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

    That is kinda funny. "run for POTUS not RNC chairmen" Good advise, but funny

    March 15, 2012 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  2. TXJim

    Neither Romney nor Santorum have any plans, Amy ideas to deal with Iran and Syria, rising gas prices, rising cost of living, or high unemployment. Imstead they are both going after the rabid Christian zealots by attacking contraception and Planned Parenthood. Obama by 9 points in November.

    March 15, 2012 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  3. Pres

    Looks like GOP elite establishment wants Obama to get a second-term, and this is apparent from the way they are endorsing anti-people candidate Romney. Bottom line Mitt Romney, who came third position in both Missipi and Alabama, cannot represent GOP.

    March 15, 2012 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  4. Thomas

    Mitt Romney’s son Matt, a former birther, reforms his message in Hawaii when asked if President Obama is a Christian.

    All five of Mitts sons avoided military service in a time of war.

    March 15, 2012 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  5. kathy

    sadly there is so much hate for pres. obama they dont care if he is fake or not!!!!! but why do they hate the pres. so much?......naw!! couldnt be the color of his skin. lol

    March 15, 2012 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  6. Marcia Greenwood, IN

    No woman should vote for ANY Republican in 2012-they are trying to end women's heallth and women's rights.Look at the main Romney supporter-earns over $100,000 a year. How many of us earn tha? -The Republicans would do away with all health, safety net for the poor, and raise our taxes while lowering taxes on millionaires and billionaires once again. Romney wants to be POTUS because his taxes are too high and he wants to fix that-THAT is his REAL platform.

    March 15, 2012 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  7. HenryB

    Sometimes events happen that peel back the layer and expose people for what they really are. Romney pretends to be all these different positive things. Looking at his nasty attacks on his opponents one can finally see him for the man that became so good at Bain capital. He cares nothing about others. He is so absorbed in his ambition, he will revert back to the nasty behavior that made him famous in business. In my 60 years I have run across many of these people and I run away from them as fast as I can.

    March 15, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  8. some guy in New Hampshire

    Romney's problem isn't Gingrich or Santorum. It's that he has no basis for his candidacy. His claim that someone who's run a successful business can manage the world's most complex economy is completely unproven and borders on the silly. He claims that because he's created private-sector jobs, he can create them as US chief executive. But as the chief executive of a state, he came in 47th out of 50 in job creation. If he knows how to create jobs as a government executive, why didn't he do it then? He claims to know how the economy works and that Obama doesn't. But Romney's chief piece of economic wisdom we've seen is his claim that federal supports would kill off the domestic auto industry. Turns out he was dead wrong and Obama was right. Those complete failures of performance and judgment, coupled to his pathetic eagerness to assure everyone he's just like them ("cheesy grits"? oh please), makes him ludicrous as a candidate.

    March 15, 2012 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  9. dan5404

    The problem is that Romney is being himself. A stiff and unconvincing would be conservative. What he says and what he has done in his political career do not match up for the extreme right that seems to have the most influence among the GOP. Santorum is too extreme the other way,pandering to the evangelicals and the ultra right with policy positions that turn off most American voters.

    March 15, 2012 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  10. Uomo Del Ghiaccio

    Nominating Rick Santorium would be a gift to Barrack Obama. Rick Santorium is NOT a Social Conservative, but rather a Social Statist who \wants and needs a Big Federal Government to enforce his Social Agenda. Rick Santorium is NOT who he presents himself as, He is a multi-millionaire white collar Washington DC insider who has spent the majority of his working career either in office as a politician or as a lobbyist. Ron Paul is correct, Rick Santorium is a FRAUD.

    March 15, 2012 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  11. 2012_Messy_election

    Romey does good in the urban area 50-60% of the vote. Santrum and Newt used to split it, But in South, Newt is little extra popular that hurts Romney chance to have 50-60% in the urban area... because Newt is going to get 30% and Santrum has been getting 20-30% vote in the urban area in most of the state... Newt hurts Romeny in the South than Santrum....

    Romney and Santrum both are going to be on the Ticket... they can point finger as much as they want... there's no way they can Win without putting both of them.....

