With the end of the US Presidential election fast approaching, Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, offered some pretty blunt advice to Mitt Romney’s campaign in her Wall Street Journal column, ”Romney Needs a New CEO: How to save a listing campaign, the Baker Way.“
She “politely” observed that Romney was ”a damaged and flawed candidate”… blasted the RNC’s failure “to relaunch a rebranded Romney”… marveled at his “stunning” response to the Libya crisis… and polished it off with the “47% comment” not being helpful. Ouch.
Further, Noonan called Romney’s campaign “incompetent” and a “rolling calamity.” Politely. Double ouch.
I am of course, less polite, because I would summarize Romney’s campaign thus far as a cluster[intercourse].
But fear not my Republican friends, Ms. Noonan offers RomneyLand a last ditched plan for salvation: Call in Winston “The Wolf” Wolfe.
No, not Harvey Keitel… James A. Baker III.
Yes, it is now the set of Pulp Fiction in RomneyLand: There is a dead man with his head blown off in the back seat of Mitt’s car outside his Boston headquarters. They are standing in Jimmy’s kitchen and Team Romney… does… not… know… what… to… do.
Bring in The Wolf – Mr. James A. Baker III:
“… This was a man who could run a campaign… Mr. Baker, who ran things that are by nature chaotic and messy—campaigns and White Houses—with wisdom, focus, efficiency, determination and discipline…. Mr. Baker’s central insight: The candidate can’t run the show. He can’t be the CEO of the campaign and be the candidate… He has to learn to trust others—many others. Mr. Baker broke up power centers while at the same time establishing clear lines of authority—and responsibility. When you screwed up, he let you know in one quick hurry. But most of all he had judgment… He didn’t like hacks, he didn’t get their point, and he knew one when he saw one…”As someone who has managed campaigns for over twenty years, there is merit to Ms. Noonan’s recommendation. Romney’s staff and advisors have proven time and again their amateur status. But having executed a few “hostile takeovers” of campaigns in trouble, the staff in Boston won’t be the problem should they heed Noonan’s advice. Mitt Romney will be the problem. I can actually visualize Romney as Vincent Vega (John Travolta), standing in his kitchen with a bloodstained shirt, commanding Mr. Wolfe to say, “please”.
“… Get it straight buster – I’m not here to say please, I’m here to tell you what to do and if self-preservation is an instinct you possess you’d better fucking do it and do it quick. I’m here to help – if my help’s not appreciated then lotsa luck, gentlemen…”Not going to happen.
“… If I’m curt with you it’s because time is a factor. I think fast, I talk fast and I need you guys to act fast if you wanna get out of this. So, pretty please… with sugar on top. Clean the fucking car.”
Romney doesn’t have the character to admit his 6-7 year campaign is a total failure and entrust it to someone like Mr. Baker. Few candidates do.
In 2008, I was hired to take the helm of Jared Polis’ then lagging campaign for Congress in Colorado. The first few weeks were not pretty, as the “pink slips” flew, and the campaign’s staff, message and strategy were completely overhauled. Working with Jared, we instilled a new sense of discipline and focus and urgency, which included him getting out of the headquarters and strategy sessions, and out talking to voters. Not only did we close the double-digit polling deficit we faced, we won handily in the end.
It took guts for Jared to bring me in and shake up his own campaign. And while I got pegged as someone ”you don’t hear a lot of nice personal things about” by some pundit in a post-election article, we now call Jared Polis, Mr. Congressman.
Noonan’s very accurate portrayal of what a winning campaign looks like, runs completely counter to Mitt Romney’s stated worldview: “A campaign is a communal exercise. It isn’t about individual entrepreneurs. It’s people pitching in together, aiming their high talents at one single objective: victory.”
Romney will never rebrand (again) his campaign around the theme of “people pitching in together.” Instead, Romney as CEO and entrepreneur extraordinaire, will continue to run his campaign like he ran Bain – with a healthy dose of disdain for the little people and his own sense of superiority.
I once managed a campaign for a millionaire (inherited) businessman (failure) who insisted that we needed to run his campaign like he ran his businesses (I refused). Mercifully, I was fired. Predictably, he lost. Badly.
As a supporter of President Obama, I hope Romney completely ignores Noonan. Seven more weeks of Boston minor league hacks running around with their etch-o-sketches will be pure joy.
Romney should realize Mr. Baker is “thirty minutes away” and he’d “be there in ten.” But he won’t do it. He doesn’t have the guts.
Besides... not even Winston Wolfe can clean up Mitt's mess.
(Originally posted on @rbecker51's blog)
About the author: Robert Becker is a political consultant based in Cairo, Egypt and a Partner at WellsBecker MENA. For two decades Becker has been managing political campaigns, as well as designing and implementing communications strategies for clients across the globe.