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. BBear1

    It's not the message. It's the messenger.

    March 14, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "Mr. Romney is a corporate raider. He shuts down companies ships the jobs to China and destroys peoples pensions. "

    Well, duh...that's precisely what conservatives/GOPers/Teatrolls/the 1% want to hire him to do to the federal government.

    March 14, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  3. Satberry

    Ten percent of Willard's problem is the message,the other ninety percent is Willard.That is the biggest problem.

    March 14, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  4. sbssue1

    Mitt needs to just be himself. He's trying to win over everyone and no one likes everyone. I only wish Ginrich would get behind Mitt and work Santorum out of the picture. Santorum is the real threat here.

    March 14, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  5. B'smsg

    I think that Obama can get women to vote for them by buying them with contraceptives. My goodness, women are much deeper than that. Women can spot a man trying to sway them and wooo them – but women are wiser than that.

    President Obama has made many promises to make life better – 3 years has gone by and it is not better, not safer, nor less expensive.

    WOMEN are all about trust and following through - anyone can see that the cost to give away goodies to millions of women is not in the U.S. budget and more than likely - will be short lived or an empty BOX OF Chocloates!

    It is like giving a fancy box of chocolates - and opening it later that day, to discover one half chewed on candy and a bunch of empty candy wrappers.

    March 14, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "studies have shown a correlation between a person's gait (walk) and financial status. if you take long slow strides= poor. if you take short choppy steps = rich. check out how romney walks."

    Mittens doesn't walk. He talks. As for moving from point A to point B, Mittens prefers to sit in the middle and pretend to be in both places at once.

    March 14, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  7. sbssue1

    By the way, what is Conservative anyway???? Everyone keeps tossing the word out and no one really knows what it means.................................Stick to the topics and forget trying to be nice Mitt, I think that will work in your favor. People don't like nice......this race has proved that.

    March 14, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  8. native new yorker

    As a dyed-in-the-wool LIBERAL, I'll never vote for Mr. 1%. However I agree with the conservatives that Mitt probably isn't as conservative as he wants them to believe. I wish he'd just admit to being a moderate (since when is that a bad thing like liberal allegedly is) and stand up for it, in spite of the rabid condemnation this would bring him from the self-righteous right. There are more American voters than far right wingers. Come out of the moderate closet Mitt.

    March 14, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  9. Dave

    @ Four – There is a big difference between tasking over companies, shrinking their expenses and making a profit off of them and the economy. Mittens DETROYED Massachusetts leaving them with a 1 Billion (that Billion) in the hole. He was such a lousy gov that he did not even thry to run for re-election. Please get your facts straight before spewing out Romney's talking points

    March 14, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  10. Dave

    This article, like many others on CNN, is bogus. Romney has more votes, states and delegates, and yet the liberal media treats him like an underdog. Give me a break.

    March 14, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  11. Stop panicking!

    Rick Santorum has won a few western and southern states. This is not a trend. It's two out of 50 states, plus a bunch of territories. He is so far behind in the delegate count that if Mitt quit today, he might just catch up. He is the darling of the conservative movement, but the conservative religious movement does not have enough votes in it to put him anywhere near a nomination, especially with Newt screwing things up. What these guys don't realize is that the vast majority of Americans do not want a religious conservative as their president. If either Santorum or Gingrich run against Obama, it will be an incredibly embarrassing loss for the Republican party. That's what they get for allowing themselves to be hijacked by the hyper conservative right. If Mitt runs, they'll still lose, but it'll at least look like they had a fighting chance. Sorry Santorum. You might play well in the trailer parks of Mississippi, but out in the world where people have all their teeth and educations above the 6th grade, you are a non-starter.

    March 14, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  12. Four and The Door

    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.
    _______________________________________________________________________________________________
    Gee Russ. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but companies do not go into business or stay in business to create jobs except for maybe if someone like myself starts a company because running it is the job I want to do. In any event, companies go into business to make profits. And hold onto your hat because this may be a tough one to swallow, but profits are what the government taxes and American company profits are the strength of our economy. Yes, profits are good. Very good. For everyone. Profits create more jobs. Profits are not greed. Profits mean that a company is contributing to the economy and that is critical. Romney 2012!

