Saturday, May 26, 2018
Politics

Mitt Romney struggles to win over GOP voters

Florida crowned Mitt Romney the unofficial Republican nominee last month. Now he's on the precipice of losing the race in Michigan, his native state.

What happened?

A better question might be: What didn't happen?

Romney failed to take his main opponent Rick Santorum seriously this month, giving the upstart room to breathe and time to win three state races in a row. Romney, plagued by gaffes, has failed to sell a consistent message about why he should be his party's nominee.

And in a volatile election season, Romney has also had the misfortune of being the victim of what one Republican called "tea party roulette," which has extended the primary race and kept him in the crosshairs.

"Mitt has had a bull's-eye on his back for something like two years now," said Allan Bense, a former Florida House speaker and co-chair of Romney's Florida campaign.

"Once the bull's-eye is on your back and the mainstream and others examine you and your issues and your history, it isn't pretty. Rick Santorum is learning that now. So I think we'll be okay once voters become educated about the other candidates."

Bense is among the more confident Romney Florida backers. They've watched with dismay as the Sunshine State's primary failed to be a deal-sealer for Romney in the race.

Last week, the campaign had to postpone a Daytona Beach fundraiser so that Romney could focus on campaigning in Michigan, a state he was expected to win handily.

Now he's essentially tied with Santorum. Polls suggest Romney should win in Arizona. Both states hold their primaries today. The two states set up the 10-state "Super Tuesday" contest on March 6.

After winning Florida, the Romney campaign didn't expect to be in so close a race with Santorum. But then Romney lost Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota a week later to Santorum.

Romney "needs to change the media narrative from loser to comeback," said Mike Murphy, a former Romney adviser. "Romney had a legitimate defeat in Colorado. They made a strategic mistake not competing in Missouri thinking the media wouldn't care."

Meantime, the Romney campaign has developed what appears to be a tense relationship with some conservative press outlets and the mainstream-media traveling press corps, where reporters have made much on Twitter of the fact that he hasn't granted them an interview in almost three weeks.

Murphy and others think the media are overhyping Romney's gaffes, such as his Friday statement that his wife owns "a couple of Cadillacs." In Michigan, Murphy said, people are happy when you're buying cars made in their state.

On Sunday, Romney got slammed in the media and blogosphere for telling an Associated Press reporter that he doesn't follow NASCAR closely but has "some great friends who are NASCAR team owners."

Romney's opponents seized on the Cadillac and NASCAR comments as examples of how he's an out-of-touch rich guy. That narrative intensified the day after Florida's Jan. 31 primary when Romney told CNN "I don't care about the very poor." Romney went on to explain that he's focused on the middle class, and he believes the very poor have adequate social services.

On the day he made the Cadillac comments at Ford Field in Detroit, Romney was talking tax cuts. But the national press focused more on the fact that the football stadium was largely empty and the attendance relatively small.

"Mitt Romney's Ford Field Fumble," ABC News' blog called it.

All of it points to struggles with messaging by the Romney campaign. Its messenger-in-chief, Stuart Stevens, didn't return calls or emails. Earlier this month, after Romney's Florida win, Stevens basked in positive press accounts about heading the campaign.

Now, some Republicans are privately wondering if Stevens is the best consultant to help Romney win with grass roots Republicans.

Murphy, who advised Romney in his 2002 Massachusetts governor's race, declined to comment on Stevens. Romney's 2008 adviser, Alex Castellanos, also declined to comment.

Both were featured in a December POLITICO piece after each tweeted a snarky comment about Stevens. Both said they like Romney and don't want to undermine his campaign. Both say they don't want to work for the campaign.

Still, it's tough for them to watch what has happened to Romney since he won Florida.

"The Mitt Romney I know is a transformative figure," Castellanos said. "He fixed the Olympics in Salt Lake City. He made Staples what it is today. But I don't see enough of that candidate."

Part of the reason for that is the campaign and a political committee supporting Romney have decided to spend relatively more time running negative ads about Romney's opponents rather than running positive spots about Romney. Right now, they're framing Santorum as a big-spending creature of Washington.

At the same time, a bloc of conservative Republicans just don't seem to want Romney, although most polls have consistently shown he's the best Republican to match up against President Barack Obama.

"It's tea party roulette," said Republican consultant Alex Patton of Gainesville.

Despite all of Romney's problems, though, he's still the odds-on favorite to win his party's nomination. It just will take some time. And some work.

"Nothing fixes all these problems like winning. So he better win," Murphy said. "He doesn't have to win everything. But he has to win a lot."

Comments
North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on. The explosi...
Published: 05/24/18
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18