Douglas Gross

(Text only) Douglas Gross is a lawyer in Des Moines who has worked on numerous campaigns and held a variety of positions in state government. Prior to his work for Romney, he was a fundraiser for George W. Bush. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on August 28, 2012.

(Text only) Douglas Gross is a lawyer in Des Moines who has worked on numerous campaigns and held a variety of positions in state government. Prior to his work for Romney, he was a fundraiser for George W. Bush. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on August 28, 2012.

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    Tell me when you first met Gov. Romney. ...

    My first time I met Gov. Romney was when he came ... with the RGA [Republican Governors Association] and came at a time when they were supporting Jim Nussle's race for governor here in the state of Iowa. That would have been 2006. …

    What were your first impressions of him?

    Very smart guy, very strong executive leadership style. But I was interested about the extent to which he could translate that into political success, because my experience, being both in business and in law and in government, is that there are very few people that get all three, very few people that get both politics and government. I've not seen very many people translate success in one to the other. ...

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    Romney '08

    When you started to hear that he was considering running for president, what was your thought process at that time?

    A good friend of mine, who was a prominent ... businessman in Des Moines, encouraged me very strongly to give [Romney] consideration and talked me into going to Boston, to Massachusetts, to actually sit down and visit with him.

    Take me to that meeting. Tell me where it was and what you were there to do.

    A friend of mine, Rich Schwarm and I -- Rich is a former political Republican party chair in Iowa -- we flew out and met with [senior Romney adviser] Beth Myers and a number of the key people and discussed the campaign.

    I remember the initial discussion of the campaign, the strategy of the campaign. They were very interested in what the caucuses were about. They really couldn't quite figure them out, and they also wanted to know how he should be positioned if he wanted to have a chance of winning the caucuses.

    I remember that I had read some material on him previously, particularly something I think Mike Murphy had written, talking about how he adopted a position on abortion, one when he became governor, and then two now that he was running for president. And I was concerned about that.

    They had received advice that he needed to dive right if he wanted to have a chance in Iowa, particularly on social issues. And I remember at the first meeting, I indicated to him that I thought that was a mistake, that he had to be whoever he was. If you're trying to dive one way or another, you're going to lose your authenticity and not be successful. ...

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    Romney '08
    The Three M's -- Mormonism, Money and Massachusetts

    After that discussion, then we went to dinner with both the governor and his wife, Ann, at the top of the Ritz-Carlton, overlooking the Boston Common. I suspect they thought that this country boy from Iowa would have stars in his eyes associated with that kind of a setting.

    I've dealt with people who have been running for president. That's one of the opportunities you have in Iowa is you have an opportunity to deal with people who would like to be president, and you don't have stars in your eyes. You see the world very clearly. And you feel that one of our jobs as Iowans is sort of do the job interview and see what these folks are made of, and if they have the capabilities to be a successful president.

    What I had read about him, and the information I had learned about him, I was impressed with him from the standpoint that I thought he understood big issues. I thought the country was facing big problems, and this is a guy who could tackle those. He had both the intellectual capacity, the organizational capacity to do that.

    But there were some things that still bothered me, and I wanted to talk to him about those things that might bother me. They were the three M's. ...

    ... Tell me how that conversation went. Try to bring me into that room and how you brought it up with him.

    I think that he had been mistakenly told by his staff that I was already planning to endorse him, so I think at first he was surprised I had any questions. And I don't think he was particularly pleased that I did. I don't know that he was displeased with me but maybe with his staff that I still had these issues.

    But I indicated to him that I had these three issues that I thought needed to be dealt with if he was going to be successful, particularly in Iowa. The three M's were his Mormonism, his money and Massachusetts, where he came from, and all three of those M's could potentially present problems, particularly in a caucus state like Iowa where the electorate is relatively small.

    I brought up the Mormonism first, indicating that as a Catholic, [I] had felt some discrimination associated with my childhood because we lived in a very Protestant area, that I could understand his reluctance to talk about it, but at the same time that he was proud of his religion. And it didn't cause a problem for me, but for a lot of evangelical Christians, particularly in Iowa, they didn't consider Mormonism even Christianity.

