The Wall Street Journal’s Colleen McCain Nelson wrote an article titled, Following Romney Again and Again. I love these glimpses into Governor Romney’s campaign; even for those of us that have followed his career for years, we usually learn something new from others’ research. My favorite part of Ms. Nelson’s article is the very last paragraph; for me it says it all about the type of leader Governor Romney is and why others respect him.
The stories that many of Mitt Romney’s closest confidants tell sound much the same.
They met the Republican presidential candidate years ago when Mr. Romney was working in private equity, or leading the Salt Lake City Olympics, or preparing to run for governor of Massachusetts. They had no designs on hitching their wagon to Mr. Romney. But once they started working with him, they were persuaded to come along for the ride.
After an Olympics, a term as governor, a presidential campaign and the better part of a second one, Mr. Romney has built a small cadre of loyalists who have worked with him for years. He repeatedly has convinced many of them to move to places where they knew no one and to take on challenges that were unfamiliar and daunting.
“Every time he went to do something else, I joined him,” said Bob White, a longtime friend who also was a partner at private-equity firm Bain Capital with Mr. Romney. “Each of the things he was doing was big….This campaign is my sixth once-in-a-lifetime experience with Mitt Romney.”
Nearly every presidential candidate relies on a handful of trusted advisers who have been longtime loyalists. Mr. Romney’s inner circle includes a large number of people from fields other than politics. Many say they have little taste for campaigning, have no plans to move on to another job in the political world and are in the campaign only to help a friend become president.
Mike Leavitt, the former Utah governor who is helping Mr. Romney on transition matters for his potential administration, worked with Mr. Romney on the 2002 Olympics. So did Spencer Zwick, who is now the campaign’s national finance chairman. Senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom has been with Mr. Romney since he ran for governor. Beth Myers, who is leading the search for Mr. Romney’s running mate, worked on his gubernatorial campaign and then served as his chief of staff.
The article states Governor Romney may be relying too much on close-knit loyalists to the detriment of the campaign.
To that point, Mr. Romney recently has begun fleshing out his team with a handful of advisers with experience in Washington and on the national political stage. Among them: Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who also worked in George W. Bush’s White House, and Michele Davis, a top Treasury aide in the Bush administration.
“When you’re running for president you need a mix of people with national campaign experience, but also people you’ve known a long time and completely trust,” said Charles Black, who has worked on Republican presidential campaigns since the 1970s.
Mr. Zwick was finishing school at Brigham Young University when he agreed to work on the Salt Lake City Winter Games, handling tasks such as translating documents. His plan was to move on to New York and work for an investment bank. Mr. Romney had other ideas—namely, that Mr. Zwick should help him become governor.
Ten years later, Mr. Zwick is still on Team Romney. He has gone to the governor’s office and then to two presidential campaigns. Along the way, he has launched an investment company with Mr. Romney’s eldest son and has been dubbed Mr. Romney’s “sixth son.”
Mr. Fehrnstrom compares working with Mr. Romney to “being launched out of a rocket.”
Mr. Fehrnstrom was at his desk at an ad agency, “working on a press release for a new, spicy menu at Popeye’s Fried Chicken,” when Mr. Romney phoned him to ask for help on his gubernatorial campaign. “I said to myself, ‘There have to be more interesting things in life than spicy fried chicken,’ ” Mr. Fehrnstrom recalled. “I hung up the phone, walked down the hall and quit.”
The inner circle bristles at polls suggesting that the public hasn’t warmed up to Mr. Romney—he is seen in a more negative light than was every other major-party nominee at this point in 2008, 2004 and 2000, and more negatively than President Barack Obama is today, the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows. Mr. Romney’s friends say they are frustrated when people say he doesn’t relate well to others. “He’s very engaging company.…I’m just pronouncing it untrue,” Mr. Leavitt said.
While Messrs. Leavitt and White both play central roles in the Romney campaign, with Mr. White serving as a senior adviser, both describe their roles simply: as a friend to the candidate.
“I offer an independent voice when it’s needed,” Mr. Leavitt said. “When you have a thoroughbred racehorse, you can put a goat in the stable with them, and it calms them down. I’m the goat.”
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