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Charley Manning

Charley Manning is a Boston-based GOP adviser who served as chief strategist for Mitt Romney in his 1994 Senate race against Ted Kennedy. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted by producers Michael Kirk and Gabrielle Tenenbaum on June 26, 2012. (58:54)

Charley Manning is a Boston-based GOP adviser who served as chief strategist for Mitt Romney in his 1994 Senate race against Ted Kennedy. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted by producers Michael Kirk and Gabrielle Tenenbaum on June 26, 2012.

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    The Loss to Kennedy

    How did you first learn about Mitt Romney, who he was and all? What's the first moment you see and talk to him, whatever it is?

    Back in early fall of '93, the then-governor of Massachusetts, Bill Weld, whose campaign I'd done, called and said: "There is a guy that's thinking of running against Teddy Kennedy, and would you meet him? We'd love some help, and he'd love to have you help him out." And so I met Mitt and Ann at one of the hotels here in Boston for breakfast, and that was the first time I met him.

    So take me there. What do you see when you see Mitt Romney? What's Ann like? What's their relationship like? And how was the breakfast?

    (Laughs.) Well, I knew, of course, about the Romney family; everybody knew George Romney. But I didn't know that he had a son that lived here and worked here. I didn't know about Bain Capital in those days and the great things that Mitt had done in building that company. So I sat down with Mitt, and he started talking about that he wanted to run against Teddy Kennedy. And I said: "You can't beat Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts. You're just not running against Ted Kennedy. You're running against Rose Kennedy and JFK and RFK, and the whole tradition of service. It's a miracle when a Republican wins in Massachusetts. It would be like Our Lady of Lourdes to ever beat Ted Kennedy."

    And Mitt just laughed and chuckled and said, "But somebody ought to take him on." And that's when he decided he wanted to run against Ted Kennedy, when I said, "You can't do it." That's Mitt; he said, "I'm going to do it."

    Did you have a sense of why he wanted to run?

    He felt like he should be challenged, that Teddy hadn't had a tough challenger in a long time in the state. And he felt that he ought to step up and take him on in that race.

    Now, you're an experienced hand at that moment, and at this moment. You look at a guy like Mitt Romney who presents -- how did he present? What did he look like?

    Well, it was Mitt and Ann, and of course they're a great-looking couple, appearance-wise, when you first meet them. I mean, you think Ann's good-looking now? You should have seen her back then. She's just a wonderful lady. I thought it was cool that he had his wife with him; that told me a lot. A lot of times when you sit down with a guy that's thinking of running, it's just him or somebody, a business associate or something. So I liked that.

    What did it tell you that he had her with him?

    It told me that they had a partnership, that he wanted her involved in all of the decisions that he would be making. And Mitt and Ann are the ultimate partners. They are together, and they go through everything. All the experiences I've had with them, it's always -- it's Mitt, but it's always Mitt and Ann.

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    The Loss to Kennedy

    So when you sit with him at that moment, Charley, what are you assessing? ...

    Well, the fact that both of his parents had run for office I think gave me a sense that he knew what he was stepping into. Of course, it's a battleground here in Massachusetts. It's really a tough way to come up in the political world, especially if you're a Republican. But I thought he was very altruistic about his reasons for running – public service, direction of the country. And certainly I could see him as being a really good candidate.

    He was personable. I've sat down with people before and they were grumps. And you say, how can this guy go out and shake hands and meet people and campaign if they're like this sitting across the table from me? But Mitt definitely had personality, and he was obviously very smart. ... And I think it is important to make sure that guys like Ted Kennedy don't get a free ride every time, even though it would be almost impossible to beat him, that he should be challenged. And I like that Mitt said that, "Yep, somebody should step up and challenge him."

    And they know how to play the game; they know how to play dirty.

    They're tough. They run very tough campaigns, that's for sure, especially when they feel like they're challenged. Usually Teddy could just ignore his opponent, and the media would go along with it, and there would be a poll here or there that showed that the challenger never had a chance against Teddy. He might deign to have one debate on a Sunday morning somewhere where nobody would be watching it or seeing it, and that was it. And he had done that since he was first elected in '62, and it had always worked for him, but this would turn out to be his toughest challenge.

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    The Loss to Kennedy
    'There was total silence on the convention floor'

    What was the plan, Charley? How did you decide to take this guy with his attractive qualities forward? ...

    Well, first of all, he had a primary. There were a bunch of folks that were running for that office, and some of them pretty good candidates, some well funded; others were good grassroots folks. ...

    And then we went out to the convention, and there were, I can't remember, four or five candidates. ...

    And then when it came time for Mitt to speak, he gave this amazing speech. ... And the entire convention hall went quiet. And he talked about when he had been a Boy Scout leader for his son's troop, and they had heard about a Boy Scout troop that had written to NASA and asked if they could get a flag on one of the space shuttles and then have it brought back to them, and they could fly that flag proudly.

    So NASA went along with it, and they sent in the flag, and it was put in a metal tube and loaded on to the space shuttle, and it was the Challenger. And when they found the debris of the Challenger in the water, they found the tube, and they found the flag, and the NASA people returned it to the Boy Scout troop, which made it even more poignant.