    They had a difficulty with it. He sort of dismissed that as an issue, really clearly didn't want to talk about it.

    So then I went to the next one, money. What I talked about was, I ran for governor in Iowa in 2002. And I grew up working in a packing plant, so it wasn't like I had a silver spoon in my mouth, yet I've been relatively successful later in my career. Some people felt that I didn't relate well to normal, regular folks, because I had been somewhat successful.

    And I related that to him and said: "You are more successful by multiple hundreds of times than I could ever imagine to be. Can you relate to the average folks? Can you really understand them? Can you walk into a coffee shop in Iowa and draw a connection? Because you need to in a caucus state."

    He looked at me quizzically and dismissed it and got very upset and walked out of the room. And then they really didn't talk to me the rest of the night. I didn't get the chance to talk about Massachusetts. Lord knows where that would have gone.

    But we went to the women's college basketball NCAA tournament championship game. ... I sat next to him for the entire game, and they didn't speak to me once during the course of the rest of that evening. They were clearly offended that I was questioning the extent that he could relate to an average person.

    Obviously that caused me some difficulty, so I delayed any consideration about who I was going to support for some time after that.

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    Romney '08

    ... You're sitting across from Ann Romney. Describe how that goes down.

    Ann obviously felt I was insulting her husband and indicated that I was by asking that question. And the rest of the people in the room were sort of taken aback and shocked. I know my friend Rich Schwarm left the room because he doesn't handle conflict very well, and he didn't want to be around to even see what would happen. Mitt just simply refused to talk about it, and Ann left the room and didn't join us for the rest of the evening meal.

    What do you think it was?

    In Iowa they have this old phrase that when you stick a pig, it squeals. I think I hit a sensitive spot.

    By the way, I think he's doing a better job on all those fronts during the course of the 2012 campaign and clearly has learned from his mistakes in the 2008 race.

    FDR was wealthy. JFK was fabulously wealthy. George Washington was the wealthiest president relatively than anybody that's ever served in that office. And yet for some reason Mitt Romney has a difficult time with that issue, because it still struck me during the course of this campaign: He's effectively been running for president for about 10 years, and yet he has tax returns he's still not willing to release.

    You would have thought he would have anticipated that and been prepared to deal with it, because his failure to release them plays into this notion that the Democrats want to defeat him, that he is too wealthy to relate to average folks. And he's highly sensitive of that issue but seems almost incapable of dealing with it.

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    Back in 2008, at that time in that room, were you shocked by that reaction to that question in particular?

    Over the years, I'm not shocked by many things. I remember sitting down and that same year visiting with John McCain. Another friend of mine had convinced me to go visit with John McCain, even though I was convinced I would not support [him] for president.

    I still remember that meeting. We met with him at 7:30 at the airport. He had just flew in after a day of campaigning, was clearly very tired. I always have a list of questions for these folks, and I figure if they can't answer some questions from some pipsqueak in Iowa, they're going to have a tough time with some reporters in D.C.

    I asked him some questions about his position I remember on McCain-Feingold [Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act], how he as a Republican could support that level of government intrusion. And he got up, and he almost ripped my face off. So I'm really not surprised by the reactions of these folks from a lot of things.

    But to me, that moment with Mitt and Ann Romney reflected a political vulnerability that they had, that they to this day have still not effectively dealt with. And his ability to become not just president but a successful president in my mind will depend upon the extent to which he can deal with that. ...

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    Romney as Governor

    ... We didn't touch on the Massachusetts [question]. What was the issue that you saw there?

    The issue there -- and this is probably more acute for Iowa than it is in a general election right now -- is he was a governor of Massachusetts, was the most liberal state in the country.

    He had adopted a health care reform package that I frankly thought was interesting and reflective of a particular solution they needed in Massachusetts and reflected some really innovative policymaking on his part. It also reflected the kind of governor he was and president he could be in terms of looking at things in a pragmatic way, devising solutions that made sense for that particular point in time in that institution.

