After the battle, the wake: inquest and a drink for reeling Romneyites

Critics are suggesting Romney's campaign foundered at the hands of amateurs

David Usborne
Friday 09 November 2012 01:00 GMT
Mitt Romney with Stuart Stevens, one of his senior advisers, during the campaign
Mitt Romney with Stuart Stevens, one of his senior advisers, during the campaign (Getty Images)

If the top aides to the crashed campaign of Mitt Romney have vanished from view since Tuesday you might excuse them.

For 18 months they did nothing but tangle with reporters and that is enough for anyone. But it is also because in the wake of the debacle they are being blamed.

Moreover, it will take some time to digest the depths of the catastrophe that befell them.

The top strategists Stuart Stevens and Eric Fehrnstrom watched in stunned amazement as their man gave his concession speech in Boston. From there, they repaired to the bar in the Westin Hotel for a first impromptu wake. One day one among them may give an honest account of what really happened to their campaign.

Did they, for instance, actually believe their predictions of victory in the run-up to polling day or was it all an act to give the impression of a train running forward when they knew it had already jumped the tracks?

"Our momentum is undeniable, if you just look at the numbers," the Romney pollster Neil Newhouse told supporters just before the vote.

Or maybe they were duped by their own voter-intention models that just turned out to be wrong. If so, how was that allowed to happen? Already voices in the wider machine that was meant to send Mr Romney to the White House are suggesting anonymously that his campaign ship had been in the hands of an amateur crew.

"Everybody feels like they were a bunch of well-meaning folks who were, to use a phrase that Governor Romney coined to describe his opponent, way in over their heads," one member of the campaign's national finance committee told The Washington Post yesterday.

The speed with which the Romney apparatus is being disassembled is almost cruel. After meeting for an hour with his top benefactors in Boston on Wednesday, Mr Romney himself left in the back seat of one of his son's cars – the limousines and the Secret Service details had both been stripped away. Staff members at the Romney transition headquarters in Washington who have been the laying the ground for his putative presidency for months have been told to have everything cleared out and their laptops and phones returned by today at the latest.

As for the campaign strategists, they are likely to retreat out of the line of fire for as long as they can. But their professional lives in the long run are unlikely to be shattered. Nor are they likely to be hurting financially: during the campaign there were periodic reports of Mr Romney giving them large cash bonuses.

Mr Stevens will console himself by casting any eye over to Steve Schmidt, the top John McCain strategist and architect of Sarah Palin's vice presidential bid. After having spent some months in the wilderness, Mr Schmidt is now vice chairman for public affairs of one of the world's biggest public relations firms, Edelman, and a television pundit. Better still, Woody Harrelson portrayed him in the film about the 2008 campaign, Game Change.

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