Romney adviser opens up about Sandy, Eastwood and the '47%'
December 6th, 2012
05:13 PM ET
9 years ago

Romney adviser opens up about Sandy, Eastwood and the '47%'

(CNN) - A top adviser for Mitt Romney's failed presidential bid weighed in on some of the campaign's low moments, pointing to Clint Eastwood's unexpected monologue, the '47%' comments and Superstorm Sandy as three challenges for Romney's team in the final months of the campaign.

In an interview with PBS' Charlie Rose, Stuart Stevens said Wednesday that Eastwood's now-famous skit at the Republican National Convention was a divergence from what the actor had originally planned to say.

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"We had very specific things that he was supposed to say that he had said in front of us before," Stevens aid. "He did this improv that had never been discussed."

He later added: "To a degree it was a distraction, it was bad."

During his RNC appearance, Eastwood spoke to an empty chair as if President Barack Obama were sitting in it. His performance was described as random and out of rhythm with the convention, though it drew laughs from the roaring audience.

"What do you want me to tell Romney?" Eastwood asked the empty chair. "I can't tell him to do that to himself."

Stevens gave a different interpretation last week when he spoke during a symposium with Obama campaign officials at Harvard University's Institute of Politics. "I don't think it was a big deal," he said.

Romney strategist Russ Schriefer, who helped organize the convention, told the panel the Eastwood appearance was a "pretty good opportunity" because he was "one of the biggest iconic stars" who never had made an appearance at a political convention.

When asked if anyone read Eastwood's remarks, Schriefer said the actor was supposed to say what he previously had told two fundraiser events.

During the event, co-moderated by CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, Schriefer said he had asked Eastwood whether he was going to repeat those remarks and Eastwood responded: "yup."

"This idea came to him as he is standing there," Schriefer recounted.

The Obama officials appearing alongside at the Harvard event told the audience Eastwood's empty chair routine was a major boon for their fundraising and they saw an immediate spike in their social media activity.

The actor later admitted he didn't come up with the idea until he saw the chair shortly before walking on stage. "I didn't make up my mind exactly what I was going to say until I said it," he told a California newspaper.

Less than a month later, Romney's campaign would be dealing with another dust-up, this one more serious. On September 17, secretly-recorded video emerged showing Romney at a Florida fundraiser in May, where he told donors that nearly half of Americans were "dependent" on government and considered themselves victims. Those voters, he said, would automatically choose President Barack Obama.

The video soon sparked an outcry from Democrats and some Republicans, most notably some GOP Senate candidates in tough races attempting to distance themselves from their party's nominee.

Asked how badly the whole episode hurt the campaign, Stevens said: "It was bad, it was bad."

However, he said he understood "completely what (Romney) was trying to say" and pointed to the "interesting" timing of the video's release, saying it came out just as Obama was starting to lose his post-convention bounce.

He further commended the campaign for a "fantastic" comeback job.

"Those are moments when campaigns can either fall apart and start blaming each other and start yelling in a huddle–or just hang together and put your head down," he said.

During the Harvard event Romney officials said they did not know about the existence of the video until it became public.

A final hurdle came, he said, when Superstorm Sandy slammed into the Northeast, about a week before the election.

"After the storm, I never had a good feeling," Stevens said, regarding Romney's chances of victory. "Not that the storm impacted things so much, per se, but these races - a race like this is a lot like an NBA game. It's all about ball control at the end."

Both Romney and Obama suspended campaign activity shortly before and after the storm. The GOP nominee held some storm-relief events to collect donations for victims, while the president monitored the weather from Washington and later traveled to damaged areas in New Jersey to survey the aftermath.

But both candidates nixed events in key battleground states with only days to go until the election.

"We went from having these big rallies around the country to literally sitting in hotel rooms, and there was just nothing we could do about it," Stevens said.

Both Stevens and Obama Campaign Senior Adviser David Axelrod said the storm froze the campaign.

"We lost the ability to control the race," Stevens said. "The ball went out of our hands."

"There is no doubt the storm froze the race," Axelrod said adding it didn't result in a big change in approval numbers for the president. Instead of election stories the news was dominated by storm developments. "It froze the race in an advantageous way…and we had banked a lot of votes."

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. rs

    The 47% commentary was by far the worst as it sealed Mr. Romney's reputation as a plutocrat, and a sell out to the rest of us. It showed that if elected he certainly was not going to work for the vast majority of Americans.

    December 6, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  2. EBP

    If he wants to blame Sandy he should consider the idea that God is a Democratic woman.

    December 6, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    "After the storm, I never had a good feeling," Stevens said, regarding Romney's chances of victory."

    But they sure tried to fool their base into sending them more and more donations using fake polling and FOX News pundits.

    "We went from having these big rallies around the country to literally sitting in hotel rooms, and there was just nothing we could do about it," Stevens said.

    My all time favorite Romney's got the momentum photo ops were the meet and greets Romney held at near empty airports.

    December 6, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  4. Lance D.

    Michelle Obama e-mailed campaign donation requests for a fund-raiser dinner from the W.H. - raffling off front row seats - during the storm. All GOP ranks have copies for later presentation "at the appropriate time, in the appropriate way" - among much more.

    December 6, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  5. freedom

    Everything Obama has said and done the last 4 years should not have gotten him re-elected. Obama and his administration have been the most divisive in history and had our deficit grow beyond any other president in history. They have expanded government in our lives beyond any before them. One comment from Romney? I don't think so. The Americans who voted for this president were manipulated and promised things they will never get. Incidentally, Clint Eastwood made my day.