    But nevertheless, if you come into Iowa with a government-mandated health care program, come from Massachusetts, which is the most liberal state in the country, you start with a couple of strikes against you.

    And trying to convince people that you're really one of them, particularly folks who in their caucuses are generally more conservative than the general electorate, that was an issue for him throughout the entire primary campaign, an issue for him today still with the base that I think he attempted to resolve, and I think effectively resolved, by picking Paul Ryan as his vice presidential candidate.

    So I think he solved the Massachusetts issue. I think he's solving the Mormonism issue. I mean, for the first time, he now lets the media go along with him when he's going to a Mormon church, so he's no longer trying to put his Mormonism under a bushel basket. He's showing that his Mormonism is reflective of the values that he brings to life, which I think are outstanding. It's the middle M that he still seems to have the difficulty with.

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    Romney '08

    You ultimately decided to join his campaign.

    I did.

    Tell me why.

    A lot of these things are a matter of elimination and whether or not you believe that there's anyone better, more capable to be the next president of the United States. And after having spent some additional time with him, and most particularly with some of his people, I became convinced that he had the team necessary to win the presidency. So I decided to join and became his chair in Iowa.

    What did you think his greatest strengths were?

    His greatest strengths clearly are his ability to understand the economy and understand how the economy works and to fix it. Mitt Romney takes issues like entitlement reform that most politicians think are intractable and sees them as equations that can be solved by just adjusting the numbers.

    I like that. I think that helps wring out some of the impossibility of some of the reforms that we need and defines them in a way that are solvable, and I think that's very good and important for the country.

    Back in 2008, as we were still coming off a relatively prosperous era, coming out of the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war, more of the issues were focused on things like immigration and social issues. They were more predominant then than they are now.

    He attempted, in 2008, to veer toward that direction rather than sticking with his core capabilities, which is in the economic space, because he was trying to make it reflect the times. Didn't work. It became almost a caricature of himself, at least in Iowa.

    In 2012, however, the times called for the economy and economic president, at least a presidential candidate, and that's where he focused in a very disciplined way. So that's clearly his strength.

    From a personal standpoint, his executive ability is almost unmatched. He has an ability to analyze. He's very numbers-driven, very data-driven. He's not afraid of anyone from the intellectual standpoint. He can draw them out and listen to them and learn from them in a very, very effective way. So I think his greatest ability will be his ability to manage a large institution and drive it into a positive direction.

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    Romney '08

    Sticking with 2008, you just said in your answer that he became a [caricature] of himself. Explain to me what you mean by that.

    There are some pundits in Iowa and some radio talk show hosts that literally made fun of Mitt Romney because of the positions he had prior to the time he ran for office, when he ran for Senate, when he ran for governor, and then when he ran for the presidency. And they all seemed to vary on what people, social conservatives, consider uncompromisable issues, such as abortion, gay marriage, issues like that.

    So it was because it appeared that he was wandering in that issue space that people didn't know who Mitt Romney was. As a result, that really hurt his image in a state like Iowa, where the social conservatives are very strong.

    ... How did he position himself in that race?

    He positioned himself as a social conservative and a person who was against immigration. And to me, neither one were what attracted me to him. Neither one reflected what was his core strength. Neither one in my heart, after spending time with him, to me anyway, reflected who he really is.

    So I remember still ... calling his pollster. And the caucuses were on [Jan.] 3, and this was the day after Thanksgiving, so it's not very far away, six weeks, and calling him and saying: "All right, we're running on the caucuses. It's not going to be a very large turnout. What is our winning coalition? Who is it that we're trying to attract?" ...

    And we hadn't yet, and never did, identify our winning coalition. It reflected the fact that in 2008, Mitt Romney never had a political persona. He tried to be everything to everybody.

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    [Take] us back to that time and [remind] us what the playing field was, and why he saw that hole that he thought he wanted to pick.

    Back in 2008, [then-New York City Mayor] Rudy Giuliani at one point was the hot commodity. [Sen.] John McCain. [Tennessee Sen.] Fred Thompson came in, was going to be the salvation of the world.