    March 14, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  13. sbssue1

    Native NY: Please explain Conservative and then Moderate.................most folks toss the words and don't know the meaning. Think????

    March 14, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  14. Charlie from the North

    Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!

    Yeah I did but where did you put it?

    March 14, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  15. IndependentMom

    My message to Romney:

    No matter how much money to spend on negative ads, you will not be able to buy the presidency. You are out of touch with Americans, and we know it.

    March 14, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  16. IndependentMom

    @Stop Panicking: Sir, Rick Santorum has WON MORE than 2 STATES!

    Santorum won IN: Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado, Wisconsin. And he will win in Louisiana.

    44% of registered GOPers are unhappy with Mitt.

    March 14, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  17. John

    All you Republican having a hard time picking a front running, Because they are all Clowns.

    March 14, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  18. Facepalm28

    My note to Mitt R: a week or so of "grits, catfish, and ya'll" is not going to win you any points. While it's not as bizarre as your "trees are the right height" comment in Michigan, this sort of thing is still the most obvious and blatant form of pandering. Everyone can tell you're just putting on an act to try and impress the South; even Republican voters are smarter than that.

    March 14, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  19. IndependentMom

    PS. Santorum ALSO WON....... in KENTUCKY!

    March 14, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  20. Robert

    It's really unfortunate that voters in the South--and Evangelical voters in particular--continue to get their ideas about Mormons from worn-out gossip, feeding off each other with myths and stereotypes rather than honestly investigating what their faith truly believes from the people themselves.

    March 14, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  21. Olaf Big

    Well, until the republican race is settled, Mitt Romney cannot talk about his success as Massachusets Governor, because one of his main achievements was healthcare reform, which is a lot like Obama's healthcare reform, which makes republican right apoplexic. So, the best thing republican establishment can do to help Romney sound like presidential material is to tell Newt and Rick to quit. Mittens is talking numbers for a good reason. He is trying to drive the message that like him or not, he is going to get the nomination. With all the talk about brokered convention it is hard to see how it can be brokered away from him if he keeps adding votes with each primary, win or lose.

    March 14, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  22. Taylor

    B'smsg

    I think that Obama can get women to vote for them by buying them with contraceptives. My goodness, women are much deeper than that. Women can spot a man trying to sway them and wooo them – but women are wiser than that.

    President Obama has made many promises to make life better – 3 years has gone by and it is not better, not safer, nor less expensive.

    WOMEN are all about trust and following through – anyone can see that the cost to give away goodies to millions of women is not in the U.S. budget and more than likely – will be short lived or an empty BOX OF Chocloates!

    It is like giving a fancy box of chocolates – and opening it later that day, to discover one half chewed on candy and a bunch of empty candy wrappers.

    March 14, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
    Sniffit
    I am women and I will vote for Obama anything time. Some of the promise he had made he follow through. Some was block from the REP.......you don't know what you are talking about. You just a seed on this post. But its not going to work. Good try but no cigar.........

    March 14, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  23. Is Mitt a Git?

    Well, the cat's out of the bag on his new campaign strategy. Won't work, and if we hear him shift his message then it will only be because he was told to do so, not because he believes in and supports his message.

    March 14, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  24. sftommy

    The GOP social message appeals only to extremists, the GOP fiscal message appeals only to the very very rich. No room for moderate working tax payers in the GOP plans. No room for Romney and his moderate concerns for Americans. No room for moderate voters to elect GOP.

    March 14, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  25. alex

    NO amount of tweaking is going to help Romney. He is trying to be someone other than himself. He is more liberal than conservative. He should run as an independent or even as a democrat. He had a pretty decent record in MA with Romney care, his positions on Abortion, women rights etc.. Conservative republicans know he is FAKE!!!! and in his attempt to satisfy the extreme right wing he is alienating the Independence vote which is critical in November. Either way, he is Toast in November. All that money wasted...

    March 14, 2012 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10