The Washington Post

The Romney campaign needs to grow, not change

And so begin the circadian calls for a “staff shake-up” inside the Republican presidential campaign. You can almost set your watch by the predictability of these hand-wringing fits. They routinely occur around campaign milestones, especially the convention; after gaffes, particularly debate debacles; or during long periods of stasis or malaise. Sometimes they are a good idea, but I don't know what malfeasance or nonfeasance Romney campaign leaders are supposed to be guilty of. Mitt Romney is stronger than anyone expected him to be at this point. Fundraising is good, poll numbers are solid. More of the same is not bad.  

I've often described the Romney campaign with the golf analogy of almost always hitting fairways and greens. Consistent and steady, while its opponents eventually hit the ball into the trees and ditches. Romney doesn't overpower opponents — he just keeps himself from losing. That is not a bad strategy for 2012, and so far this team has pulled it off pretty well. With the puzzling exception of thinking Eric Fehrnstrom should be on TV, the Romney campaign doesn't appear to have made many repeat mistakes.

That said, all campaigns need to grow. The best campaigns are able to digest people and use them effectively.

The Romney campaign, like all good campaigns, needs to find a way to use the best and brightest that the party has to offer, from state and local campaign volunteer walk-ons to stars such as Condi Rice, big-time veterans such as former Michigan governor John Engler and next-generation leaders such as Keith Hennessey at Stanford's Hoover Institution, just to name a few. If you can't think of a way to use good people, you aren't thinking very well.

Campaigns are full of competing ambitions, dramas and fears of being layered by new personnel. Lee Atwater always said rather than screw people by excluding them during the campaign, save your powder to screw them after you have won the election. That way you can use what they have when you need it the most and keep the whining about being excluded to a minimum. And every campaign leader knows that candidates and candidates' wives hate to hear accounts of someone being excluded and not put to work. They are right.

P.S. - The candidate could also raise his game. I hope the campaign is studying what George H.W. Bush did with his convention speech in 1988. Somebody call Peggy Noonan.  But more about Romney's performance later.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.


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