    So Mitt had heard about that through Boy Scout circles, and he asked the troop if he could have -- if they could use the flag at their installation of Eagle Scouts for their next big ceremony. And the troop said sure. And they sent it all insured and everything, and Mitt talked about opening up the box and holding that flag in his hands and looking at it and thinking what it had been through and thinking how much it mattered to our country.

    And there was total silence on the convention floor. And I think Mitt was the last to speak of the candidates. And then he finished his speech. They took the vote. And Mitt got, like, 75 percent of the vote. Only one of the other candidates got above the 15 percent threshold. So we still had a primary, but it made it a lot less complicated just to run against one person. ...

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    The Loss to Kennedy

    Was there a campaign big idea in that first run against Teddy?

    Well, in modern American politics there's three types of campaigns: There's image campaigns; there's structure campaigns; and there's issues campaigns. Now, on the issues, Mitt would be on the opposite of Teddy on all the key issues that people really cared about. Teddy wants higher taxes; Mitt wants lower taxes. Mitt is much more job-oriented and private sector-oriented; Teddy is much more government sector-oriented. ...

    On structure, we couldn't match them at all. They had one of the best teams ever that was put together. And as Teddy got into jeopardy, all the people that had worked for him over the years left their D.C. lobbying firms, law firms, wherever they were all over the country, and came back to work on Teddy's campaign, totally gratis. ...

    He had David Burke, the former head of ABC News, riding around in the car with him; you know Teddy. I had a kid that had just gotten out of college driving Mitt around. So we knew they were going to kill us on structure.

    But on personality, as huge a personality as Teddy is, that's where Mitt was almost able to match him, because he was so good on television. He had his issues down. He knew where he wanted to go. And he did a great job. And he's a tireless worker. You can see why he's so successful in everything that he's done in his life. He would work from, and campaign from, morning till night. And of course Teddy in those days couldn't do that anymore. So even though Teddy could beat us on that part, Mitt could come close to matching him.

    So in those three key aspects of modern American campaigns, just like we all thought, it was going to be hugely uphill, but we could be competitive a little bit and have some fun. It wasn't going to be one of the traditional old Kennedy blowouts. ...

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    The Loss to Kennedy
    The Kennedys 'viciously' attacked Mitt's religion

    Yeah. OK, so when do you get the word that you've got some pretty good numbers happening out there and there is something going on that's going to freak the Kennedys out?

    Well, you always can tell by what the other side is doing. And even before we had our primary in September for Mitt to win the Republican nomination, they had Joe Kennedy, who was then a congressman, Bobby's son, start viciously attacking Mitt's religion. He was putting out statements; he was giving interviews. And I really felt bad, because when you start a campaign and you get to know your candidate, you try to figure out the strengths and weaknesses and where the other side will come at you. And I distinctly remember sitting with Ann and Mitt and saying: "One thing I know, Mitt, is they're not going to attack you on your religion. They'll go after you on a zillion things, but the one thing they won't do, I promise you, is attack your religion." And Mitt said: "Great. Certainly that would be good."

    And then when they did, I just thought, boy, how low will the Kennedys go? Attacking someone's religion when you're from the family of the first Catholic president of the United States and you've seen that religious prejudice in a race. And then to step out there and stir the pot again, boy, that is really bad. ...

    But it showed me that they were really worried about him. ...

    Did he sort of roll it off then and say -- now they don't really talk about it, but was that the case always, even back then?

    What did we do? What I did is when somebody goes over the rails in a campaign like that, is I always go just as hard back at them. So I didn't have Mitt respond on that in any way. Our campaign really went after Joe Kennedy and called him a bigot and a religious bigot. And then there started to be some pressure built in Washington from other members of Congress, especially members of the Mormon Church, who were totally insulted. Could they say this about Mitt if any other religion? What if he had been Jewish and you had that type of attack going on? ...

    Did you worry that it actually was a big problem?

    As we went through the campaign, one of the most important blocs that a Republican needs to win in Massachusetts is Independent women. So we had our pollster, Linda Duvall, do a focus group of Independent women. ... And then she asked about, "Well, what do you know about Mitt Romney's religion, Mormonism, the Mormon faith?" And there was sort of like quiet, because nobody really wanted to say anything in this focus group.

    And then all of a sudden, one woman spoke up and said, "Well, I heard this," and then another woman said, "Well, I heard this." And you could tell that they really didn't know much, as most folks in Massachusetts knew, but you could tell that there was just enough out there. By creating the buzz and attacking Mitt's religion, the Kennedys were able to turn it into an issue and a question mark about Mitt, just because people didn't know that much about Mormons at that time. ...

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    The Loss to KennedyBain

    ... Isn't there a Bain moment, then, when they go after him on his record at Bain?

    Oh, sure, yes.

    That's the big bomb they drop.

    Right. What they did is, while Mitt was running against Teddy -- he had left in January, beginning of January in '94, had left Bain. Later that year, about June, a company that Bain owned bought a paper company, and one of the company's facilities was in Indiana. And they immediately tried to restructure the company. I think it had been a union company, and they wanted some concessions to keep it going, that type of thing.

    So that sort of went on through the summer, and it wasn't anything we knew about or were paying attention to in any way. And of course, the unions were backing Teddy in a huge way, and they got wind of this sort of labor unrest. And the Kennedy team went out there, ad team, and they put together these ads. You know, I give them credit -- people holding up signs, "Mitt Romney's trying to steal my job!" I'm sure the Kennedy people made all the signs and everything, because they, the folks at the paper company, had no idea who Mitt Romney was, let alone who probably Bain Capital was.