    Caucuses are often structural races where it really depends on who's in. It's like a student council election and who gets which clique. And that particular race there were multiple what I would call "establishment candidates" in the race, along with Mitt Romney, and not very many social conservative candidates in the race. Once [now Governor of Kansas Sam] Brownback fell out after the straw poll, [former Governor of Tennessee] Mike Huckabee was it.

    And so what happened was, Mike Huckabee seized that space, did so right after the straw poll, and Mitt tried to recapture some of it from him. And the more he tried, the more ineffective he became.

  10. Ψ ShareThe '08 campaign was 'electoral malpractice'

    Talk to me about the campaign itself. Who was running the campaign? Who were you dealing with? And what were the issues back in Boston?

    It was one of these campaigns where we had lots of motion and no action. There were consultants coming out of our ears. We had the best people in the country, from micro-targeting to polling to media consulting to Lord knows what, fundraising, everything, organizational abilities, some of the top people in the country. Yet there was no entity that brought it all together. Nothing.

    I've been involved in a lot of campaigns. It was the most frustrating campaign I've ever been involved in, and it was because of that I stayed out of the entire thing in 2012. I did not want that experience again. If I've learned nothing in my life, it's I don't like to repeat negative experiences.

    Beth [Myers] is a wonderful person. But she was the campaign manager. She served as consigliere, but she was miscast. She was not the one who could pull everything together and drive a strategic direction.

    I think Mitt thought that he was going to bring as many smart people as he could into a room, and he could divine political wisdom from all of them and know which way to go. That may be how you do it in government; that's not how you do it in politics.

    How you do it in politics, you have three or four core people that are unconditionally supportive of you. You have unconditional trust in them, and they become your core and they drive you. He didn't have that. He tried to reach outside of that organization.

    And it became really a campaign that spent a lot of money. He used a lot of people but was terribly ineffective from a vote-getting standpoint. ...

    Where did the problems lie? What's to blame for that? ...

    ... Mitt was still trying to make this transition, I think, from being a successful business executive to being a successful politician. And Mitt doesn't have an intrinsic political ear. He doesn't.

    He's not the kind of guy, like a Bill Clinton, who's going to come and just charm you the moment he walks into the room. Mitt's not that way. He's buttoned down. He's stiffer. He's more incisive, more direct. He just doesn't have those kind of skills. He doesn't have those natural retail skills, political skills that a lot of successful politicians have.

    At the same time, he was trying to apply business management skills to a political campaign, and it became a mess. And so there was no direction. As I said, there was a lot of activity but nothing that was productive. No message that was clear. We never even identified who our winning coalition was in a campaign like the Iowa caucuses, which is just almost electoral malpractice.

    ... Where do you put the blame? In my mind, a campaign reflects the candidate. Mitt Romney was just not prepared to run for president in 2008.  

    He's the guy that put the folks in the positions they were in. No one else did. He is the one who should have understood that maybe Beth should have been in a strategic role, that she is in, for example, in 2012, not the campaign manager role. Maybe [strategist] Matt Rhoades is better off for making the trains run on time, which is what they've done now. He didn't get that.

    Oftentimes in politics you never have a second chance. He's one of the fortunate ones. He's got a second chance.

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    ... What was the platform that you were advocating that he ran? And what were you hoping for in that candidate?

    I was pushing for a candidate who would focus on the economic issues that faced the country: budget reform, tax reform, growing the economy long term, which is interestingly what he's done in 2012. But I pushed for that from the first meeting and pushed throughout the entire time and was not able to get them to focus that way.

    And I understand why -- because they were looking at the structure of the race and saying: "OK, who are we going to get from Giuliani? Who are we going to get from Fred Thompson? Well, I guess we've got to get these people from Mike Huckabee."

    But, you know, Giuliani was a defective candidate. Fred Thompson was a defective candidate. At the end of the day, it was just Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. If we would have become the bona fide establishment candidate, we would have won that race, because John McCain at that point in time had run out of money. He had nowhere to go. He became almost a default establishment candidate after New Hampshire.

