Stuart Stevens: Biggest mistake was with Hispanics, women

November 29, 2012

Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney's chief campaign strategist, said Thursday that his team failed to reach out effectively to women and Hispanic voters. He suggested it was a failure of message, not policy.

"I think we should have done a better job reaching out to women voters, the governor has a great record on women's issues. We should have done a better job articulating that record," Stevens told CBS's Charlie Rose when asked about the campaign's biggest mistake. "We should have done a better job reaching out to Hispanic voters. We should have done it earlier and in a more effective way," he added. "I think we have a very good message there. We just have to do a better job with it."Latino voters made up 10 percent of the total electorate. Obama won 71 percent of their votes; Romney won just 27 percent. Women favored Obama by a 55 to 44 percent margin, a slightly smaller gap than in 2008.

In a Washington Post op-ed Wednesday, Stevens defended the campaign, highlighting Romney's success with seniors, white voters and voters making over $50,000 a year.

On CBS, Stevens suggested that Obama ran a much narrower campaign than Romney. “They ran very state specific issues, less of a national campaign," he said. "That was not why governor Romney was running, he wanted to talk about big national issues, debt, entitlements, the future of the country."

He suggested that Obama's ground game -- or as he described it in his Post op-ed, "whiz-bang turnout technologies" -- wasn't as important as a state-by-state message. 

“I’m a bit baffled at why people look at the Obama campaign and say they won because of their ground game on face value when they turned out more voters four years ago than they did this time," Stevens said. "I would give them more credit for their message in those states." 

Stevens also defended Romney's widely-criticized claim that Obama won by giving "gifts" to key demographic groups, saying the candidate merely meant that the president effectively targeted certain constituents. 

“I think what he was saying was there was an effort that the incumbent used, as many other incumbents have used, to reach out to constituents," Stevens said. "They did it effectively and they had certain groups they wanted to do well with and they did well with."

Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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Rachel Weiner | November 29, 2012