    It was a pretty big, it was a good ad. It really hit. But of course, it was totally unfair, because Mitt had nothing to do with the acquisition of the company that owned the plant; he was away from it.

    Then they decided to double down, and they brought a group of the paper workers out to Boston over the Columbus Day weekend. They arrived that Friday before Columbus Day weekend, and they had a rally in front of where Bain Capital's offices are, over in Copley Place. ...

    And we saw them on Sunday at the Columbus Day parade. They had them over there, had those folks over there. And I finally got to meet their union guy and some of the workers, and I said, "Hey, we'd really love to meet with you."

    So Mitt and Ann, everybody, we all marched in the parade. And then we called them, and Mitt and I went to see them, all those folks, on Sunday night. And Mitt was typical Mitt. He explained the sequence, explained what it was all about. And then, "Here's when you guys were acquired. I'm not with the company now. I made no decision in your acquisition or your work rules or anything."

    And they just said: "Can you help us? Is there anything you can do?" And Mitt said: "First of all, I'm not with the company. It would be wrong for me to interfere in a situation that I don't have anything to do with. I don't know what the numbers are. I don't know what the investment package is." And he just explained everything to them.

    And they all sort of looked at each other and said: "Then what are we doing out here if you can't help us? We came out to see if you could help us." And I said, "The Kennedy people are just using you guys to go after Mitt."

    So the very next day they went back to Indiana. But between the ads and then that media pulse that the Kennedy people and their friends in the unions built of bringing the workers out here, it was the story for 24 hours a day for over that whole Columbus Day weekend. ...

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    The Loss to Kennedy
    How do you debate a Kennedy?

    ... So the debates. Mitt really acquits himself in the debates, the way the story goes. Take me there -- the decision to debate, the plans, how he was prepared, the worry about Kennedy; how do you debate a Kennedy? All of that.

    Yep. OK, so Mitt wins the primary. It looks like it's going to be Teddy's toughest challenge ever. They do the normal Kennedy thing, saying, "We will debate you at 8:00 in the morning at a temple in Brookline, on a Sunday morning, and that's the only debate Sen. Kennedy's incredibly busy schedule allows him to have."

    So everybody went: "Wait a minute here. Now, you could get away with this in past years when you were running against someone we had never heard of, but we're not going to let him get away with that this time." Even the Globe, which was in Teddy's pocket for that whole race, wrote an editorial saying, "Sen. Kennedy should have real debates," and blah, blah, blah.

    So they finally agreed on two debates, one in the eastern part of the state and one in the western part of the state, both televised statewide, everybody picking it up. ... So the first one, we wanted to have it be Lincoln-Douglas-style, where the candidates would question each other. And that does two things: It takes a biased moderator out of it, because the only thing the moderator does it keep time; and then it keeps you from getting a loaded media panel that are going to say, "Sen. Kennedy, can you tell us how many millions of dollars, billions, you've brought to our state, and how we can thank you?," rather than, "Mr. Romney, as a disgusting businessman, how many people, widows and children, have you ripped off?" Back in those days, they were very --

    Wait. So how did you do on the first one?

    OK, so you want me to tell the story of the first one?

    Yeah, take them sequentially.

    OK. So the first one is now at Faneuil Hall. Mitt had had a couple of debates during the primary season, which were good, with newspapers and things and with his opponent. So that was good. He had been through it.

    Teddy at this stage now is big. He was coming off the Palm Beach scandal. He had married Vicki. But he's like 300 pounds; he's wandering around on the campaign trail and not looking all that good. So just in the optics of Mitt standing there and Teddy standing there, I think he's going to do fine. ...

    Was it your sense that Mitt was in any way intimidated by standing next to the venerable Kennedy sire?

    No, I don't think so, because I don't think he had any idea what it was going to be like, because he had never done one under that pressure and under everything that was going to be going on. And to me, that's fine. I was more than happy to have him just be positive and ready to go. ...

    So anyway, the day of the debate, I went over to Faneuil Hall to sort of see the setup and how everything looked, and the Kennedy team were all there, and what cameras would be doing what and everything. And they had these little, tiny pedestal, skinny rostrums for two candidates that they were each going to stand at. And [Kennedy adviser] Paul Kirk came over to me and he said: "You know what? The senator's back is really bad these days, and an hour-and-a-half debate, he's going to have to lean on something, and I don't know if that will hold up. Do you mind if we change the podiums and get different podiums for this?"

    And I said, "Well, let me check." So I called the headquarters, bounced it off a couple of our folks back there. Called Mitt. Mitt said: "Hey, if his back's bothering him, that's fine with me. Whatever makes the senator comfortable, that's fine." So I said, "Sure, you guys can change them."

    (Laughs.) So when we got back that night for the actual debate, they had these podiums that looked like where the rector preaches from at Trinity Church, you know? They were huge and gigantic and wide, and all curlicues, and all this stuff. And as soon as I saw it on a TV camera, I said, "They're doing this to hide Teddy's girth," because you couldn't see the two people behind it, and the little, skinny podium ones, it would have been just a totally different look. And point to Paul Kirk and those guys. Good job by them.