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    This may sound like I'm Monday-morning quarterbacking, but I would argue that I was right. But I would also argue that they learned their lesson well, and the times suited them better in 2012. ... I think he needed that time to learn how to run the ship, learn how to translate his business experience in a successful way to politics. And he's shown that he's more effective in doing that in '12 than he was in '08.

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    Was there a point during that campaign that you thought you really had a chance?

    Yes. 

    Tell me about that.

    Early in the race, we were in the lead. We were ahead, and we ran a very aggressive race in Iowa. We won the straw poll, which is not an easy thing to do. It's highly organizationally focused, and you have to have intense supporters to get them to come out on a hot August day and go to Iowa State and go to a straw poll. And we won that.

    But from the day of the straw poll on, it went downhill. Prior to the straw poll, people were interested in him. They were trying to learn about him. I remember we did some focus groups with some ads, and they reacted well to his presidential demeanor. They thought he looked like the guy who should be president. He still does, and that's always been an asset.

    So that initial impression was saying: "Yeah, I'm open to Mitt Romney. I'm interested in seeing him." But when they couldn't figure out what he stood for, we lost them. And that's what happened after the straw poll.

    Was there one particular turning point or one moment where you saw it slipping away? ...

    It was the moment right after the straw poll when Brownback got out of the race. We saw Huckabee starting to surge prior to the straw poll in some of the polling we saw, and when Brownback got out of the race, there was only Huckabee to capture that.

    And Huckabee -- they must put it in the water in Arkansas or something -- he has every natural retail political skill that Mitt didn't have, so he became like everybody's favorite brother in Iowa, and they loved him. As a result, he captured both the people who were interested in someone they felt comfortable and warm about, yet he captured the social conservatives, too.

    And as Fred Thompson dropped out and Giuliani dropped out, we didn't have the cred with the establishment conservatives even to pick that up at that point. So it was right after the straw poll in August, I thought we were in real trouble. In fact, had some discussions with some people about not even competing in the caucuses.

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    Was there a friction with your dealings back and forth with the campaign?

    No. I like them. I think they're great people, and they're dedicated, hardworking, decent people. I think Beth Myers is wonderful. Matt is awesome. [adviser] Eric [Fehrnstrom] is a great guy. Spencer Zwick is as good a fundraiser as you'll find anywhere. These are good people.

    But, for example, at the night of the caucuses when he finishes second -- which is a huge disappointment, but we saw it coming for sometime -- I need to introduce him. So as I'm walking up to the stage, two different media consultants give me two different messages as to what I should say in introducing him. It reflected to me what was wrong with the campaign. We didn't know who we were or what we were trying to be.

    ... Do you remember what the two messages were that you were given?

    One of them wanted me to go out there and focus on the fact that second is like a silver medal, and you're OK. And the other one wanted me to go up there and talk about how he was against illegal immigration and reinforce the social conservative message, which would have been just weird. And it was weird. So I went and said: "Hey, we got a silver medal. We're going to get a gold next time."

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    He put a tremendous amount of his own money into that campaign. Talk to me about the amount that he spent.

    I don't know how much he spent. I just know one of the reasons why Mitt Romney is successful is he wants the presidency more than most people do. Woody Allen once said, "Half of life is just showing up." A lot of winning the presidency is how much you want it, because you have to go through fire to get there.

    I remember he had worked so hard to get to the straw poll that after the straw poll, he had to go to Salt Lake for a couple of days of downtime, which he never did before. I think he was almost near exhaustion. This guy worked his tail off.

    In addition to that, he put a lot of his own money in the race, which I always thought was a mistake. A guy told me a long time ago that if you have to put your own money in the race, you've already got a strike against you, because ... you're already investing in yourself by taking your time to do this.

    But I think he felt he needed to do that to jump-start the campaign. And I suspect that maybe it was the case in 2008. ... I think you're better off if you attract a kind of financial support from other folks who want to invest in their future through you.

    You said he wants it more than [most people do]. Why?

    I'm not a pop psychologist, but I think there's several things. One is that I think he's redeeming his father, George Romney, who he worships, who was also an awesome guy. A great governor of Michigan, a real trendsetting governor of that state, who could have been president but for a statement about visiting with generals about the Vietnam War. And I had heard Mitt Romney, this is a way to redeem him, so I think that drives him.

