It’s become a joke among some of Romney’s senior aides that the worst job on the campaign is to be Romney’s speechwriter. In a campaign organization that has grown exponentially, it’s speechwriting in which Romney’s inner micro-manager reveals itself.
An English major in college, Romney is a voracious reader and is particular about the words he utters, advisers say. He obsesses and fine-tunes, for speeches consequential and trivial, on airplanes and in hotel suites. A business executive close to Romney said the candidate approaches speechwriting as he would constructing a persuasive essay.
So it is that as Romney prepared to deliver the most important speech of his political career Thursday night at the Republican National Convention, he spent months reading past nominating and inaugural speeches (including President Obama’s) and biographies. By the middle of last week, as the guts of the speech were coming together, he asserted, in a conversation with an associate, “I still have to write it.” On Friday, Romney told talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, “Mine is still a work in progress, kind of early stage.”
Over the weekend, Romney took two days off the campaign trail to finish his drafts and rehearse with teleprompters at his New Hampshire getaway home. When reporters asked him after one rehearsal for a sneak peak of his speech, Romney previewed just five words: “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.” He was laughing, but advisers said the rest was in fact still subject to change.
On Wednesday, advisers were chiming in on this line or that line. One of them said that Romney will keep tinkering until just before he steps onto the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired convention stage shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday – because, well, “he just likes to tinker.”
Romney’s chief political strategist, Stuart Stevens, has been at his side all week. Stevens helped Romney’s wife, Ann, write her widely lauded convention speech on Tuesday night, and he is doing the same for Romney.
Romney has an expanding speechwriting shop that helps him prepare his remarks, including Lindsay Hayes, a one-time speechwriter for Sarah Palin, and Matthew Scully, a former speechwriter for President George. W. Bush, who also worked on Palin’s convention address in 2008. But the big speeches fall under Stevens’s purview, and he and Romney have developed a rapport trading versions between their iPads.
Romney and Stevens have been writing the convention speech together, aides said, although Stevens insisted this week that Romney wrote the speech himself.
Stevens points to Romney’s June 2011 campaign announcement address in New Hampshire as a model for the message he will deliver through Election Day. That speech was a defense of free enterprise, individualism and American power in the world.