    So the Kennedy people get all of the union folks in Boston all riled up for the debate. It was on a weekday night, and they told them all to come and rally outside Faneuil Hall before the debate. So all the guys get off work. It's around 4:00. They hit the bars down around Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, and more and more and more are out there.

    So we get a call from the Boston Police, and they say -- our campaign headquarters was over in Cambridge. And they say: "It's a mad scene down here. We're going to have to get you an escort to get into the building." And we said, OK, fine. So we came across the river at the Longfellow Bridge, met them at Charles Circle. And they had eight or 10 motorcycle police officers there to guide us through the mobs of people at the site.

    So we're tearing down Cambridge Street, and Mitt just has this big smile on his face, and he looks at me and goes, "Boy, however this turns out, this really makes it worth it." And we were just laughing; it was really fun.

    So we get to the site, and they guide us through the crowd. And they have all these steel barriers there, and the guys were all screaming. And Mitt gets out of the car, and I get out of the car. And Mitt says, "Hey, might as well go shake some hands before we go in." He goes over to one of the steel barriers where a bunch of the union guys are, puts out his hand to shake it, two of them grab him by the hand, pull him over the barrier and into where they all are.

    And the motorcycle cops come running up, and I come running up, and we're grabbing him by the legs, pulling him back out. And I said, "Probably we ought to go in and get ready, not do any more handshaking out here." So we go in, and we start getting ready for the debate.

    How did he react to that?

    He was as stunned as all of us were.

    So during the debate, memorable moment?

    Well, that debate was all about expectations. And everybody was sort of watching Teddy to see if he could get through it. He had been on sort of a bad streak in those days and was big, and it was much more "Is Teddy going to fall over sometime during this?" And if he doesn't fall over sometime during it, then probably they're going to say that he did very well in the debate.

    And for his first debate, under those conditions and taking on Teddy, the "Lion of the Senate," and the screaming crowds outside and the huge crowd inside and national TV and everything, Mitt did a great job. He's one of those guys that every time I've been with him in a tough situation -- you know in sports we say he's a really clutch player? Mitt's a really clutch player, and he did a really good job in that debate.

    But Teddy held up well, and it was one of the most watched programs that's ever been on in Massachusetts. And a couple days after the debate, David Broder called, and he had been up for the debate from The Washington Post. He was checking in on the campaign, and he said, "Hey, I talked to the folks at C-SPAN" -- and they had carried the debate live on C-SPAN, nationally, and he said that they said it was the highest rated program that they had ever carried on C-SPAN, the first Romney-Kennedy debate. ...

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    The Loss to Kennedy

    And I guess you knew you were going to lose on Election Day, but there's always some glimmer, some hope or something in the candidates, way in the recesses of the candidate. Did Mitt know he was going to lose? And was he OK about it?

    I always thought it would be a miracle if Mitt beat Teddy Kennedy in Massachusetts. It's a miracle whenever a Republican wins in Massachusetts anyway. But that would have been like Our Lady of Lourdes times three, to beat Teddy Kennedy in Massachusetts.

    So I never really thought he could win. And he's very disciplined, and he went through the process. Remember, his dad had lost, so he knew what that was like. His mother ran for the U.S. Senate, I think, in Michigan, and she had lost. So he had seen winning and losing, and he knew that that was part of it. ...

    How was Ann about going through the campaign? Sometimes the spouse takes it really personally -- when Joe Kennedy attacks their faith and her husband, and when they come after Bain and his career at Bain, where he's pretty much a straight arrow and a good guy. Oftentimes the spouse, it hurts the spouse more than it actually hurts the candidate. Is she one of those?

    First of all, in that first campaign, Ann wasn't as involved, because they still had younger kids. Like, Craig was a little guy in that campaign. So Ann did do some stuff, but not nearly as involved as she is now, because the whole family's grown up.

    And yeah, I think it was definitely tough for them, because Mitt's one of those guys who's basically been successful at everything he's tried in life. He was an A student, has done tremendously well in the business world. He's a straight arrow and a straight shooter, and usually that works out well for you. ...

    But getting back to Ann, it wasn't a happy night at campaign headquarters, but I've seen worse over the years. I've definitely seen worse. Because everybody sort of knew it was coming. Teddy had a big lead there at the end. And it still turned out to be the closest race he had ever had. And he got so nervous that he actually took out a mortgage on his house down in Washington to spend even more money attacking Mitt with negative ads. And I said: "Hey, Mitt, you finally made a Kennedy spend some money of their own on a campaign. That's not too bad at all."

    So on that election night, Teddy won, and Mitt went back to Bain Capital. ...

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    He said, 'What do you know about the Olympics?'

    Suddenly the Olympics is faltering. There's lots of reports of corruption and bribery against the Olympic Committee, and all kinds of other stuff. And lo and behold, Mitt Romney -- did he give you a call and say, "What do you think?"

    I stayed in touch with Mitt all during those years between the Kennedy race and would see Mitt and Ann and go by, and did some stuff with Bain Capital during those times, and always stayed in touch. And Mitt called. It was early February of 1999. And he said: "Hey, come on by. I want to talk to you about something." So I ran by Bain Capital, and I walked in. He said, "What do you know about the Olympics?" And I said: "Thrill of victory, agony of defeat. Watch them. We love the Olympics. Don't know all that much."

