How the Romney Campaign Sees Itself

Just after the Guy Benson report from inside from inside the Romney campaign, National Review’s Robert Costa reports on key findings during his talk with campaign insiders.  Plenty of great reporting and red-meat.  Read the whole thing:

The minute a reporter brings out a tape recorder, campaign operatives get nervous, especially when their candidate is having a bad week. When National Review Online contacted several Romney sources on Wednesday, the vast majority of staffers and confidants declined to talk on the record. Many advisers, however, did talk “on background,” which means they were candid (to a point), and shared the campaign’s thinking. Broadly speaking, the campaign is optimistic, as well as frustrated. They feel that they’re competitive, and that the pundits, both in the mainstream press and on the right, are overly harsh. Here is a synopsis of those conversations.

This is a team

Outside of the campaign, there has been a lot of grumbling about Stuart Stevens, Romney’s strategist. “The people who are complaining don’t understand his role — or they want his role,” says one Romney consultant.

It’s cordial

“Are there disagreements? Sure there are,” says a second adviser. “But this isn’t a campaign of big personalities.” Matt Rhoades, the campaign manager, is a low-key leader who despises “process” stories and spends much of his time working with Romney’s political team, as well as with his friends at the Republican National Committee. He never goes on television. Stevens avoids TV, too, and though he is not Rhoades’s best friend, they have a professional rapport.

[Note: it personally drives me bonkers senior Romney people aren’t on TV every day pushing back twice as hard against the media anti-Romney lie of the day.  I want them out there fighting for this job.  It’s the most important job in the world.  Isn’t that worth fighting for?]

Location, location, location.

According to Romney advisers, the criticism of the campaign isn’t coming from state party chairs or tea-party activists but from the usual Beltway suspects, and from media commentators who are looking for drama. “It’s noise,” a third adviser says. In fact, Romney advisers see the candidate’s unpopularity in Washington as a plus, most of the time.

They’re flush

They feel confident about their financial situation over the final stretch. Romney has had a few great months of general-election fundraising, and together with the Republican National Committee, the campaign has more than $100 million on hand. The real focus now seems to be on mapping out where to spend the money. They’re also keeping Romney busy with fundraisers so they don’t lose their financial competitiveness.

The Mother Jones videos are the new tax returns.

Romney’s campaign sees the “47 percent” story as unhelpful and distracting, but not as a damaging, campaign-ending scandal. The adviser compares the videos to Romney’s tax returns, which dominated the Washington chatter but didn’t have a major impact on the campaign. That ultimately may be right, but Romney is now playing defense, telling a crowd on Wednesday that he is for the “100 percent.”

Portman knows how to prep.

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio is an ace, and he has challenged Romney more than Romney expected, which has pleased the governor. Portman’s Obama impressions and his ability to get rather aggressive with the Republican nominee have enthused Romney. Sources say Romney absolutely hates being badgered, but Portman’s task has been to boost Romney’s confidence and thicken his skin.

Eastwood was … fine

“People have stopped talking about it, since there isn’t lots of love for it,” the fourth adviser says. Some of Romney’s closest friends enjoyed it, or at the very least they were amused by the spectacle. No one really thinks it’s going to win or lose votes. If anything, Eastwood’s comparison of Obama to an unsuccessful hire who must be “let go” reinforced Romney’s theme of disappointment.

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