    In addition to that, you shouldn't underestimate his incredible patriotism. He really believes in the country in a guttural and a visceral way. And he sees things going on that he knows need to be fixed, and he wants to fix and believes he has an obligation to fix.

    So I think you add those two drivers together, and you've got the candidate that really wants this every bit as much as Barack Obama wanted it.

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    ... Eric [Fehrnstrom] ... mentioned that there was a lot of internal debate about whether or not to address ... the Mormonism. And Eric said he advocated not to deal with it, that it was something that would just go away. And yet however the decision is made, he goes out and he gives the big speech. ... What was your voice in that? Did you think it was something he needed to deal with? ...

    I was never of the opinion that he needed to make that speech. I remember watching it and thinking what they're trying to do is capture lightning in a bottle, like Kennedy did in '60 when he gave a speech I think to the Baptist ministers in Houston. It's very difficult to repeat that, particularly when a Kennedy did it who is an icon before you, who also, by the way, was from Massachusetts. I thought that he was just setting himself up for a situation where he could never be successful. ...

    But I also never thought he needed to do it because I thought in doing so, what you're doing is saying, "The only way I can win the caucuses" -- and this was during the caucus campaign -- "is to capture these social conservatives," because they're the ones that had the issue with the Mormon issue, because some of them at least are concerned about whether or not it was really a Christian religion.

    I thought it was, again, reflective of the fact that he was pandering to try to become a social conservative when that was never the key to his success anyway.

    I'd looked at the polling numbers before we started. There were about 40 percent of the electorate was going to be socially conservative. Fine. We only needed 30 percent to win. We got 24. He could have captured enough of the establishment Republicans by not talking about Mormonism at all and still won that caucus. And in my opinion, that's what he should have done.

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    Romney '08

    ... Why do you think he ultimately lost that 2008 campaign?

    He wasn't ready to be president from the sense that he wasn't able to put the structure of the organization, and most particularly the message, together that could succeed during that time.

    What do you think he learned from that campaign, watching and observing now?

    An old football coach of mine a long time ago said, "The only thing you learn from losing is not to lose again." And Mitt Romney, he learned that lesson. He does not want to lose again. So as a result of that, I think they spent a lot of time analyzing that race. If you talk to Eric and Beth, they'll tell you that.

    They realized that one, they had to be focused on their message. They had to be the economic candidate, and they were incredibly disciplined on that throughout the course of the campaign.

    Two is that they had to win a war of attrition, that they may not make people like them more than anybody else, but they're going to last longer than anybody else. And by raising money and frankly knocking down any potential opposition on the establishment side of the Republican Party, they could win.

    They made the race structurally of the mirror image of 2008. Instead of having multiple establishment candidates, you had multiple social conservative candidates. They divided up that vote among themselves. He focused on the economic issue. Anytime [former Speaker of the House]Newt Gingrich or others would try to capture some of those establishment Republicans, he'd knock them down because he had the capability to do so.

    We talked about this as their strategy a year before it ever started, and they carried it out to a T and very successfully did so. And Mitt Romney, during the 2012 campaign, was his own campaign manager. He ran this campaign.

    Why do you say that?

    Because he did. I mean, all the message discipline, the direction, the strategic moves, were all Mitt's. His people around him, or his core group, are strongly supportive of him. They give him advice, but at the end of the day, Mitt ran this campaign.

    Is that something you know, or you can just sense?

    I can sense. 

    Tell me why.

    Because the campaign reflects who Mitt is. And I also know the people around him. While they're strong, including his media advisers and others, they're not the kind that are, [like] David Axelrod, going to take that campaign, strategically develop a narrative and run with it, and the candidate is just going to be a bit part player. That's not the campaign it's been.

    It's been a campaign that's been almost ruthlessly disciplined in terms of what they had to do to win, and Mitt Romney is a disciplined man.

  18. Ψ ShareMitt has 'a Norman Rockwell view of America'

    You worked under him. Talk to me about that side of him, that leadership style, that piece of the candidate.

