Romney Finds Advisers Both Help and Hurt
Tuesday, June 19, 2007; 2:43 PM
BOSTON -- Mitt Romney is happy to get Greg Mankiw's economic advice _ except when it's economic advice conflicting with immigration advice the Republican presidential contender has also received.
Highlighting the challenge a far-flung campaign faces when it comes to message discipline, Romney has had to distance himself from his top economics adviser after Mankiw _ a Princeton-trained economist now teaching at Harvard _ voiced his support for an immigration bill Romney strongly opposes.
"The benefits of the bill far outweigh its shortcomings," Mankiw and others wrote this month in the Dallas Morning News. "We believe (the bill) offers the only realistic way forward and urge conservatives, and all Americans, to embrace the promise it holds out."
Both President Bush and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, one of Romney's top rivals for the GOP nomination, support the legislation.
Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said: "Advisers are limited to exactly that _ advice. Advisers are tasked with helping the process along, but the policy is decided by the boss and the boss in this case is Governor Romney, and what he says goes."
Mankiw is not alone as a political enemy within, nor is Romney the only candidate in presidential campaign history to suffer such perils.
Already this cycle, Democrat John Edwards severed ties with two campaign bloggers after conservatives complained their personal writings were anti-Catholic. The former North Carolina senator said he, too, was offended.
And in 2000, Vice President Al Gore, another Democrat, suffered collateral damage after the public learned one of his advisers was feminist author Naomi Wolf, who had written that oral sex and masturbation among teens should be considered as alternatives to premarital intercourse.
"Once you put these people on paper or on your Web site, you are essentially designating them as people associated with the campaign," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist and top Gore adviser during the Wolf incident. "Anything that comes out of their mouth, off their keypad or from the tip of their pen, you claim ownership of it to some degree and have to explain it."
Such internal philosophical disagreements are especially perilous to Romney, who is fighting charges he himself has flip-flopped over abortion rights, gay rights and embryonic stem cell research, among other topics.
Campaigns typically tout such outside advisers to show the breadth of their support among prominent individuals. There also is a more utilitarian benefit: Outside advisers can help candidates learn the nuances of public policy. That's important for Romney, a former venture capitalist with only one term of elective office on his resume.
Topics such as Social Security, the war in Iraq and alternative energy are relatively new to him.