The campaign is dispatching designated hitters across the country to speak at dinners and fundraisers — Sen. John Thune (S.D.), former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and former ambassador John Bolton are working that circuit. Other surrogates, such as former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, whom Romney recently called his “bulldog,” serve up scathing soundbites about the Democrats.
“With certainty being brought into the process the last few months, we’re seeing a flood of people who want to get involved in the campaign,” said Kristy Campbell, the campaign’s deputy communications director
It is politically risky for Romney to hitch his fortunes to other people; he was burned this week when surrogates veered off script. But the former Massachusetts governor and his advisers have calculated that, without a strong natural base constituency, he needs others to help him make the sale.
At Romney’s Boston headquarters, aides are trying to build a more disciplined surrogate operation, distributing talking points to politicians and pundits whom they call upon to spread his message. Romney aides are now picking guests to appear on the Sunday political talk shows and holding Saturday conference calls to rehearse answers to likely questions, according to a campaign adviser.
Other surrogates are booked for targeted television, radio and newspaper interviews to help build support among demographic groups with which Romney has struggled.
“That casserole is being baked now,” said longtime GOP strategist Ralph Reed. “The Romney campaign is determining who can best appeal to which audiences.”
Romney’s advisers consider the candidate’s wife, Ann, to be his most powerful surrogate and are developing a robust schedule of solo visits for her to help close the gender gap with Obama. Ann Romney plans an expanded media presence and this week hired her own press secretary, Sarah Haley.
Believing she showcases her husband’s softer side to moderate voters, an adviser said they are considering having her campaign in nursing homes, schools and medical research facilities in suburban areas outside Philadelphia, Denver, Milwaukee and Charlotte, as well as in Northern Virginia and along Florida’s I-4 corridor.
Other female surrogates are making similar pitches, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.).
This comes amid increasing speculation about Romney’s ultimate surrogate: his vice presidential running mate. Romney is road-testing the contenders with a series of joint campaign appearances, and they are doing solo interviews and speeches on his behalf.
So far, Romney’s top surrogate might be New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who joined Romney at a $5 million fundraiser in New York last week.