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

    Strategist say talk about lower gas prices...well that didn't work did it. Inevitable nominee by doing the math...that didn't work either. So what seems to be working...whining, crying, and complaining. Out of the three candidates, Santorum is the least capable, skilled, or ready to manage a nation but he sure can whine the best, cry the most, and complain a storm. We already have a president like that why do we need another one.

    March 14, 2012 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  2. 60minuteman

    Fix your message Romney. Tell us what you are going to do for rich white males and who you will expect to pay for it.

    March 14, 2012 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  3. quieteye

    Spin a better story Mr. Romney,

    Americans love good stories and will vote accordingly.

    Doesn't matter much about truth or facts. Its if you look good and sound good. And not too complicated – like life.

    March 14, 2012 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  4. Mike

    Romney can't focus on a message cause he has nothing to present the people, he is so out of touch with the average American, most know if Newt dropped out Rick woul dbe taking most races with over 50% of the vote and have a great shot at winning the nomination, regardless of Romney's claim he has this thing wrappped up..............

    March 14, 2012 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  5. roger

    tell the voters this...tell the voters that...say this to the convention. What you say is more important than any personal beliefs. There is not telling what is in the mind of that plastic man, but many of us independents will vote for 4 more yrs of chicago style corruption before we elect a leftist in disguise.

    March 14, 2012 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  6. helenecha

    Oh, it's over. Positively, 4 Republican candidates didn't risk losing the supports from the conservatives. Congratulations!

    March 14, 2012 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  7. TJeff1776

    Santorum biggest problem IS advocating combining Church and State. He stated that John Kennedy's speech about keeping Church and State seperate made him "throw up". The ONLY way I can interpret THAT is that he want the Catholic Church to absorb the U. S. of A. Does anyone translate that different than me ?????

    March 14, 2012 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  8. tp1776

    I'm from Massachusetts. I never voted for Romney but I'll give that he was a good governor here and he did some good things and presented himself as a professional. IMHO he cast his lot with the wrong party. He and his campaign wise guys decided to shed his successful Massachusetts approach and tack right to win the nomination. If he had changed his affiliation to Democrat, where he really belongs, he might be President now (imagine a 2008 campaign between Romney, Clinton and Obama) or he'd be the man to beat in 2016. Instead he's been whoring after conservative votes and it's plain and obvious and stupid. Too bad, he might have been a very worthwhile President.

    March 14, 2012 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  9. sittingduck

    How many times have Romney's handlers re-made their candidate now? They need to pick a person for him to be and stick with it.

    March 14, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  10. tcaros

    Say stupid things so the conservatives can vote for you.

    March 14, 2012 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  11. Thomas

    In order for a party to select a leader, a leader must run. This year the Republicans find themselves wanting in that department.

    March 14, 2012 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  12. Tom Rogers

    The problem with Mitt isn't the message, it's the messenger. Here's the thing, he has no record of espousing conservative causes or more importantly an articulated history of what needs to be fixed in the US. He does have a record of saying or doing whatever he thinks will get him elected. Even when he was pretending to be a conservative in 2008, I supported John McCain because he was on record opposing the fiscal recklessness of the Bush led Republican ascendancy. I would much rather have someone in office who could convince me he/she recognized the big problem of the day and not wprry so much about whether or not I agree with every part of his solution, than a guy who's going to go into office and whatever he thinks would seduce his audience into voting him or doing whatever will get him relected. It's not a matter of applying an ideological purity test, so much as a sanity test.

    March 14, 2012 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  13. Riotous

    Lessee...Mittens now wants to DO AWAY with Planned Parenthood. Just get rid of it.

    Next up will be laws against contraception.

    The Republican war on women goes on.

    2012 is going to be a rude wake up call for the likes of rich, out-of-touch old men like Romney.

