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. jesse james. take them to street and shoot them like the dogs they are

    What message he has none. Obama/ biden the only way to go

    March 14, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  2. Tano

    ...Sorry, Romney cannot do anything against southern evangelical bigots who simply dislike Mormons... Let's face it, Romney didn't win there because of that, not because of his message. His message is better than Santorum and Gingrich, and his experience is even better, but he can't do anything against bigoted people, you just can't fix that in a couple of days. I wish most evangelicals actually knew what they were talking when they refer to Mormons, then we would have a country with truly conservative and logical principles, not just fanatical idiosyncrasy on their part.

    March 14, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain

    "No room for Romney and his moderate concerns for Americans."

    Mittens was once upon a time a socially-progressive Republican, but, like John McCain crawling on his knees back to Karl Rove and Jerry Falwell, Mittens has proven he's willing to do anything to get the GOP nomination. Mittens also doesn't know diddly about helping our country: all he knows is how to break up American companies, lay off American workers and ship American jobs overseas.


    Obama/Biden 2012

    March 14, 2012 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  4. Quercus42

    Newt should drop out so the conservatives can get behind Santorum.
    Ron Paul should drop out and run as an independent, siphoning off GOP votes.
    Then it would be fun to watch a brokered GOP convention.

    But Mitt will probably get the nod. So far none of the candidates have displayed any leadership qualities. They all had an opportunity to demonstrate leadership by coming out against Rush, but none did - probably because none had the courage.

    Mitt is a hostile takeover exec. As leader of the free world, I wonder how many countries he will invade. Scary.

    March 14, 2012 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain

    @B'smsg: You are the one who doesn't understand that women recognize that President Obama wants to continue living in THIS century where women can decide what to do with their own bodies.

    You are also ignorant: The cost savings of providing contraception far outweighs the cost of contraceptives themselves (that's why so many private insurance companies cover it – including the employees of Georgetown University, a private Catholic university).

    Intelligent women understand this ... and that the GOP wants nothing better than to turn the clock back on them.

    March 14, 2012 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  6. MBSeattle

    Too much money Too much mud. Take the PAC money away and you will get issues.

    March 14, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  7. Sunnysmom

    Uh, besides "vote for me I'm not Obama" what IS his message??

    March 14, 2012 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  8. Trusting Soul

    Wait doesn't he already have two messages – "The other guys are so bad" and "I'll say anything to get elected" ?

    Perhaps he should merge the two messages into one – "I'll say anything to get elected, but the other guys are worse"

    March 14, 2012 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  9. Matt S

    When Romney responds to the Gun Owners Of America survey that has been sent to him twice (all of the other candidates responded) and comes out against the U.N. small arms treaty (as every other candidate running for the nomination has) then he will win a lot of conservatives over. The only reason to hide his standing on this is that he is anti Second Amendment and that will absolutely destroy him with the conservative base which is pro gun.

    March 14, 2012 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  10. goodlife

    romney will win just as much if he were to cut his campaign spending like he want to cut govt spending..

    March 14, 2012 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  11. CAWinMD

    Except Romney's economic proposals are a disaster, and people are smart enough to know that "paeans to American exceptionalism" aren't nearly enough to qualify you as leader of the free world. If Romney would go back to being the guy who led Massachusetts rather than the pandering fool he has become in order to court a Republican base that don't like him no matter what he does, he would have a much better chance of winning this election.

    March 14, 2012 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  12. Alger Dave

    Let's continue the 'troublesome narrative', shall we? It's becoming very clear that conservatives won't vote for Romney in the primaries. The big question is, will they vote for him in November? Probably not – and why? Because conservatives felt like they took one for the team in McCain. And McCain was a guy who's record was straight (and not particularly conservative). Romney's record is all over the place – making him total untrustworthy for conservatives. His only positive is that he's an economics guy – a fixer. And now it's looking more and more like November won't be so much about the economy (as it's rapidly improving). The GOP sure better hope it's not anyway, because if it is, they'll lose...