    And he said, "Have you been following what's been going on out in Salt Lake?" And I said, "Yeah, all the scandals." And I said: "I think people have always paid to have the Olympics. I'm not surprised that they were bribing international Olympic people and everything." And then more bad stuff had been happening, and Mitt sort of filled me in on it.

    And he said that some folks out in Utah had asked him to come out and think about taking over as executive director of the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee. And he said, "You want to come?" So we flew out the next day, and it was --

    What are you thinking at that moment? When he says that to you, what do you think? What's the first thing that crosses your mind?

    Let's go take a look at it. Let's go figure out what's going on. I didn't know if they wanted him in an advisory role, just to come out, because nobody's better at fixing stuff than Mitt Romney. Maybe just go out for a while. Maybe do the whole Olympics. We didn't really know at that time.

    But it's not your automatic response to say, "Are you kidding me?"

    No, because anything with Mitt is not "Are you kidding me?" I would go by and see him at Bain Capital, and he said: "All right, I've got to head out now. Walk out with me." And I'd say, "Where are you going?" And he goes, he'd go: "Oh, I'm going over to Cambodia. There's this shrimp business." And he's got a bag about like my briefcase, and he's jumping on a plane to go fly somewhere and go look at -- that's what he does. ...

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    So we get out there, and we run up to meet with the governor, who's Gov. [Mike] Leavitt at that time, and he lays out everything that's been going on and all the problems that are there. And he said: "And also, I think the financial situation is much worse than we've been led to believe. This obviously hasn't helped sponsorships. I think they're over budget on a lot of the venue projects. There's just a lot of problems here. So we've got to sort of figure it out." ...

    So Mitt said he was going to sit down and start looking at some of the numbers and trying to figure out what was going on with it on that side. And I went out and met -- you know how back in those days the media, especially the newspapers, had Olympic writers, sportswriters who basically covered the Olympics? And we had a great one here in Boston for the Boston Globe named John Powers. So they were having this climactic meeting in about 48 hours of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, and John was out there to cover it.

    So I found him, and he filled us in on everything he had been hearing, and who the power players were, and what we needed to know and everything. And then I started running around meeting with some of the members of the local press, especially guys that had been breaking the stories. And they gave us some tips on what they had been hearing and what was going on. ...

    And he said: "What do you think? Do you think we ought to do this?" And we had been laying out just horror story after horror story. Did they build the speed skating rink six meters too short? Would that mean any event would be -- you couldn't get a world record. Just more and more of the bad stuff we were hearing. And we were looking at all the stuff and everything, and I said: "What do you say we get back on the plane and go back to Boston? Mitt, even you can't fix this. This is too much. Even you can't fix this."

    And he was just laughing and saying: "Well, maybe. Maybe we ought to give it a try." So he was talking to Ann, and Ann said she was going to fly out. And then so that was, like, I don't know, Tuesday or Wednesday, and the big meeting was going to be Thursday.

    So we were figuring out what needed to be done and what needed to be said. And one of the local reporters said that one thing they were centering in on is that there were members of the committee who were prominent Utah businesspeople, but also maybe had a conflict because, for instance, one guy owned a venue, a resort where they were going to have some of the skiing events. So there were different things like that that the local press thought this would be the next shoe to drop. ...

    So Mitt said to Gov. Leavitt: "I can't do this if this appears this way. We've got to have a fresh start. We've got to do it from the start, that we can regain the people, especially out here, and then the whole world's trust in the Olympics if we're going to be able to turn this around."

    So they sort of went back and forth on it. "Well, you know, Joe wasn't trying to -- he's been on the committee for all these years, and he --" But they finally decided that some really good people had to leave the committee. And that was tough. These were very prominent people in Utah.

  11. Ψ ShareFinding out about Ann's diagnosis with MS

    So then the day of the meeting came, and Ann had flown out, and we were up at their house. ... I was down in their kitchen, and I hadn't seen Ann in a while. And she started to tell me -- well, first she said: "I know you want coffee. We have a coffeemaker here, and I've got some coffee in the freezer, but you probably want to make it because I never make coffee." So I was starting to make the coffee, and she started to tell me about her MS, and how the holidays that year she hadn't been able to get out of bed, and they didn't really know at that time what the diagnosis was going to be.

    And she started to get a little bit teary. And seeing Ann there, who is just the most wonderful person, I started to get a little teary. And I'm not the type of person that gets teary that often. And meanwhile, I hadn't set the coffee thing right, and coffee is flowing out on the counter in their kitchen.

    And then just then Mitt walks in, and Mitt is Mr. Let's Go Get 'Em, and he walks in, "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, it's going to be a great day." And he looks at both of us, and he goes, "What's going on here?" And it was just one of those amazing, emotional moments. And within five minutes everything was back to normal. And I said to Mitt, "How did you like your speech?" And he said, "Oh, I liked it, but I changed some stuff in it."

    But wait a minute. It's this unbelievable experience of you hearing about this woman confronting something terrifying. What did she say?

    Well, she told me that over the holidays they had all been out at their house in Utah, and that she felt so powerless because she couldn't get out of bed. And her grandchildren were there, and she couldn't go down on Christmas morning and be with them, and that they had to come up and see her, and how that just broke her heart, that she couldn't sit there in front of the Christmas tree with her grandchildren on her lap as they were opening presents.

