BOSTON — An aide to the Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign is calling for a sea change in how the Republican Party conducts politics in the next presidential election.
In a new e-book, “A Bad Day on the Romney Campaign: An Insider’s Account,” former campaign writer Gabriel Schoenfeld details what he sees as serious missteps by the campaign that led to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s loss to President Obama.
“There were some very disturbing moments, there were some great moments,” Schoenfeld recalled in looking back on the campaign.
In his book, Schoenfeld focused primarily on mistakes in foreign policy. He said that even though the campaign had dozens of foreign policy advisers writing proposals, the advisers were “largely for show, it turns out.”
Schoenfeld described a policy team that both diminished the importance of foreign policy issues in the campaign in order to focus on the economy, and that was territorial — ignoring outside advice because they were angling for jobs in an expected Romney White House.
Because of that, Schoenfeld said Romney went on a trip to London, Israel and Poland without an expert alongside him to brief the then-candidate on what to say, or not to say. Schoenfeld said that led to “a series of mistakes that cost [Romney] dearly.”
Even after each misstep, Schoenfeld said the campaign did not learn.
“[The campaign] was repeatedly — in the area of foreign policy — chasing headlines, which is not the way to talk about foreign policy,” Schoenfeld said. “It creates an image of opportunism and that’s what Mitt Romney was tarred as even though, in fact, the private man that I know is really a statesman.”
Outside of the foreign policy realm, Schoenfeld also pegs comments that Romney made at a private fundraiser:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. … And they will vote for this president no matter what… My job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
Schoenfeld said watching that video was “one of the saddest moments of the campaign.”
“For a campaign that was running on the slogan ‘We believe in America,’ that was a deeply pessimistic vision of America, of voters,” he said. “They were beyond his reach of his arguments, no matter how cogent they were.”
Further, Schoenfeld said Romney’s statements were “flatly wrong.”
“People, no matter how dependent they may be, are ultimately open to arguments and those arguments need to be made. And I don’t think the campaign tried to make an argument to reach those people. It wrote them off,” he said.
Which speaks to a larger point Schoenfeld made in his book: The Romney campaign relied too much on data and not enough on real politics.
“The people I was familiar with, I think, thought of voters as consumers who on Nov. 6, 2012, would be forced to choose between two competing products. And their task was to, very much in business terms, to try and make Romney a better known brand, a better-liked brand and ultimately a better seller,” he said.
Schoenfeld is urging the Republican Party to move away from analyzing polls and coming up with marketing slogans and go back toward issues. For him, the lesson is clear.
“I think we need to pick a candidate who doesn’t rely so much on the consultants, doesn’t buy the snake oil they’re selling,” Schoenfeld said, “who speaks from the heart, knows what he wants to do, where he wants to bring the country, and is not afraid to lead.”
Some senior officials in the Romney campaign discredit Schoenfeld and say he did not have a leadership role in the campaign and was not present at high-level meetings where many of the decisions he writes about were made.
Schoenfeld said he was not present at those meetings as his role in the campaign diminished over time.
“But I had an excellent perch to examine what happened, to see what happened,” he said.