TAMPA, Fla. — The honor of putting Mitt Romney over the top in the delegate count on Tuesday went to New Jersey, but it was a Massachusetts delegate who helped to nominate Romney. As in the parliamentary process, Ron Kaufman “seconded” the Romney name.
Kaufman is a longtime Romney supporter. He helped introduce Romney to the Republican Party hierarchy years ago, when he served as a top adviser to President George H.W. Bush.
We spoke with him this week and asked why, since Romney has been on the scene for such a long time now, the candidate has to “reintroduce” himself this week at the convention.
Ron Kaufman: It’s not reintroducing himself. If you’re not in one of the 12 swing states or you weren’t in a state that had a Republican primary that was contested, you probably don’t know Mitt Romney; you probably don’t know there’s an election going on, almost.
There’s an old men’s clothing store that used to have an expression: “An educated consumer is our best client.” I think that’s true about Mitt and voters in this country. An educated voter is Mitt’s best voter. The more people get to know him, the more they understand him.
Campaigns have a beginning and an end. And this is the middle part — the beginning of the end, if you will. What comes out of Tampa for Mitt will be an educated voter.
You think this campaign is shaping up a lot like the campaign between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Why?
I do. Couple reasons. If you go back and look at the polling data from this period of time in 1980, people still liked Jimmy Carter, personally, but they were tired of his policies. Economic policies in particular. But they turned off listening to Jimmy Carter.
They looked at Ronald Reagan before the conventions and they weren’t sure about him either. He was some old movie actor they weren’t quite sure of — a big Goldwater person. And they weren’t particularly sold on Ronald Reagan either, but they gave him a chance to get to know them. That started at the convention and by Election Day they decided they were right about Carter, they didn’t like him, but they also decided they did like Ronald Reagan.
I think it’s the same thing here. People like the president personally, but they’re tired of his policies and they’ve stopped listening to him. They’re turning to Romney and saying, “Hmm, I’m not sure yet, I don’t really know this guy.” But like Ronald Reagan, they’ll get to know him and the more they get to know him, the better he is going to do.
Do you think Mitt Romney is comfortable in his own skin right now? Clearly he has evolved since he was the governor of Massachusetts from a moderate Republican to a more conservative Republican. Is he comfortable with himself?
He’s very comfortable with himself, and if you’re covering him at all on the campaign trail, you’ll see he’s evolved to be a really good … I was going to say politician, but he’s not. He’s a really good candidate. People who say, “He has to get more comfortable with his skin” — they want him to be something he’s not. I was with someone one day who was asking the same question. She said, “You got to get him to be more comfortable.” I said, “OK.” She said, “Have him wear a cowboy hat.” Can you imagine Mitt Romney in a cowboy hat?
Comfortable in your skin, to me, means you’re comfortable with who you are, you’re comfortable in the situation you’re in. And right now he’s very comfortable. He’s very happy with Paul Ryan, they’re a great combination, it’s one of those things where one plus one sometimes equals six, and it’s doing terrific. So I think he’s going to come out of this convention with a real bang and do really well.
You’ve been at this a long time — you were with both Bushes, very closely, very tight with them. What’s Romney have that they had, too, and what’s he not have that you wish he did?
I mean, obviously he’s not a politician, so he doesn’t have the experience that either of the Bushes had, you know, on the national stage, but you learn that and now he’s got that. He’s very similar to 41. And I’ve worked with two men in my life, really: 41 — a little bit of 43, but mainly 41, as a staff guy — and now as a volunteer, friend of Mitt’s, and I think it’s terrific.
I think that they’re very, very similar in the way they look at problems, the kind of people they have around them — always bright, always smart, asking for input, listening carefully, taking all kinds of input, and then making a decision and then making sure that decision is implemented. So, I think 41 and Mitt Romney — maybe that’s why I like them both so much — they’re very similar politicians.