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:

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. Robert

    As long as Gingrich stays in the race, he will continue to leech votes off of Santorum, giving Romney the boost he needs. If Gingrich can't see that, then he is not smart enough to be the Prez.

    March 14, 2012 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  2. Four and The Door

    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.
    Sure, Mitt's father was successful. He started as a carpenter and ended up running American Motors, now merged into Chrysler. I have a tough time figuring out why Mitt's father's success has anything to do with the 2012 campaign, but it is important to you and so I want to verify that for you.

    But you are dead wrong about how Bain Capital's business. Here are some of the companies you say shipped all of their jobs to China: Staples, Michaels, Bright Horizons, The Sports Authority, Dunkin' Donuts, The Burlington Coat Factory...

    March 14, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  3. moe

    I'll abstain from voting rather than cast a vote for mittens.

    March 14, 2012 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  4. sbssue1

    Stop Panicking, you could not have said it better. I love every word you wrote. Yes, profit is what makes the world go round, but "them folks" aren't smart enough to know that.

    March 14, 2012 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  5. informed voter

    Romney doesn't deserve to be president. Our government is not a for profit company, and we don't need a CEO to run things. We need a diplomat, a leader, someone who is smart, nuanced, has empathy for those who have less than him (or her). Right now we have been blessed by that very kind of leader. President Barack Obama 2012. There is no other rational choice.

    March 14, 2012 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  6. W.G.

    I liked that photo op in Alabama where romney was trying to relate to the crowd of hillbillies who´re famous
    for "shooting themselves in the foot " You know , poor and middle-class republicans . He introduced one
    of the members of the band Alabama and said " Wouldn´t you like to hear him sing "Sweet Home Alabama "?
    His message is the same message that all the other republican candidates are espousing . Give more money
    to the rich , step on the poor and "trickle Down on them ". He just says it more Stupidly than the others .

    March 14, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  7. So Cal Guy

    I think Mitt needs to stay on these 3 message points:

    – Let's bring business to government, not government to business
    – Let's bring capitalism and smaller, efficient government back; and leave socialism, big government, and high debt behind
    – I want every American to be successful; give everyone the opportunity to let their hard work pay off

    March 14, 2012 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  8. EBall

    Message fixed, now what?!

    March 14, 2012 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  9. Bobby

    Mitts faith is just like baptist or Pentecostal or even catholic so why does everyone judge. I will tell you it is because of ignorance. If he was not conservative and cared why give so much to charity. Ones faith is their business, Americans never questioned obamas faith, a man that want even salute the flag our men and women die to protect. We need to realize the republicans need to swallow their pride and quit bickering. Because it is time to beat obamas our future is at stake, be men, sit down and think about us for once not yourselves.

    March 14, 2012 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  10. Four and The Door

    44% of registered GOPers are unhappy with Mitt.
    Because they voted for someone else? I don't think so. It means that for any of a variety of reasons they agree more with the other candidate. When Mitt faces Obama, I feel pretty good about Mitt's chances with that 44%.

    March 14, 2012 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  11. Debbie

    I was a Republican for 35 years. I've been an Independent for 2 years. The GOP field has offered zero candidates for me to vote for. All extreamists either socially, religously, or economically.

    March 14, 2012 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  12. korkea aika

    Let Romney be Romney and he will fire everyone.

    March 14, 2012 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  13. LDRP

    The Republicans have lost my vote this year. I will not vote for any of these candidates, period.

    March 14, 2012 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  14. Slightly Left of Center

    Fix his message? You mean he actually HAS a message? Well, what is it? Tell me, tell me...cuz I haven't figured it out.

    March 14, 2012 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  15. C.N.

    Romney is as conservative as Santorum. He will fight for traditional marriage, he is pro-life, and he received the Canterbury Medal of Religious Freedom from the Becket Group for his work as Governor of Mass. in defending the conservative values in 2008. In fact, there is a letter signed by six of the Ambassadors to the Vatican, that defends Romney from the attacks that he is liberal, by saying that the work and defense he gave for traditional/conservative values was enormous in the State of Mass. Romney will govern our nation as the most qualified candidate my baby-boomer generation has ever seen. (And that's saying a lot, as I voted for Reagan!).

    March 14, 2012 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  16. Donkey Talk

    Mitt is really the best suited to take on the challenges of trying to fix our country. Apparently, many in the party have given other factors and biases higher levels of importance.

    March 14, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  17. Cindy

    It doesn't matter what Romney says. The republican south will never vote for him. He is a Morman and evangelical leaders are saying he is not a christian. (Like Franklin Graham) Republicans in the South will never vote for him. There are people in the south that would vote for a Mormon, but they are democrats.

    March 14, 2012 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  18. T'sah from Virginia

    ►TRENDING: Republicans to Romney: Fix your message◄
    The only problem with that is he has NO MESSAGE!!
    He's all over the place trying everything with more than one face
    And in the end "he forgets" what he said yesterday – what a disgrace!!

    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!

    March 14, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  19. Sam

    Of course Gingrich "sees it". Gingrich is only in the race to split the conservative vote to benefit Romney. Gingrich has one rich casino operator donating millions to his PAC, and that casion owner is a Romney supporter. He's financing Gingrich to help Romney. I'm sure there's a payoff for Gingrich when it's all over. Probably another lucrative "consultant" gig.

    March 14, 2012 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  20. Newmoon2

    The problem is Romney doesn't HAVE a message. He's not running for president because he has grand ideas or a vision. He's wants the 'trophy' of being president... there is no message.

    March 14, 2012 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  21. Dan

    Romney would be better off if he would stick to his guns and stop trying to be all things to all people.The people that will not vote for him will not vote for him no matter what he does.Be yourself and bring a new base to the GOP,stop trying to get other peoples votes.You have turned yourself inside out trying to be someone else for votes that belong to someone else.If your message is something you believe in stick to it and they will come.It is just sad watching a Duck turn itself into a chicken just to appeal to a bunch of chickens.Be a Duck and Quack as loud as possible.Good Luck and hope to hear you Quack Your own message.

    March 14, 2012 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  22. Natalie

    Keep beating your tired old drum there, 4 & the Door and get use to your new name, 4 More!

    March 14, 2012 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  23. Terry

    Romney is a complete phony. He will say whaterver he thinks his supporters want to hear, the billionaire football team and NASCAR team owners . He is very uncomfortable around the average working man/woman because he has nothing to offer us!!! Eating grits does not make him any more appealing.

    March 14, 2012 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  24. ThinkAgain

    No amount of "tweaking" will fix the FACT that the GOP has nothing to offer our country except anger, fear, hatred and division.

    Lord knows they don't have a record of accomplishment to run on, because all of their economic, military and foreign policies are PROVEN FAILURES.

    March 14, 2012 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  25. ThinkAgain

    "As long as Gingrich stays in the race, he will continue to leech votes off of Santorum, giving Romney the boost he needs. If Gingrich can't see that, then he is not smart enough to be the Prez."

    Gingrich knows exactly what he's doing: Angling to be a power broker at the GOP convention in August, in the hopes of securing a cushy gig should Mittens get elected.

    Of course, as long as Dems, Independents and thinking Republicans vote for President Obama to continue the economic recovery and all the other positive steps forward (as opposed to voting for Repubs who will take us back to the failed policies that got us into this mess in the first place), all this GOP primary nonsense will soon be but a distance, albeit disturbing dream.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    March 14, 2012 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
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