According to multiple Romney sources cited in a damning Politico report, Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney's chief campaign strategist, is to blame for Romney's gaffe-laden campaign. The sources in the article, which includes the sort of shit flinging you'd expect to read after a candidate loses, not before, fault Stevens for Romney's mediocre speech and Clint Eastwood's spectacular performance art piece at the RNC, amongst other campaign snafus.
First, Romney's speech went through a series of panicked rewrites after Stevens tossed the original, which was written by Peter Wehner, a respected veteran of several Republican campaigns, just eight days before the speech was to be given.
Wehner, who wasn't allowed access to Romney during the speech's writing, turned in a draft that included references to Afghanistan, but, for whatever reasons, Stevens didn't approve. So he turned instead to another set of veteran Republican writers, John McConnell and Matthew Scully, who were busy finishing Paul Ryan's speech.
Stevens didn't like McConnell and Scully's final draft either, and only used a paragraph in the final version, which was "cobbled together by Stevens and Romney himself." Says Poltico:
The hasty process resulted in a colossal oversight: Romney did not include a salute to troops serving in war zones, and did not mention Al Qaeda or Afghanistan, putting him on the defensive on national security just as the Middle East was about to erupt. It was also very light on policy specifics, much to the chagrin of conservatives who were certain the addition of Ryan and inclusion of Wehner meant a real battle of ideas was about to begin.
And then there was Eastwood's speech, or, as Politico more accurately puts it, his "rambling comedy routine." Stevens apparently "loved the idea of the tough-talking American icon greeting the millions of viewers tuning in to the main event," so much so that they let him say whatever he wanted without any sort of vetting. The result was amazing and hilarious but, alas, terrible for the campaign.
Many in the Romney high command watched in fury. Later, a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that for many voters - especially independents and casual viewers, exactly the ones convention organizers hoped to reach - the Eastwood skit, not Romney's speech, was the highlight of the convention.
The rest of the Politico story really piles on Stevens – it's worth reading in full – but here are some more highlights:
Stevens once compared Mitt Romney to Michael Vick: In an interview last year with Robert Draper for The New York Times Magazine, Stevens explained his theory of the case this way: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback "Michael Vick's not a real good pocket guy … So don't tell him he can't roll out. Try to make him the best rollout guy that's ever played."
Stevens comes from the dreaded educated elite: Stevens, a 58-year-old son of the South, is easy for conservatives to dislike. His official bio does not exactly scream "Republican ad guy from Mississippi": "Stuart was educated at Colorado College, Middlebury College, Oxford University and the UCLA Film School, [and] is also a former Fellow of the American Film Institute."
Oh, and a collegue described Stevens as a "tortured artist," which, yes, the brain behind Romney's campaign is certainly an artist.
Nonetheless, Romney remains loyal.
A Romney official explained: "Mitt is a sticker - he stays with you. He had a reputation at Bain for sticking with people. They made a bad investment, he hung with them. … None of this is going to be fixed. This is the organization, and this is who Mitt is betting on to win. There aren't going to be further changes."
Fun stuff, all around. At the very least, it will be good to know who to thank/blame if Obama wins in November.
[Image via AP]