the most famous and incredible speeches ever given made him want to throw up? It's even slightly humorous when he claims he is going to compete everywhere, when he can't because of his terrible lack of organization in several places, and isn't even on the ballot. But he's the average joe, right? Don't worry about his kids in private school, or that he's a millionaire, and that he has a couple of collegiate degrees. Remember his six or seven jobs he held last year? He's just like us! ... apparently.

    Romney's gaffes are just related to talking about a couple of cars, mentioning grits, having wealthy friends, touching on the height of trees, etc. These are not what I would call gaffes. If you want to talk about gut reactions, look at Santorum's "gut." Sure, you know where he stands, but it scares you if you think what he would be wanting/willing to do as President of the most powerful nation on earth.

    Considering that I am Republican, I am thankful for Democratic voters. Without you, we would have had a crazy theocracy a while ago, and this country would have been destroyed. Who am I voting for? I want Romney to be the Republican candidate. Beyond that, I really don't care. While I do prefer Romney, I have no problems voting for Obama. So Romney or Obama... or I'm moving to Canada. Personally, I want someone that is somewhat moderate and middle of the road. I want someone that can compromise, and be willing to work through all the issues in front of them. I want someone that can run for the President of the United States... not for president of a particular party. If I was wanting party presidents, then Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher would be the front runners in 2012 from each side.

    Do we want an average Joe in the White House? I don't!!! I think we should want the elite. We want smart, intelligent, moral and financially stable individuals in charge of our country. Why financially stable? If they can be like that in their own lives, then they will be like that in the White House. Simple. Why moral? It's about doing the right thing, not about doing the right thing that my party will like.

    Do I think Obama is doing an awful job as a president? No, not at all. While I'm not jumping up and down parading around campaigning for him, I think he is a decent individual, intelligent, a family man, and it seems like he is trying to do the right thing for America. Even going against what his party wants. That means a lot more to me than whether or not we should invest in a moon base.

    So those of you who have read this far. Keep in mind that not all Republicans are crazy right wing religious nuts. I want a better country. If that is through Obama, I will support him. If that is through Romney, I'll support him as well. I don't want to nominate someone just to debate Obama, or "take it to him." I want someone that is going to focus on real issues, and put forward real plans.

    March 14, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  22. Debby

    This isn't Romney's fault. He has pounded away on the economy at town hall meetings, rallies, debates and you name it. It has to do with what was mentioned above in the article he is a Mormon thats why he isn't getting the bible belt votes. He is the best candidate to lead and that should be taken into consideration vs. his religion.

    March 14, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  23. Ken Puck

    I don't know what's holding up a coherent message from Mitt. Audit the Fed and get them to stop printing money. Go to zero-based budgeting. Cut taxes. Get rid of unnecessary regulations. He seems tongue-tied and obsesses about trivia.

    March 14, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  24. listenup3076

    Mitt Romney knows the private sector? Anyone making that point should do a little research. One Mitt Romney inherited his wealth. He did not create it himself. Two Mr. Romney is a corporate raider. He shuts down companies ships the jobs to China and destroys peoples pensions. If our economic policy as a country is to lose jobs and destroy pensions while kissing up to corporate america Mr Romney is perfect.

    March 14, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  25. Scott

    As other poster's have put it, Romney has a better chance of switching sides and running as a moderate than convincing the GOP that he is one of them, and that he is as conservative as they want any candidate to be. Sucking up to the conservatives is going to hurt any candidate in the general election, because most of the U.S. cares about more than just socail issues.

    March 14, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10