Romney campaign takes friendly fire from within GOP

Critics see it as remote, inattentive

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Republican officials in key states have two contradictory opinions about this year’s presidential campaign: The Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan ticket is the worst-run ever, but despite that, they’re doing fine in their own states.

In some cases, local party leaders have decided to work around the Romney campaign — for example, going out and buying their own yard signs after weeks of unfulfilled Romney campaign promises to send some.

“It’s the most arrogant, insular and incompetent Republican presidential campaign in history,” one fed-up top state GOP official told The Washington Times, asking for anonymity in order to speak plainly.

The official was directing his wrath at what has become known in GOP campaign circles as the tight inner core of Romney advisers and friends at the campaign’s national headquarters in Boston.

“The problem is every single decision has to go back to Boston for approval,” said a top official in another key state. “If Boston wants to micromanage the campaign in this state, they should move their [expletive] headquarters here instead of Boston. They don’t know my state — I know my state.”

Despite the frayed relations, state parties say they are generally well ahead of where they were in the 2008 campaign.

Virginia GOP Chairman Pat Mullins said that most state parties shut down their Victory offices after presidential elections and reopen them during the next presidential election year.

“We decided last year after last fall elections [that we] would keep these offices open,” said Mr. Mullins, adding that the Romney campaign, George Allen’s Senate campaign and congressional campaigns merged into one Victory operation, with 26 offices throughout the state.

Mr. Mullins said that accounts for the absence of Romney-Ryan storefront campaign offices in Virginia.

Such arrangements may account for much of the griping from veteran GOP advisers, some ex-party chairmen in the states and even some current officeholders, who aren’t aware of the new ways Republican “Victory Committees” — the joint party-presidential campaign operations — identify and get voters to the polls.

Those in charge at the state level said the new methods are working.

“In Florida, our state Victory operation is blowing away the McCain campaign’s 2008 numbers — 13 times as many phone calls as his people made and 86 times as many door knocks,” said state GOP Chairman Leonard Curry.

In Ohio, the party and its volunteers have made four times as many calls and knocked on 30 times as many doors, said Bob Bennett, the state Republican Party chairman.

Republicans also claimed to be leading Democrats in absentee ballot requests in key states — Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

“We have identified more than 1.9 million swing voters since the start of the Victory voter contact program,” said Republican National Committee Communications Director Sean Spicer. “That means we can expand beyond talking to registered Republicans and supporters identified by micro-targeting, and push early voting opportunities to swing voters who have committed their support for Mitt Romney.”

None of that has quieted the complaints at the state and local levels about the Romney campaign.

“They believe they know everything, but they don’t understand grass-roots differences in different parts of the state. And they don’t want advice,” one top party official said.

“It’s not really the first time in the sense that in 2004 the Bush campaign did micromanage, but at least we had a seat at their table,” said a top state official. “We don’t have a seat at the table with Boston.”

The campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Every presidential campaign faces gripes from locals who say the national operation is trying to dictate to locals what the locals think they know better how to do.

But the intensity and nastiness of the complaints this year seem unusual and extend to basics such as the absence of yard signs and bumper stickers — what operatives in the trade call “collateral material.”

Several officials blamed the delay on campaign finance laws that forbid even ordering signs until the presidential and vice presidential nominees are chosen at the party’s national convention, which this year occurred at the end of August.

But many campaign activists note that this time in the 2008 race John McCain yard signs and bumper stickers were visible everywhere.

Many state party leaders say the Romney campaign has been dishonest in promising week after week that signs are on the way when they clearly were not.

“The Romney campaign still hasn’t sent us yards signs, and I got so tired of Romney campaign county chairs bitching about it, I ordered 5,000 yard signs myself just to hold down the bitching till the Romney campaign comes through,” an angry top official of another key state said privately.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Ralph Z. Hallow

Ralph Z. Hallow

Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.

 

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