Mitt Romney’s son Tagg, who was intimately involved with his father’s campaign, said in an interview that his father did not have the fire in his belly to run for president:
He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He had no desire to … run. If he could have found someone else to take his place . . . he would have been ecstatic to step aside. He is a very private person who loves his family deeply and wants to be with them, but he has deep faith in God and he loves his country, but he doesn’t love the attention.
The report from the Boston Globe asserts that when Romney lost his 2008 run for the GOP nomination, he was jarred and was uncertain if he would run again. His first reaction after 2008 was to decline the idea of running again.
More tellingly, the report reveals the split in the Romney camp between those like Tagg, who wanted Romney to show the nation his private side, and Romney’s senior strategist Stuart Stevens, who wanted Romney to stick with the issues.
Tagg wanted people whose lives had been changed positively by their interaction with his dad to tell their stories, making a list of 12 of them. He and Romney’s family were in favor of a short documentary or a number of campaign ads that would show people the kindness and generosity of his father, but they were overruled by Stevens and his cohorts.
Stevens denied that he had canned the documentary idea, but did admit his penchant was for sticking to the issues, saying, “When you come into a job interview, you don’t start showing family pictures.”
If the report is correct, Stevens was wrong and Tagg was right.
There are two parts to any campaign; defining your character and your opponents, and confronting the issues. The smart campaigners understand that the character issue should be dealt with first; Obama targeted Romney’s character first with his attacks on Bain Capital, and that image stuck with many voters. Meanwhile Romney was hammering away on the issues.
In 2008, when John McCain had an opportunity to hammer away at Obama with Reverend Wright, and assorted other opportunities, he refused to do so, allowing Obama to establish himself as a “nice guy.”
Character counts, but what’s more important in an election campaign, the perception of character counts most, and the refusal of Romney’s campaign to counter the ruthless attacks in their candidate’s character with the real story of the goodness of the man may have cost them the election.
Image credit: New Texas Republic