    March 14, 2012 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  14. Randy, San Francisco

    The problem is that Romney is trying too hard to appeal to the ultral social conservatives in his party. He is caught between a hard rock and a hard place because of serious challenges from Santorum and Gingrich. As a moderate, his conservative message seems forced and not genuine...just like hs attempts to identify with the common man.

    March 14, 2012 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  15. rasjr1957

    The GOP has to quit worrying about conservatives, because in november they will mean nothing most americans are swing voters. That what you need to worry about and at this rate no republican stands a chance. There message is simple impoverish everybody but the rich make us a 3rd world nation. That's been there goal since Reagan ruin it for the working people bring back slavery while hiding behind religion.

    March 14, 2012 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  16. jim

    As a non american, i speak for the rest of the world when I say vote RON PAUL. The fact that the other three get so much more attention show us (outside the US) how biased and controlled your media is....he is the strongest candidate by far and his treatment amongst the corporate controlled american media is so alarming.....if its not ron, expect obama.....if its not ron, change your name to the ussa, because your going to crack like the russians. OPEN YOUR EYES

    March 14, 2012 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  17. Tom

    Romney calls Pres. Obama a "failed president," when, in fact, Romney is a failed candidate for president.

    March 14, 2012 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  18. John 3:16

    Romney is a fake. Plain and simple. The southern voters could see it, I can see, a blind man can see it. He is the guy you can't warm up to......

    March 14, 2012 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  19. Hawk in Texas

    I wonder just how many people see that santorum is just G.W. bush heavy. if you thought the 8 years of the Shrub were bad think what will happen if santorum was elected. no medicare, no social sercuity, no public education, instant iran war. etc.etc.

    March 14, 2012 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  20. Chandra

    Now that the economy is showing strong signs of improvements (stock markets, jobs, corporate profits, retail sales) Mitt Romney has no other strategy other than to tell his audience he is the man to beat the President. For what reason?

    March 14, 2012 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    Official GOP Primary Campaign Strategies
    --------------------
    Mitt Romney: Vote for me! Its inevitable!
    Newt Gingrich: Vote for me! Its impossible!
    Rick Santorum: Vote for me! Its inconceivable!
    Ron Paul: Vote for me! Its inconsequential!

    March 14, 2012 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  22. SVB

    The constant media spin againt Romney makes me want to throw up. Lets get something straight. Mitt Romney had a GOOD night lastnight. Was it dissapointing to his supporters? Sure it was. We would have liked to have seen him win Miss and Al. But these were states that he was never supposed to win in the first place. In fact the long established conventional wisdom was that Romney would do poorly in the South. This is supposed to be his weakest part of the country afterall. And yet, Romney came within 3 points of winning Mississippi! He won the same percentage of Evangelicals in that state as Rick Santorum! He tied for second in Alabama! These are remarkably strong results for Mitt Romney in what were supposed to be his two most hostile states. That very same night he went on to dominate Hawaii and American Samoa. Mitt Romney won half the contests Tuesday night and actually INCREASED his delegate lead. But you don't hear about that in the MSM do you? If this is what a "bad night" looks like for Romney then, he's a much stronger candidate than he gets credit for.

    March 14, 2012 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  23. SVB

    Newt Gingrich is a very self-absorbed, egotistical, selfish man. His campaign has admitted that he can not win and that his only purpose in this race is to deny Romney the nomination. His campaign is driven by a personal vendetta now. Ironically his self-centered selfishnes has blinded him to the fact that his staying in the race may actually be helping Romney win the nomination.

    March 14, 2012 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  24. kgt

    Republicans to Romney: Fix your message – the problem with this headline is that Romney can "fix his message" all he wants, but in the end he's still just a moderate from the northeast. He's for big government and all the programs that come with it – Obamneycare. No amount of "fixing" can change who Romney is – too liberal for the majority of the GOP.

    March 14, 2012 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  25. pre-runner

    Poor Mitt – he just doesn't know who he's supposed to be...

    March 14, 2012 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
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