Vin Weber, a longtime leader in the conservative movement and former congressman from Minnesota, backed his former governor and longtime friend Tim Pawlenty for president. Now that Pawlenty is out of the race, the Romney campaign announces that Weber “will serve as Special Adviser on Policy. In that capacity, he will be a senior member of Governor Romney’s policy team and will provide advice on foreign and economic policy.” In 2008, Weber was a senior adviser to the Romney presidential campaign.
Kevin Madden, Romney’s 2008 communications director, tells me that Weber is hardly a bit player in the campaign. He calls him an “experienced guy and strategic thinker.” Madden adds, “Most importantly, the core nucleus that makes up the Romney team really admires and respects him.” In short, if there is some sprucing up to be done in the campaign Weber is the guy to do it.
While Weber may not be a household name, he nevertheless is an asset to Romney in two key respects. First, he is a respected voice among leaders of conservative organizations and wonky Republicans, many of whom were rooting for Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). But more important, Weber can aid Romney in lifting his vision, speaking in more uplifting tones about the conservative movement and sharpening his rhetoric. In an interview with me in April while he was still with the Pawlenty camp, Weber spoke about the unity of the conservative movement and gave a cogent critique of Obama’s foreign policy liabilities. (“I think the biggest potential problem this administration has is their relative incoherence about America’s role in the world.”)
Romney could certainly benefit from a more passionate and ideological approach to campaigning. Conservative voters generally know he is competent and smart, but they aren’t sure what Romney believes.
If Weber can help Romney connect with the base and eliminate some of the hesitant language he uses (giving the impression he lacks conviction), he will be an asset to the campaign. It’s up to Romney to demonstrate that he has those convictions and to take some risks in setting forth unequivocal policy positions, but Romney’s willingness to embrace Weber (not unlike Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s desire to reach out for William Bennett’s counsel) suggests he’s a candidate willing to learn and grow. He’ll have to in order to come out on top in an increasingly competitive field.