    Obviously she had recovered in some way. Now, this is February, and she was able to fly out and be with Mitt and be there, and be a big booster of this effort to take over the Olympics, which of course in the great Mitt and Ann relationship, if Ann had any doubts, Mitt never would have done it, but where she said, "Let's do it together," they decided to do it together.

    But it was just one of those really emotional things. ...

    And at that moment when the coffee's coming all on the counter and she's teary and you're starting to tear up and Mitt walks in, "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah," what do you say or she say to him so that he understands what the hell is going on between you two?

    Oh, well, he said, "What's going on here?" And Ann said, "I was telling him about the MS." And he just went over and put his arm around here and said: "Hey, you guys, everything's going to be OK. Don't worry." Ann sort of buried her face in his shoulder a little bit. And like I said, within five minutes, we were all back to "What's he going to say at the press conference?"

    Business, let's get back to it, right?

    Yeah. ...

    They already had the diagnosis, right, by the Olympics time.


  12. Ψ Share

    So anyway, Mitt says, "Well, I've been working on the speech, too." And we had already gotten over the hurdle of the possible conflicts. And then Mitt came up with the idea of promising the people of Salt Lake and the people of Utah, because there was talk that there could be a $50 million, $100 million -- nobody really knew -- deficit that then the taxpayers would be forced to pay for the Olympics. You've seen this in other -- Montreal, I think, is still paying for the '76 Olympics up there.

    And he said that he would promise the people of Utah that he wouldn't take a salary of any kind unless the Olympic Games ended in the black, with some type of surplus, and that he was going to work to get that done. So he had added that into his speech.

    And that was something that the folks out there really centered in on. And that was really the headlines in the papers the next day: "Romney said he'll do it, but he would do it without any salary at all." And he ended up, for three years -- think of this: He left Bain Capital where he was doing very well, goes out, three years in Utah, never took a salary at all.

    And after the Games ended with a surplus, the board -- he had already left and come back to Massachusetts to run for governor. But when they finally closed the books, the board awarded him a bonus, to like say, "OK, you didn't get paid, but we're going to give you something." He just turned around and gave it to charity. That's the type of person he is.

  13. Ψ Share

    What do you figure? Utah's a Mormon state. The church is there, their headquarters. Is that why they called Mitt Romney?

    I think they called him because they knew him. I think if it had been in Lake Placid, they probably wouldn't have called, because the folks running the Lake Placid Olympics wouldn't have known Mitt and known his reputation. He went to school there, had a lot of good friends there and contacts there. They just had got this nice little house out there, so they'd been spending a little more time out there, especially skiing and everything.

    So I think it was more because they knew him and they knew his reputation for being able to do great things. ...

  14. Ψ Share

    I haven't asked you this question yet, but was there any moment in the '94 Kennedy race or in the Olympics, especially that moment, where it crossed your mind as a political guy, "Hey, this guy could go all the way"?

    Hmm, I don't think that way. I always, in campaigns, in life and in everything, I try to think in the moment. But I was really glad that already people here were calling me up saying: "After the Olympics, what's Mitt going to do? Is there any way we could get him to come back and run for governor?"

    And our state was in a really tough situation. We had had the back-to-back hits of the dotcom bubble bursting, which was a huge industry here, and then the lingering effects from 9/11, which I think really affected the Northeast part of our country much more economically than any other parts of the country. You know, I talk to people about 9/11. They certainly feel it and they understand it, but I always felt like we were on the front lines. ...

  15. Ψ Share
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    Romney's Core Nature

    So, Charley, what's the deal with the perception that he's so wooden and so stiff?

    I'm the last person to criticize the media, but I just think it's easy to keep repeating the same things over and over again. And obviously, it's not true in any way; that's not the Mitt Romney I know. You can't have somebody who's more fun to just go do things with. I mean, I've driven all over the state with just Mitt Romney and me. We've been to Dunkin' Donuts in Ludlow and little restaurants in Chicopee and everywhere, all over the state.

    And any day you're with Mitt, it's a fun day to be with him. I've had candidates and worked with candidates who were sourpusses and you'd say, "I think I'll stay in the campaign headquarters; you go out and campaign." I loved being out with Mitt; it was so much fun. ...

  16. Ψ Share
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    Romney as Governor
    A 'dire' situation in Massachusetts was why Mitt ran for governor

    ... While he's being wooed to come to Massachusetts, and while you're receiving all those calls, there's a lot of calls in Utah, too, that say: "Hey, you've got a house. Ann is feeling better, living out here. Maybe you should stay out in Utah." What makes him come back to Massachusetts?

    I think after three years -- I never had this discussion with him, but I think they were really glad to come home. This was home, Boston, Belmont, for the Romneys. They had lived there ever since he had come out to go to Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School. They didn't build Bain Capital on Wall Street; they built it here in Boston. ...