    March 14, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  13. Chris

    Romney does not connect with working class America, listening to Romney is like pulling teeth (Painful)! I am not a democrat, but who do you choose when your party doesn't give you a decent candidate. I can't stand what Obama is doing to this country. Unless the Republican party gets off their duff and gives us a candidate both conservatives and moderates can get behind we don't have a chance!

    Of the three main candidates the only one that has any real charisma is Newt. Unfortunately he has so much baggage he will never get the nomination. Santorum is a too conservative for the elitists and moderates. Of the three choices we have though, I would say Santorum connects with working class America and hard core conservatives the best.

    I predict we will unfortunately see another 4 years of Obama. Too many in this party are just indifferent to the poor choices we have been given.

    March 14, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  14. Joseph Smith

    I think Mitt should start talking about the White Horse Prophecy and how it means the LDS church will rule the USA in a theocracy when be becomes POTUS. That will define his campaign...

    March 14, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  15. .

    Vote Republican in 2012. Put the public sector unions out of business.

    March 14, 2012 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  16. Mike

    I'm in Illinois and we vote next Tuesday. So far today, 2 robocalls from the Romney camp, both attacks on Santorium. So if Mitt is the Republican candidate, can I expect from him besides attack ads on Obama? If he's elected, can I assume instead of attack ads he'll just issue attack orders?

    March 14, 2012 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  17. Justin

    Well flip floppin' Mitt won't have a problem changing his message.. The guy is a seasoned pro.

    March 14, 2012 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  18. Vence

    What a waste of money!

    March 14, 2012 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  19. Vence

    The magic wand for Romney is the Latino vote! Sadly he lost it flip-floping!

    March 14, 2012 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  20. Andy

    Perhaps if the media reported more of his campaign speeches and fewer stories about his "remoteness", people would get to know him better.

    March 14, 2012 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  21. Bob

    The fact that Newt's message of 2.50 a gallon of gas resonates with GOP voters shows what sheeple they are. AS FOX NEWS SAID when Bush was President and gas was over $4.00, the President doesn't set the price of oil and can't control it. So saying the gas will magically be made $2.50 when he becomes President is just giving the base a lie they know is false but are willing to believe despite all common sense and data. It's just like how they've convinced themselves that climate change is phony. It's easier for them to believe that tens of thousands of scientists over the last forty years in dozens of different (and competing) countries decided to commit a fraud and called each other on their "scientist radios" to coordinate the biggest conspiracy. And they infiltrated the Bush administration when they had a study trying to disprove it. That conspiracy even got to the Koch Brothers own study. They also recruited all but a single media outlet to their cause. They inexplicably find that easier to believe than a handful of billionaires and oil companies have "scientists" on their staff type up a non-peer reviewed report that magically supports the position that makes the most money for their employers.

    March 14, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  22. czar33

    Who wants Romney he is just worried about his family. MARK my words, if he wins his ‘5’ golden boy sons will get better jobs, make more money, trips around the world, etc…… I guess we need to make the super wealthy wealthier.
    Also Romney is a draft-dodger; he used his religion to get away with serving. I guess we all should become Mormon to avoid serving in the military! What will happen to the United States of America if we all become Mormon?
    I just lost a friend to stage-4 pancreatic cancer, if there is a God above, I hope the same happens to Romney and his ‘golden sons’ I hope they all rot and suffer with the most horrific pain!
    If Romney thinks he is so great for the USA, he needs to man-up. He should put his ‘5’ golden boy sons life’s on the line. Example: If Romney breaks his promises to the people of the USA, his family should go before a firing squad. This is crazy, but it is one way to keep him to his promises. If he makes his rich friends and family wealthier buy pulling strings, execute his golden boys!

    March 14, 2012 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  23. Shecky

    Romney will be the next President of the United States.

    March 14, 2012 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  24. TownC

    It's amazing a wealthy northern Mormon Romney got so many votes in Miss. and Ala. The fact that he did so well is the story not the fact that he barely lost. Romney did pick up more delegates yesterday than any of the other candidates. Mitt will beat Mr. Obama in the fall. Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!

    March 14, 2012 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  25. Ron

    Too late, fellas. The damage is already done. President Obama will wiin re-election by landslide. Republicans will be rid of the tea party. And, all will be well in the US of A.

    March 14, 2012 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
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