(Foto: Zac Moffatt)
Karen Tumulty en The Washington Post señala cómo los errores cometidos en su primera campaña presidencial (2007-2008) le sirvieron a Romney como aprendizaje para llegar este año a la convención como el último candidato en pie.
Just under a year ago, Mitt Romney was looking at what promised to be a rough evening in Tampa, the same city where he will formally accept his party’s presidential nomination this week.
At the time, that prize seemed to be slipping from his grasp. Polls showed Romney badly trailing Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a late entry into the race who was a matinee idol of the right. And the rowdy crowd that had gathered for a tea party-sponsored debate at the Florida State Fairgrounds was clearly in the mood for a rumble.
“You’re going to get booed,” Romney strategist Stuart Stevens recalls warning his candidate as they watched a television in a nearby trailer and assessed what awaited in the hall.
The former Massachusetts governor responded with . . . a big, deep chortle.
“It’s happened before,” he said.
But that night Perry was the one who got the catcalls, for being insufficiently tough on illegal immigrants. Romney was at his best, steady and confident as he tore apart Perry’s contention that the sacrosanct Social Security system is a “Ponzi scheme.” He left the stage having done what he wanted, which was to sow doubts that the swaggering Texan was the best candidate to go the distance against President Obama.
Romney wasn’t out to make Republicans love him. He was out to prove to them that they didn’t have to.
(...) That Romney’s second run for the nomination succeeded is testament, in large measure, to the way he retooled his approach to politics after his defeat four years ago.
His 2.0 launch reflected both the lessons he learned from the past and the calculations he made about what lay ahead. As Romney often says when talking about his business career, he is a man who can count his share of mistakes. But those who have watched him closely know that rarely does he make the same one twice.
Romney’s campaign this year is headquartered in the same dingy Boston waterfront building as it was in 2008, but everything else about the operation has been overhauled.
(...) Despite speculation that the rise of the tea party would rewrite the playbook for winning the nomination, Romney decided early on a cautious, relatively conventional strategy.
(...) “He is a manager who sticks with his strategies and implements them relentlessly,” Gingrich said.
In his second run for president, Gingrich added, Romney has proven to be “much more stable, much more methodical. I think, in a way, calmer.”
(...) “Mitt Romney is a guy who, as they said at Bain [Capital, the private equity firm he founded], could see the trend line,” said John Weaver, a top strategist for former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, another primary challenger. “He got ahead of the curve far enough, and well enough, that he became acceptable to the base of the party.”
After his failed presidential campaign of 2008, aides say, Romney dedicated himself to figuring out what had gone wrong. He realized he had erred by trying to be all things to all Republicans — delivering an economic message when he was in front of local business groups, stressing his values before religious ones. He had angled to land on the right of his rivals on every front and to catch a wave with every news cycle.
(...) Romney had offered a fuzzy, off-the-rack kind of Republicanism that only served to reinforce the party’s doubts about what he really believes, given his more moderate positions in the past on issues such as abortion and gay rights.
When Romney lost, “he was really frustrated, mostly,” recalled Beth Myers, who was his campaign manager in 2008 and led his vice presidential search this year. “He felt that he had never been able to talk about his vision for the country.”
Then there were the tactical blunders. In 2007 and 2008, Romney spent heavily on a “win early and win often” strategy, which left him no room or resources to recover from his loss in Iowa. He had also built a huge operation and hired legions of strategists, assuming that — as had been the case in business — reams of data and a diversity of viewpoints would yield the right answer. Instead, his political enterprise turned into a high-priced, feuding mess.
This time, he would run a smaller, tighter operation, shuffling some key aides and shedding others. He would not waste his money trying to win meaningless rituals such as straw polls or state primaries known as “beauty contests” where delegates were not awarded. He would build his operation for the long haul he saw coming.
During the off-season, Romney borrowed a page from one of the greatest comeback stories in modern political history. As Richard M. Nixon had in 1966, Romney hit the campaign trail during the 2010 midterm elections to gather chits and help position himself as the presumed front-runner in 2012.
In 2010, Romney made 33 appearances for congressional candidates and nearly 60 for state and local ones, visiting more than 30 states. His political action committee contributed $1.16 million to candidates and party organizations, ranging from high-profile gubernatorial and Senate races to statehouse candidates to county GOP operations.
(...) Those who are close to Romney said he went through another exercise that proved to be far more significant than was generally realized. Starting in 2008 and continuing through most of 2009, he wrote a book.
“No Apologies” turned out to be a very different book from the one that he had written in advance of his 2008 race.
That earlier one, “Turnaround,” was an account of his takeover of the scandal-ridden 2002 Winter Olympics, and read like one of those volumes that line the shelves of the management and leadership sections at the bookstore. “No Apology,” published in 2010 and featuring a slightly grayer Mitt Romney on the cover, was his manifesto, a dense read with chapter titles such as “Why Nations Decline” and “A Free and Productive Economy.”