    And I don't think Mitt had any intention after the Olympics of running for office. I think he was probably looking forward to going back to Bain Capital for a while. And then this situation here in Massachusetts was so dire, and we had a really wonderful governor, but she was in a really tough position. She couldn't have got re-elected. All our pollings showed that her unfavorables had gone through the roof. She was in a tough situation. I mean, Gov. [Jane] Swift, while she -- she was acting governor. The governor who was elected, Paul Cellucci, had been appointed ambassador to Canada by President Bush, so she took over. She was pregnant with twins. She lived way out in Western Massachusetts, up in the corner of the state, so she had a three-hour commute into Boston, each way, every day, because we don't have a governor's mansion in Massachusetts.

    We'd had the dotcom bubble burst, just one bad thing after another that was affecting our economy. Tax revenues were going down. The legislature was being really ornery to her. She was just in a tough situation. And she's a terrific person, but it just didn't work out for her.

    So Mitt didn't want to step on her, wanted her to make her own decision. But more and more people were coming out of the woodwork saying, "Is there any way Mitt would run? Is there any way Mitt would come back and do this?," even as the Olympics were going on. And then once they ended, it just turned into a crescendo. ...

    And we started to pick up vibes from the Swift people, that she thought that maybe Mitt would run, maybe she wouldn't run. And we didn't want a primary, and we didn't really want to take her on.

    So Mitt got back. In that time, I was trying to line up a team, get folks that we thought would make a good team for Mitt. And everybody was really enthusiastic. And then he came back from the Paralympics on a Sunday, and on Tuesday she announced that she wasn't going to run for election. ...

    And then we're at Mitt's house -- we didn't have a campaign headquarters; we didn't have anything -- a bunch of us, and he said, "Well, let's go for it." So he and Ann and a couple of his sons, walked out to the end of the driveway. We called the TV stations. Within 15 minutes everybody was there. And Mitt said: " I'm going to do it. I'm going to go for it." And announced that he was going to run for governor. ...

  17. Ψ Share
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    Romney as Governor

    What did he have in mind? What did he want to do? What did he think he could do for Massachusetts at that moment? Because I get this kind of white-knight feeling about the guy, that there's a tendency for him to say: "All right, I'm in public service now. I've made my money, and I'm going to save things." Certainly that’s true with the Olympics, so was it true also of Massachusetts?

    It's more fix things, I think, than anything else. There's the bigger the problem, the tougher it is, the tougher the going is, the more Mitt likes it, the more challenge. For instance, at Bain Capital, they didn't do dotcoms; they did steel companies. Everybody said: "There's no steel industry in America. You can't invest in steel." Well, that's what they did. The tougher the challenge, the more he likes it.

    And could there be any more of a challenge in Massachusetts than to have the unemployment rate going up, state facing a huge deficit, the Democrats clamoring "We've got to raise taxes," which of course would just retard things? You don't raise taxes in the middle of an economic downturn. So all of those types of things are really appealing to Mitt; he just loves those types of challenges and to be able to make things better for people. ...

  18. Ψ Share
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    Romney as Governor

    He wins the governorship. No surprise to you?

    It was a tough campaign. The state treasurer, Shannon O'Brien, came out of it, beat all the other guys, was running on the "Let's make history; let's elect the first woman governor in Massachusetts history," because Jane Swift hadn't been elected. Had a pretty good record as a state legislator and then as the state treasurer. ...

    And it was close. Shannon was up with about a week to go. And then they had the last debate, and it was over at Suffolk Law, and Tim Russert -- the late, great Tim Russert -- came up to do the debate up here. But it was just one on one with Mitt and Shannon. And he won that debate, and he got tremendous momentum. And we were probably down four or five right before the debate, and then in the last eight days, because of the debate and Mitt's campaign strategy at the end, we were able to turn that around, and Mitt ended up winning by five.

    Why did he win the debate? What did he do that was so amazing?

    He was really straight on his answers. Russert was probably the best American debate moderator. And Mitt did a terrific job. For instance, during that time was when the D.C. sniper was wreaking havoc down there. And so Russert got into guns, and Mitt really held his position on protecting the Second Amendment. And I think people liked that. They liked his promise and his plans on how he was going to balance the state budget, what he was going to do.

    And then the question came up about changing the state's law on parental notification for abortion. I think in our state it's 18. ...

    And Shannon O'Brien came out for lowering the age of notification in abortion in that debate. And Mitt opposed it, and that's when he made his promise that, although he's pro-life, that as governor he would keep the laws exactly as they are, not change them the way the Shannon wanted to, or not change them the other way that pro-life people wanted to, that the law would remain the same during his time as governor, which of course he lived up to. ...

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

    So he wins the governorship ... bumps immediately into the Democrats who run the House and the Senate, who want to say to him: "Listen, Buster, you don't understand how this works. We run the legislature in this state."

    Actually, the situation was so dire at the beginning, they were able to come together and do some things. Massachusetts operates on a fiscal year that starts July 1 and runs to June 30 of the next year. So Mitt had inherited six months of the previous governor's budget; his budget wouldn't go into effect till July 1. That was the one that had about a $3 billion deficit built in. That's what he was looking at. But he thought he would have the time to be able to figure it out and deal with it.

    Instead, as we're doing the transition, tax revenues are so down that the six months -- he's starting on, I think he was sworn in on Jan. 2 or Jan. 3 -- that six months was already in arrears, already facing a deficit. So he has no time to lose at all, and he has to start figuring out how they're going to start saving, cutting spending without raising taxes. ...

