The inner circle
As in other campaigns, few designated “advisers” have direct access to the candidate. In addition to Healey and Talent, the foreign policy inner circle is said to include Reiss and Senor, who was a spokesman for the initial U.S. occupational government in Iraq and began briefing Romney before his 2008 campaign.
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Others include former senator Norm Coleman (Minn.); Eric Edelman, a former Foreign Service officer who was undersecretary of defense for policy in George W. Bush’s second term; and Rich Williamson, who had foreign policy posts in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations and often serves as a spokesman.
Advisers’ input goes via Wong, a young lawyer who usually monitors the weekly telephone conferences. Talking points to support Romney’s public statements or the campaign’s position on breaking news are sent via e-mail to listed advisers, supporters and surrogates who might be called on to comment.
Some in the more moderate GOP foreign policy establishment have shuddered over Romney’s statements saying Russia is America’s “number one geopolitical foe” and his suggestions of postponing the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Others have expressed private alarm over some of his more outspoken surrogates on the right, in particular John R. Bolton, the neoconservative former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
People who are “wigged out” by Bolton are “overstating his involvement” in the campaign, said one senior adviser. But Bolton is seen as a useful spokesman to the far right, one who can articulately expound on Romney’s virtues and offer the conservative red meat that others might shy away from.
Although reporters at home and abroad may have “hammered” Romney about gaffes overseas, a senior Republican said, “he clearly solidified his position with those inclined to support him anyway and may have won some friends that he didn’t have before.”
“But at the end of the day, it is the economy, stupid,” he said, echoing a famous phrase from Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign. “Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat.”
Julie Tate contributed to this report.