    March 15, 2012 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  12. Lucky18

    There's nothing to fix...this is who he is. A waffling, flip-flopping, core conservative wannabe, from Mass., who's a moderate!
    He's not what the Republican Party ordered! Especially, the extreme right wing!!!

    March 15, 2012 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  13. Rudy NYC

    paul wrote:

    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 l

    Seeing what Obama did with his crusade against religion and forcing big government on the people ,
    Uh, what "proven record" are you talking about? We only have Mitt Romney's word that his hand made a difference. Besides, most of this "proven record" you alledge occurred after Bain stopped working with those companies, or after Mitt Romney left Bain Capital. During a debate, Romney claimed he created "100,000 jobs while AT Bain." People asked where, when and how. Romney's reply has consistently been "Pres. Obama has made the economy worse."

    Big government? Spending growth is less than what is during the GWB years. In fact, spending growth is negative. Big government? Republicans want to put their big government in my bedroom and redefine my privacy for me.

    March 15, 2012 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  14. rika33

    The GOP message – say what voters want to hear to get elected. I thought that what what Mitt was doing – depending on who he's talking to or the day of the week.

    March 15, 2012 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  15. babooph

    No problem for the GOP,Obama has been an ok republican president....

    March 15, 2012 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  16. Steve

    This campaign reveals the real problems that the GOP has. There is a main line group. And then there are the evangelicals that are attracted to populists. My problem with Santorum is he is a mirror image of Obama. He just chooses different people to blame. Populism gets you elected but is unable to solve problems as ultimately what you are blaming for your predicament is not true.

    March 15, 2012 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  17. Wake up people

    Robmey suffers from that GOP disease called perpetual foot in mouth syndrome. Everything he says sounds phony. Everytime he opens his mouth, he sticks his foot in it. From here on out, the rethugs are going to have to write everything he says. He panders to whomever he is talking to. Everyone sees this but the rethugs have one agenda only and that is making the President a one term President. And since Mittens is rich and dumb, he is the perfect puppet. This man has zero knowledge or empathy for the common person and this country will be worse under him than Shrub and that's hard to believe. So people, I beg you to put aside your preconceived notions and your prejudices and do what's right for this country and it's not Mittens Robmey.

    OBAMA 2012!

    March 15, 2012 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  18. ZoeyKay

    Trent Lott wants Romney "to articulate in greater detail his specific accomplishments in Massachusetts and in the private sector...."

    That's the problem – he can't. As soon as he spoke of his private sector experience a few months ago, he only showed us how many millions he and Bain made by bankrupting companies and laying off middle-class people. But don't worry Trent, we'll all be reminded of this during the general election. As for his so-called accomplishments in Massachusetts, they're being used against him too – if they were so great, why didn't he run for re-election?

    March 15, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  19. Hey You

    Mitt comes off as being desperate. His scatter-shot approach to messages means he is throwing out as many different things has he can, hoping that something hits a target somewhere – it is the old political trap, try to be all things to all people. His recent "vote for me because I am in the lead" is even more despereate.

    March 15, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  20. native new yorker

    Romney says he's unwilling to "set his hair on fire" but he apparently has no problem with lying – so, what else do you want GOP? He's a perfect fit.

    March 15, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  21. Saboth

    I'd like him to change his message too. Like...what he plans to do for our country to get it on the right track. I haven't heard a single reasonable peep about that. All I've heard is tax cuts for the rich, cutting funding for the poor. Yeah...that will fly well with 1% of the country. Nothing to help bring our middle class back. Oh, but that would mean companies have to pay their employees real wages and not outsource, and that's something Mr. 1% thoroughly enjoys doing (that, and firing people).

    March 15, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  22. Arcostonian

    Mitt message is just fine. He has been focusing on the economy and attaching Obama the whole time. Your definition of "republicans" is just a few people who already support Mitt. Mitt already learned that if he does not answer the attacks it will hurt him, so he does answer then. If you look at what all of them are saying in public (personally), Mitt is the only one focusing on the economy and Obama. Everyone else just complains about how they are not the front runner. Sweater vest boy just sits there and complains as if that will get him elected. I think the author of this article should do a little more research, in fact, all he would have had to do is look around him and he could have realized this.

    March 15, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
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