Romney advisers have said they were disappointed with Christie’s keynote address at the Republican National Convention because they believed the speaker focused too much on himself and not enough on the candidate. Republicans close to Christie, however, said the Romney team approved the final draft of the speech.
Some Romney advisers insisted Wednesday that tensions with Christie have been overstated.
“The problem with Sandy was not Chris Christie,” said one political adviser. “The problem with Sandy was we couldn’t talk about the choice argument for the last week of the campaign. At a time when Barack Obama’s campaign was small, it allowed him to be bigger, and provided him a vehicle for him to show he can be bipartisan.”
Christie on Wednesday defended his work as a surrogate on Romney’s behalf, saying, ”I did my job.”
“I wouldn’t call what I did an embrace of Barack Obama,” Christie said at a news conference. “I know that’s become the wording of it, but the fact of the matter is, you know, I’m a guy who tells the truth all the time. And if the president of the United States did something good, I was gonna say he did something good and give him credit for it.”
He continued, “But it doesn’t take away for a minute the fact that I was the first governor to endorse Mitt Romney, that I traveled literally tens of thousands of miles for him, raised tens of millions of dollars for him and worked harder, I think, than any other surrogate in America other than Paul Ryan, who became his running mate.”
The time will come for Romney and his campaign leadership to fully assess what went wrong. Some of his top donors immediately pointed to the campaign’s early strategic decision to frame the race as a referendum on Obama rather than a choice between two different governing philosophies and leadership styles.
A second member of Romney’s national finance committee said that while the campaign’s tactics and fundraising organization were executed well, the strategy and message were “total failures.” This fundraiser added that the campaign’s cautious and adversarial relationship with the news media proved detrimental.
“That strategy was we don’t want to define differences, we want it to be a referendum not a choice, but it was always going to be a choice. Elections are a choice. Their fundamental premise was incorrect — and when you’re incorrect on this level, you are shunned by people in the party,” said the fundraiser, who requested anonymity to speak candidly.
But Romney, those close to him said, is not second guessing the counsel or work of his staff. After he spoke at Wednesday’s breakfast, Simmons said he spoke privately with Romney.
“I said, ‘So what are you going to do for the next few weeks? Let’s do something fun,’ ” Simmons recalled. “And he said, ‘Uh, I’m going to be really busy.’ He said, ‘I have 400 people to get great jobs for.’ ”
Late Wednesday afternoon, as sleet fell in Boston’s North End, Romney visited his campaign headquarters for one final staff meeting. He thanked his aides and said goodbye. His Secret Service detail gone — and with it his code name, Javelin, after a car once made by his father’s company — Romney was spotted driving off in the backseat of his son Tagg’s car. His wife, Ann, was riding shotgun.