Romney Retrospective: The Business Candidate, Still Working To Close The Deal : It's All Politics Mitt Romney spent years lining up endorsements, donors and state-by-state victory networks. His meticulous strategy paid off in a long GOP primary and has kept him competitive in the general election campaign. It also has revealed glimpses of Romney's loyalty and how he handles mistakes.
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Romney Retrospective: The Business Candidate, Still Working To Close The Deal

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Romney Retrospective: The Business Candidate, Still Working To Close The Deal

Romney Retrospective: The Business Candidate, Still Working To Close The Deal

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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We're going to take a step away from storm coverage now to explore what we've learned about President Obama and Mitt Romney, as leaders. We've had months to watch political ads and hear the candidates' speeches. Tomorrow, we'll bring you a story on the president's leadership. Today, Governor Romney.

NPR's Ari Shapiro has been covering the Republican candidate for the entire campaign season.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Looking at this year's Republican primary field, Sigmund Freud might have divided the candidates into superego and id. The id is all about passion and zeal and that defined most of Mitt Romney's challengers: Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, all made pulse race.

The superego is more measured. This much smaller column consisted briefly of Jon Huntsman and more notably, Mitt Romney

MITT ROMNEY: I'm not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support. I am who I am. I'm a person with extensive experience in the private sector.

SHAPIRO: Romney never made people swoon. But he had things nobody else in the race did, like money and organization. With the meticulousness of a business consultant studying a corporation, Romney spent the years leading up to this one lining up endorsements and donors.

In the Ohio primary, Romney's team outspent Rick Santorum 10-to-1 and squeaked out a victory. In the primaries' final stretch, while his last remaining rivals appealed to idealism, the Romney campaign appealed to math. This was Communications Director Gail Gitcho back in March.

GAIL GITCHO: They're going to have to get 60 and 70 percent of the remaining delegates, when the pattern so far in this delegate race has shown that they're not able to attain those kinds of numbers.

SHAPIRO: There was one way in which he did not run his campaign like a business: Nobody ever got fired. At times in this race, when Romney trailed far behind in every important swing state, other campaigns might have seen a staff shakeup. But Romney even stuck with aides who gave him a black eye in public.

ERIC FEHRNSTROM: For the fall campaign, everything changes. It's almost like an etch-a-sketch; you can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.

SHAPIRO: Advisor Eric Fehrnstrom is still right by Mitt Romney's side. So is traveling Press Secretary Rick Gorka, who made this salty remark during Romney's visit to Poland.

RICK GORKA: (Bleep) this is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect.

SHAPIRO: Romney is much harder on himself. Here's how he put it in Michigan, after a series of gaffes threw off his campaign's message day after day.

ROMNEY: I'm very pleased with the campaign and its organization. The candidate sometimes makes the mistakes. And so, I'm trying to do better and work harder, and make sure that we get our message across.

SHAPIRO: More recently, after the second presidential debate, President Obama pummeled Romney on Long Island. Romney campaign adviser Stuart Stevens was walking across a parking lot near the debate site when his phone rang.

Hey Gov, Stevens said. Then, after a pause: No, you were terrific. I thought Candy Crowley was a disaster.

On the other end of the phone line, Romney was clearly beating himself up for losing the debate. Stevens had the tone of a guy talking a buddy down from the ledge.

The presidential debates showed another side of Mitt Romney, too. He's a man whose strongest moments have been when he's on the ropes. Here he was fighting off Newt Gingrich during the primaries in Florida.

ROMNEY: My father was born in Mexico. My wife's father was born in Wales. They came to this country. The idea that I'm anti-immigrant is repulsive.

SHAPIRO: Going into the first presidential debate against President Obama, Mitt Romney was arguably at his lowest and he came out on top.

ROMNEY: Look, I've got five boys. I'm used to people saying something that's not always true but just keep on repeating it, and ultimately hoping I'll believe it. But that is not the case.

SHAPIRO: That performance and the subsequent comeback confirmed something that Republican consultant Mike Murphy knew about Romney. Murphy ran Romney's gubernatorial campaign in Massachusetts.

MIKE MURPHY: He learns from his mistakes. Romney is not a guy who makes the same mistake twice very often. And he's dogged, he kind of keeps going. So I think those traits are what got him through a long tough primary and now got him back to life in what looked like a very daunting general election.

SHAPIRO: The debates also showed that Romney does not feel bound by positions he's taken in the past. For example, here's what he said about Afghanistan in June.

ROMNEY: Announcing a withdrawal date, that was wrong.

SHAPIRO: And this is what he said in the final presidential debate this month.

ROMNEY: Well, we're going to be finished by 2014.

SHAPIRO: In those debates, he also seemed to moderate his positions on health care, taxes, Wall Street regulations and more. Democrats say this shows Romney to be a man driven by political expediency rather than core convictions.

Here's consultant Tad Devine.

TAD DEVINE: I think that's the kind of president, you know, Romney will be. He's going to figure out politically what's the best course for him, and he will execute it on the basis of that political calculation.

SHAPIRO: Romney's positions on some issues may have changed in the last year, but his overall demeanor never did. Whether he was up in the polls or down, in public, and aides say in private, he always kept his equanimity. That's what strikes Republican consultant Ed Rogers most about Romney.

ED ROGERS: You know, Romney is a pretty consistent player. He never does great but he never does poorly. And his authenticity comes through.

SHAPIRO: As many candidates before him have proven, to win a presidential election you don't have to be perfect, you just have to be a little bit better than the other guy.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, traveling with the Romney campaign.



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