Mitt Romney's retooled 2012 campaign learning from past mistakes
A week after losing the 2008 presidential primary to John McCain, Mitt Romney called one of his top supporters in Florida.
"He said, 'We're going to stay in touch,' and he was looking forward to getting back to Florida as much as he could," recalled state Sen. John Thrasher.
Get back he did. Romney started working Florida well before officially entering the 2012 race, with a focus on capturing key supporters and fundraisers and keeping them in his corner while more conservative candidates emerged.
The low-key visits allowed Romney to audition a retooled campaign persona. The stiff, corporate candidate of 2008 was replaced by a more approachable figure, dressed in jeans and open-collared shirts with rolled up sleeves.
Romney warmed up crowds for Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, the top Republicans on the 2010 Florida ticket, making jokes and honing a tightly focused message on jobs and the economy.
"Barack Obama, he was so confident of his future he's fit in 40 rounds of golf so far," Romney told a crowd at a rally for Scott at The Villages in October last year. "Forty rounds of golf! Mind you, I'm probably happier when he's listening to his caddy than when he's listening to his economic advisers."
Romney, 64, has challenges, not least, a feeling among many conservatives in Florida and nationally that he is a moderate with a stunning record of flip flops. His everyman makeover — accentuated with Twitter posts about flights on Southwest Airlines and meals at Carl's Jr. and Subway — has been viewed as equally phony.
Still, Romney has found a consistency as rivals rise and fall or lack the resources to compete. Another steady debate performance Wednesday night in Michigan added to the sense of inevitability surrounding the former Massachusetts governor, the candidate who most worries Democrats.