    December 6, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  6. regenesis0

    Obama didn't run a great campaign, and he had the economy against him. It took a lot, a LOT of effort on the part of Mitt Romney and his campaign to lose this one.

    December 6, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  7. plain&simple

    Gotta believe fate had something to do with outcome! That and Obama is just the right man for the job!!!

    December 6, 2012 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  8. Facts don't Lie

    the Clint Eastwood deal could have been avoided.....the hurricane was an act of God. Had Romney and his team looked at the REAL numbers that were out there and not accept the fake ones like Dick Morris and Karl Rove were putting out they may have fared better... Many want to claim Obama framed Romney before the election yet they tend to forget it was Gingrich, Santorum, Perry and Huntsman that did it way before Obama had a chance to do so.

    December 6, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    He later added: "To a degree it was a distraction, it was bad."
    Yes. To the Nth degree.

    December 6, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  10. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    We went from having these big rallies around the country to literally sitting in hotel rooms, and there was just nothing we could do about it," Stevens said.
    Really? Still lying I see. You spent, what, one day on the bus wondering how you could still have that rally in Ohio and not call it a rally. You had the rally and botched the fake canned goods donation effect because we found out that the campaign bought the canned food that attendees were supposedly donating.
    This is primarily why you lost, because you lie like there is no tomorrow and no way to be found out.

    December 6, 2012 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  11. Jojola


    You're not free. You are still living in a bubble of make believe. Everything the president has tried to do in the past four years have been blocked by your do nothing republican Congress. In spite of all the obstacles and hurdles, president Obama has come out on top. When you fight for what is right, the American people will always be on your side.

    December 6, 2012 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  12. judy

    with the economy and all the pit falls Obama ran a great campaign. Look at the hurdles but republicans can't seem to understand that even with that the majority of people did not like their policies or the trust the people they ran. Simple as that.

    December 6, 2012 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  13. kayla

    get over it you morons, the election is over.

    December 6, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  14. Gurgyl

    He lost his bid. Why nagging???? He is fine in Cayman island. Let him live happily. I bet he is doing fine. I wish him to be fine.

    December 6, 2012 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  15. rs

    I think you are confused by what you've been told about the President Usual suspects: Rush, FOX, Romney, etc.) and what is fact. I am well educated, consider myself to be a well-informed voter, and followed the elction very closely. The truth is that the Romney campain was a veritable lie factory- if there was an event, an issue, a concept- they lied about it. Jeep moving to China, all the Birther blather, and on and on.
    If I believed what the Right said about Obama I wouldn't have voted for him either- fortunately I have found one can't trust almost anything from the Right these days.

    December 6, 2012 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  16. Gurgyl

    Listen, there is nothing wrong in political fight–one loses one wins. Please do not bring him, in here. Wish him fine.

    December 6, 2012 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |

    "FREEDOM" must be in Washington state smoking a doobie if he really thinks that. The GOP from day 1 of Obama's presidency made a pact, pledge or whatever you want to call it to make Obama a 1 term president at all costs and it did not work. The majority of voters saw throught that thin veiled attempt at putting out a viable candidate that kept tripping over his own feet. Every image damaging occurance came from Romney and his supporters. Even at the convention he had idiot supporters being seen making racist comments. The other GOP candidates beat up Romney more than Obama and his campaign did. Take the loss for what it is. A LOSS.

    December 6, 2012 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    We went from having these big rallies around the country to literally sitting in hotel rooms, and there was just nothing we could do about it," Stevens said
    Terrible inconvenience having to give the appearance of putting your campaign on hold just because people's homes were being detroyed, lives were lost, and millions were without power and basic due to that pesky storm. Thanks be to Golub that you could still hold those private but hefty private fundraising dinners untilthe storm passed huh?

    December 6, 2012 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  19. What election were you watching

    Reality check . . . There is an elephant in the room! By the numbers, Flipped flopped on every issue, Bain the pioneers of out sousing American jobs, lies, no real plan to run on, more lies and the whole obstruction game played by the republican leadership. The quite majority lay in wait for Nov 6 to express their disapproval of how the republican leadership and their cohorts sabotage to economy, brought with them chaos, loom doom and gloom while repeating lies about how this president was a failure and a socialist while reaping the financial benefits of his so called failed policies. Stock was up, job growth, slow but steadily moving forward. Truth be told, Romney never had a chance. Period.

    December 6, 2012 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  20. don in albuquerque

    Time to go away. Just go far, far, away.

    December 6, 2012 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  21. Allen

    Republicans... give up. Your ideas are worthless and weak. Where can you turn? Every bureaucrat you trust punks you, America refuses to be assaulted by you any longer. Let freedom ring!

    December 6, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  22. PJ

    Really? In truth you had a lousy candidate and Americans proved you can't buy votes. Now its time to quit
    whining, wipe the egg off your face, and move on.

    December 6, 2012 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  23. RKN

    Romney does not care about people who are not like him.
    That is the simple message.
    Romney would have lost the election if he was unopposed.
    Romney could not carry the two states he has been tied to (raised in Michigan, governor of Mass).
    Ryan could not carry Wisconsin.
    Maybe the GOP should consider that no one likes the message they are pushing.

    December 6, 2012 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  24. Patriot Awesome

    So a Hurricane ruined Mitt's chances? I guess God doesn't like the Republicans as much as they think SHE does.

    December 6, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  25. Barry

    When Robmey came to Town, he stole, he took and he robbed. Well, that said it and he shot himself in the foot with his own gun. Its simple, Robmey because he is rich thought that the White House was is birthright and it was his for the taking. DARN LOSER.. Thank GOD.

    December 6, 2012 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
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