    An example of this is the night of the caucuses, when I'm walking up there and getting different advice from different people. And then I see Mitt in the back. He had just worked his heart out and spent a lot of money in Iowa; this was necessary to launch his campaign. He finished second to Mike Huckabee.

    And rather than being down, Mitt Romney is up. I couldn't believe it. It was almost otherworldly. I couldn't believe that he would be there, because I was obviously very disappointed by all of this. Yet he understood that in order for him to have a chance, he had to present an image that was very positive and upbeat.

    And [he] did so, and I think it was actually genuine. ... It's who he is. He never believes that defeat leads to the end. He believes it leads to something else more positive. And I think [that], again, is reflective of the fact that he wants this more than anybody else, and he's disciplined enough to get it.

    Did you have a lot of personal interaction with him during that campaign?

    Not that much. I don't want to overstate the extent to which [we interacted] in any way. After our initial introduction to one another, obviously we didn't become best buddies. Yet we have a professional relationship. We had a number of conversations. I spent some time with him. I introduced him at a lot of places, so spent a lot of time with him on the road that way.

    So I know him from that standpoint, but I don't want to in any way make people believe that I understand his inner workings or in any way was his best buddy, because that's not true.

    ... One of the things I think people struggle with is kind of trying to get past the façade and sort of grasp onto something.

    What's in there? 

    Yeah.

    What do you mean by that?

    What you see is who he is. He, as I said, almost seemed otherworldly in that event that I talked about, because most people think that he's just play-acting. But he wasn't play-acting. Mitt Romney, at his core, that's who he is. He is an upbeat, positive guy who believes in the Norman Rockwell view of America, with families and kids and the flag and marching bands. That's who Mitt Romney is.

    And David Axelrod can say that he's weird, but if he's weird, so is America, because he reflects a lot of the basic core values of America. It's both inside him and outside him, and he's best when he doesn't in any way try to act. Just be who he is, because those are core American values.

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    You decided not to join the campaign this year. Tell me why.

    I thought we had all the resources. I thought we had great people, in many respects a great candidate, it had been properly done, and we were unsuccessful. ...

    That was the most negative experience I have had in electoral politics, because the purpose of a campaign is to take something that isn't going to happen and make it happen. And we took something that should have happened and didn't make it happen. And I didn't want to repeat that. That was number one.

    Number two is, I needed to actually watch the campaign to see if he was going to be true to himself, to see if he was focused really on the economic messages, or see if he was going to try to be somebody he wasn't. I didn't want to commit to that without knowing what he was going to do, and so I became more of an observer than a participant in this one. And that's just fine. ...

  20. Ψ Share

    ... Talk to me about how you see the Mormonism playing in this particular race.

    The fact that he is now attempting to use Mormonism as a reflection of his core American values, and because if you study the Mormon Church, you understand it's a very American religion, and a religion that's very much focused on the kind of values that we bring to our civil discussion in the United States in terms of hard work, thrift, family orientation, etc. That he sees it as a potential asset and not a liability is a huge step for him.

    It's also a huge step for the country because it reflects the country that is much more open to alternatives in terms of people's religious beliefs, and beliefs that a Mormon can be not just a good person but a great president.

    So I think they are just now getting to the point of getting comfortable that they need to talk about Mormonism to make him a human being. And the people of the United States want their president to be a human being that they understand, feel and have empathy for. ...

  21. Ψ Share
    Others on this topic:
    Romneycare
    Mitt is driven by data, not intution

    In terms of Massachusetts, I think they're starting to get to the point now that they're in the general-election campaign, of taking his accomplishments as governor and trying to translate them into what that would mean if he were president of the United States, and not taking his health care program in Massachusetts and making it a liability but making it an asset.

    He recently said he was proud of that. So he's starting to make progress associated with that, but he has to do that because that's his public record. And his public record is probably as important or more important than his private record in terms of making the assessment about what kind of a president he would be.

    ... The health care is something that's really quite interesting. I mean, it was a crowning achievement for him.