    So he gave a speech in prime time after he had a handle on everything to the people of the state, laying it out, what was going on, and what they needed to do and start doing to get things under control. And the legislative leaders went along with him on a lot of those things. For instance, part of the savings was getting state employees to pay more of their health insurance. I think state employees paid 5 percent and they got it to go to 20, or something like that, which amounted to savings throughout the whole system. And even though the state workers' unions didn't like that, the legislature went along with him.

    So within 30 days, he had to pass a package of savings for that fiscal year they were already in, and then turn around and address the next fiscal year where they were staring down the barrel of the $3 billion deficit on about a $26 billion budget. That's real money. ...

  20. Ψ Share
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    Romney as Governor

    ... When did you start thinking that this man may have a chance to be president?

    It's no big deal for us here in Massachusetts to have politicians, political leaders that get involved in national presidential politics. I mean, you just think back to JFK, of course, in 1960. ... So it's no big deal to us here, but I never really thought about it, and I never really had any discussions with Mitt about it. But halfway through his term -- we have legislative elections every two years, and the governor serves for four.

    So at the midterm of Mitt's term, he thought it would be great to get some competition into the legislature, and he made a big effort to go out and recruit candidates to challenge Democrats all over the state. He recruited over 100 candidates, and these were amazing people, people I had never seen run for the legislature before in all my, you know -- retired businessmen, doctors, educators, all kinds of folks that said, "Hey, I'll step up and go for it."

    And of course, 2004 was also the year that [Sen.] John Kerry, from our state, was the Democratic nominee for president, and the Democrats decided to do voter maximization that year and really drive up their vote in Massachusetts to try to add on to Kerry's national total. So our candidates got wiped out. Not one of those good candidates, all good people, most running for the first time, all lost. ...

    So after that night and going into now the second part of his term as governor, there were a lot of Democrats there in the legislature that said: "I'm not giving him anything. Screw him. We won. He tried to take me on; now he's going to pay." And there were some bad feelings there. And I think that's when he first started to think, OK, I'm not going to be governor another term. I don't want to run again. What else is out there?

    And we all knew President Bush was coming up to the end of his term. There were some great candidates thinking about running. But I think that's when he first started to think about throwing his hat in the ring. ...

  21. Ψ Share

    I hear a lot of people talk about, at that time, advisers, and maybe you were one of those advisers, saying he had what they called "The Three M's" -- Massachusetts, millionaire and Mormonism -- that he had to worry about going into that 2008 campaign. What do you think of that list as negatives that he had to confront?

    Well, certainly Massachusetts. A lot of people think that when they think of Massachusetts, they think everybody up here looks like Ben and Jerry and that we all have ponytails and wear Hawaiian shirts and sandals. And they're right in some cases, but just -- not the Republicans aren't like that. But that's sort of how Massachusetts is.

    Certainly his faith is a tough sell with some evangelicals. I mean, I've spoken to some myself. I remember talking to a nice little old lady who said: "You know, I really like Mitt Romney very much. He's a very good man. But when our country's in trouble, the president has to be able to pray to God for help. And where Mitt Romney isn't Christian, God wouldn't listen to him. So we need a president that God would always listen to." And what do you say to someone that says something like that to you? ...

    I think what I always try to emphasize to people about millionaire is that although Mitt grew up in very comfortable circumstances, he went out and made his own money. And I think when people hear that story, that he started Bain Capital, I mean, they started it. There was no Bain Capital, and they walked in an office one day and just started it from scratch and built it into one of the greatest investment companies in the world.

    And when people understand that that's really how he became successful, through hard work, that's not a hard one; that's not a hard sell. It's not like some guy living off of Dad's money or his trust fund or something like that, which Mitt has never done. ...

  22. Ψ Share

    ... You come out of a defeat with the recipe for success. What do you think, as you watch him coming out of 2008 and heading into 2012, what did he learn? What did he pick up?

    This is so Mitt in all the ways that I know Mitt, is I know he spent months thinking about what he did, what worked on the presidential level, what didn't work, and then once he and Ann decided that maybe they would try it again, put that knowledge and experience to work.

    You can just see how terrific he is this time around as candidate. I mean, look at the debates. In the debates his first time around, all the other candidates were attacking him, and he looked like he was mad, and sometimes he didn't know what to say. He's just so assured and so in control. I mean, [Texas] Gov. [Rick] Perry is ahead of him in the polls and tries to take him on. Mitt looks him right in the face and takes him on.

    Newt Gingrich has his spurt, wins South Carolina. They have the huge debate in Florida, and Mitt just looks him in the eye. I mean, Mitt's been on the stage at Faneuil Hall with Teddy Kennedy. You think he's going to be afraid of Newt Gingrich? He just looks him in the eye, and he says: "I hear you're saying a lot of bad stuff about me out on the campaign trail. Why don't you say it to my face?" And Newt just melted away.

    And then Sen. [Rick] Santorum had his burst. And they had that debate in Arizona. Similar thing happened. I mean, to me, that just shows me how confident he is, of where he is, and running as himself.

    Sometimes I think the times match a candidate's skills. And after these tough years under President Obama, with the huge budget deficits and the economy under 2 percent growth and all that's going on, I can't think of a time that's more right for this country to have someone with Mitt's skills and Mitt's ability and Mitt's knowledge to be in the White House and to be able to do things and that will get us back on track. ...

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