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. human

    Gopers are extremists and nothing more

    March 14, 2012 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  2. Pat

    I agree he needs to fix his message that RomneyCare=ObamaCare and that Obama deserves another 4 years.

    March 14, 2012 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  3. Fact Lee

    I have some ideas to win votes from Conservative.

    March 14, 2012 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  4. John Tarver

    Romney/Gingrich in 2012

    March 14, 2012 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  5. grasslandhero

    Bain Capital made Mitt R. rich and arrogant.. Becoming POTUS would only make Mitt R more rich and arrogant.

    March 14, 2012 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  6. The Unsub

    Democrats are sitting back watchin this mess of a primary and this joke called the republican party. These candiidates are absolutely horrible! I mean come on...presidinet Santorum?....really? Democrats, particularly minorities, women, and gays, are going to flood the polls in November! And the republicans can thank themselves for this reality!

    March 14, 2012 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  7. tonyl

    No tweaking can help Romney. He is uncomfortable in his own skin. He does not connect with the average American. Why does he wear those uncomfortable jeans? He looks fake. The man is a complete fake.

    March 14, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  8. enuff

    What message? He's changed whatever he says so many times, I have no clue as to what his message is.

    March 14, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  9. Riley

    I don't understand all the fuss. Romney will prevail. What is wrong with the primary going another month or two longer? Afterall, Obama and Hillary Clinton battled it out for much longer during the last democratic primary.

    March 14, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  10. simon

    Well...given how Obama views the world, and democrats as well, we should all (everybody or all US citizens) voluntarily send our paychecks to the government (a pool) and then they can distribute a check to all citizens for the same amount. After all we are all equal, and the same, and we have to look out for all of our neighbors, as well as those, we don't know. Fair is fair and equal. Please start the process by forwarding your paycheck to the IRS for your fair share and disbursement.

    March 14, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  11. CBR

    Which Romney will come forward as the true candidate? By sticking to numbers and trying to discredit his opponents he has managed to keep the focus away from his political ideals. What he is saying now is really not what he said as Governor of Massachusetts. It is as if his loss to Senator McCain during the last campaign is his reason for changes his ideals and focus.

    March 15, 2012 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  12. enuff

    What message? He hasn't been consistent enough in any of his ideas to have a message.

    March 15, 2012 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  13. paul

    I am sick of watching the Republicans bashing Romney . If a self-made man who created a fortune for himself in the private sector LEGALLY , who turned around companies , who has a proven record of making business private and state profittable is NOT of satisfactory to the "BASE" , then may be "The BASE" does deserve another term from an unproven community organizer after all . Broker convention is a losers' ideas , the independents will view that as a sign of a Republican Party in disarray , Rick Santorum will never get enough vote in a general election , Newt with his baggage could not even kept his seat in Congress, much less unseating Obama . Good Luck Republicans , I am staying home if Mitt is not the nominee.

    March 15, 2012 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  14. paul

    Seeing what Obama did with his crusade against religion and forcing big government on the people , NO Republican can stay home in November , doesn't matter how they disagree with their eventual nominee , I am sure each of us will crawl out of our bed if we have to to the voting booth . Now , to win the election , we need the independent voters and a nominee who can raise money and run an organize campaign nation-wide because Obama is a heck of a campaigner and fundraiser . Mitt is the only chance the Republicans have , too bad , they can not get over their selfishness and ignorance!

    March 15, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  15. Joel

    @ alex

    More liberal than conservative? Run as an independent or democrat?? This has to be a joke. Romney's biggest problem is that he's trying to be too conservative, and he's going to lose the general election unless he makes a sharp turnaround and starts being more moderate because independents like me are afraid to vote Republican.

    March 15, 2012 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  16. Terry Conklin

    The last man standing, luckily, is the one we need. Only Ron paul stands above the dirt-slinging and keeps his message purely to the point. No sane person dislikes or distrusts him. No sane person would fault his ideas and no sane person would fail to vote for him.

    March 15, 2012 02:30 am at 2:30 am |
  17. Perri

    When are we going to hear the truth out of the southern part of this country? Romney cannot win there because of the innate bigotry! Their hatred is pointed at Romney this time and in elections past, anyone who does not claim to be "born again."

    March 15, 2012 02:37 am at 2:37 am |
  18. Emmet

    Robert misses the point completely. If Gingrich got out of the race more delegates would naturally go to Santorum and Romney in the upcoming sates, thus giving Romney an actual chance at 1144 and winning the nomination. Santorum cannot get there whether Gingrich stays in or gets out (the big take-all states like CA and NY favor Romney) Gingrich in the race makes it virtually impossible for Romney to clinch the nomination before Tampa and avoid a contested convention. This is Gingrich's aim, to block and embarrass Romney. Its actually working, but most people are too ignorant to see it.

    March 15, 2012 03:37 am at 3:37 am |
  19. Mike H.

    I'm absolutely unimpressed by any of the Republican presidential candidates but for Ron Paul...and that's only because he's the only one who appears to mean what he says. From my perspective this race is entertaining to say the least. Will be interesting to see who goes into the ring with Obama after the convention. No doubt Obama will knockout whoever the opponent is in the first round....

    March 15, 2012 04:26 am at 4:26 am |
  20. SnowCypher

    When the Media has nothing else to complain about with regard to Romney, they go after either his delivery style or his message. For a lot of us, Romney's message is loud and clear. What Romney does that really bugs the Media, however, is to NOT let the Media get him off message during interviews. Romney is very disciplined, so misquoting him or half-quoting him is usually how they get a Romney "gaffe." Santorum and Gingrich generate lots of real gaffes and thus are likede much better by the Media. With Romney, reporters actually have to earn their pay and report the news.

    March 15, 2012 04:40 am at 4:40 am |
  21. Charlie in Maine

    Republicans to Romney: Fix your message

    America to Republicans: Fix your party!

    March 15, 2012 05:00 am at 5:00 am |
  22. SeniorMoment

    The core problem is that none of the Republican nominees are smart enough to be President, yet Romney has shown he is strongly motivated to protect the low tax rights of his own wealthy class of Americans over the welfare of any other class of Americans. He and the other GOP nominees would never balance the budget and would wait for gloval investors to force interest rates on the Nationall Debt to Greek's interest rate for high risk debt. I .have looked at the history of deficit spending and up to Obama, whose record isn't done, all of the increases in the National Debt have taken place during the terms of Republican Presidents. Only Richard Nixon, who benefited from the end of the Vietnam War came close to balancing tax revenue and spending.

    March 15, 2012 05:35 am at 5:35 am |
  23. canttakeajoke

    You might as well get used to it, Romney's your boy.

    March 15, 2012 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  24. mike4ever

    Newt will probably stay in the running because it helps Mitt and he knows it and that is the way it is suppose to be. But quite frankly,, I don' t know how he think he is going to go to toe to toe with the president. He will be thinking he is suppose to win and the president will have won the white house, moved back in and gone about their daily lives and he still would still be saying why he should win.

    He acts as if the world owes it too him to give it to him because his father did n't make it, and it is his job to move the miniorty out of the white house andhe move in. Not happen. I thought last year was bad but this year is terrible at least last year the democrats had someone to choise from the republicans has no one to chose from but people whowant to take everything away from people at any cost.

    March 15, 2012 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  25. Guess What

    romney is obama, just a different color

    March 15, 2012 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
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