    Yeah, huge. When I first met with him, [health care] was one thing he talked about. This was a big solution to a big problem, and it was uniquely done to meet the needs of Massachusetts. It was definitely a crowning achievement.

    And so who is the man that sort of takes that and then --

    --forgets it?

    Yeah.

    Talk to me about that, to now be sort of running away from it. It does seem that there are a number of situations in his life where it's the same kind of thing.

    It's this issue about the extent to which Mitt Romney has what most successful politicians have, which is an ability to perceive how other people are perceiving you. I think he tries to do that. I don't think it's natural to him, so he has to learn it, and as a result of that, he makes political mistakes.

    Instead of like a Bill Clinton, where he would intuitively know how people are going to perceive him, even when it comes to terrible issues like Monica Lewinsky and whatever, he still maintained a 60-plus percent popularity, because he understood what was really driving people's views of him.

    Mitt Romney doesn't have that intuition. He's driven by analysis, data, rationality. So he looks at it and says: "OK, Obamacare is unpopular by a majority of the people. It had a mandate in it. My plan has a mandate in it. Therefore, I can't talk about my plan." 

    So that's sort of a deductive reasoning that he would go about looking at that, instead of intuitively knowing that American people are concerned about both the quality and the cost of their health care, and they're looking for solutions to both of those issues in ways that specifically meet their needs.

    Massachusetts was one example of how that could be done in a very creative way, where he brought in consultants. ... He used all of his business skills to develop that, and then in a state that's intensely partisan, intensely political, reached across the aisle to get it accomplished, not precisely the way he wanted, but the bulk of what he wanted to do.

    So that's a great example of using your business skills and matching them with political skills to accomplish big things for the U.S.

    During the course of the general election campaign and the final 70 days that remain, he needs to explain that's the kind of president he would be. If he does, he'll win. …

  22. Ψ Share
    Others on this topic:
    Romney as Governor

    ... Do you think he's more of the Massachusetts moderate, or the more sort of conservative candidate?

    I think at his core he's conservative. On economic issues, he's very conservative. And I think Mike Murphy was right when he said that Mitt had to modify some of his positions to become governor of Massachusetts. So I think some people will be surprised, if and when he becomes president, that he'll govern as a conservative president, particularly on economic issues.

    On social issues, I don't see Mitt Romney wanting to engage on that. I think he learned that lesson, that engaging on those social issues is not productive if you want to move the American people to solve the problems that need to be solved right now by our government.

    The social issues certainly need to be addressed. I suspect Mitt believes that they can be addressed most effectively by our churches and our private institutions, and he would encourage that. But you should expect, on economic issues, a very conservative president.

  23. Ψ Share
    Others on this topic:
    His Change of Heart on Abortion

    On those social issues, though, the candidate that ran against Ted Kennedy -- pro-abortion, highly supportive of gay rights -- to the person who ran --

    Do I think that's where he is personally?

    No, but it's interesting for someone to have that big of a swing.

    Well, that's a problem. That was a problem for him because people thought there was lack of authenticity as a result of that.

    The problem with social issues for Mitt is that social issues, by definition, are issues of morality. And most people don't think you compromise on morality. Yet Mitt looks at social issues rationally, not morally. And if you look at them rationally, you feather, and you move, and you adjust, and you do all these kinds of things.

    But [to] the folks who really are driven by those, those are issues that can't be compromised. Those can't be feathered. They can't be adjusted. And so that's what makes it very difficult for him to move those folks. …

    One of the things that people have questioned is, who will Mitt Romney be, especially with this question on social issues and with the parties being so divided at this point. Who is that president when he gets in? ...

    Some people believe that Mitt Romney is sort of a transitional figure in the Republican Party in the sense that he is still an establishment Republican at his core, yet the young leadership in the party is moving more and more toward a right-wing ideological party, focused more on ideological concerns than pragmatic concerns.

    And I think Mitt Romney has the ability to be a transformational president. I thought his selection of Paul Ryan was inspired, because what he did when he selected Paul Ryan was politically he took care of his base with one fell swoop. So it was a smart political move and at the same time made the election clearly about something, about the future direction of the country. ...

     

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