Monday, September 17, 2012

Romney: Fact-checking the latest Romney ad

The Romney campaign is out with an ad hitting Obama on dealing with China and claiming that the U.S. has lost 582,000 manufacturing jobs since Obama took office.
Fact check: This apparently measures from January 2009, when manufacturing workers made up 1,255,200 workers in the U.S. In August, the latest month for which there is data, that stood at 1,197,000 – a net reduction of 582,000 manufacturing jobs. Of course, there is always an argument about which month of a presidency a president should begin to be blamed for jobs losses. The share of manufacturing workers hit its lowest point a year into Obama’s presidency, January 2010 – 1,1458,000. Compared to then, there are 512,000 more manufacturing workers, according to preliminary August data.
AP’s Peoples: “With protests at U.S. embassies and four Americans dead, Mitt Romney is suddenly facing a presidential election focused on a foreign policy crisis he gambled wouldn’t happen. It did — and at a bad time for the GOP hopeful. … It’s unclear how long this round of Middle East unrest will last, and Romney’s aides concede the former businessman may struggle to gain a political advantage should anti-American violence continue deep into the fall.”That’s a claim Obama made during his Charlotte acceptance speech and was rated “True” by Politifact. He claimed a gain of “over half a million manufacturing jobs” since January 2010.
James Kitfield: “In two recent instances, Romney doubled down on positions that place him well to the right of the Obama administration, and firmly in the mold crafted by hawks and neoconservatives in the first term of President George W. Bush.” He adds: “If the Romney foreign-policy narrative and critique of the Obama administration sound familiar, they should. The key precepts were lifted from the never-have-to-say-you’re-sorry foreign policy fashioned by Bush hawks and neoconservatives in the aftermath of 9/11.”
More: “Despite the fact that the primary is over and you would expect Romney to move towards the ideological center, he continues to adhere to a very stark, black-and-white view of the world,” said Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations. “That suggests to me that he really believes what he says, and that Romney is most comfortable philosophically with a neoconservative worldview.”
“In his first rally since attacks in the Middle East thrust foreign policy to the forefront of the presidential campaign, Republican nominee Mitt Romney on Thursday attempted to shift the focus back to the issue he hopes will decide the election: the economy,” National Journal writes. “Just one day after Romney accused the Obama administration of “sympathizing” with protesters who attacked a U.S. Embassy in Cairo and a consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Romney simply offered condolences for the four diplomats whose lives were lost. When a heckler briefly interrupted him and accused him of trying to ‘politicize’ the tragedy, Romney scrapped a planned moment of silence.” And: “Romney did stay on offense at his rally in this Washington suburb, but his target was President Obama’s economic performance.”
USA Today: “Mitt Romney took a softer tone on foreign policy at a rally in Northern Virginia on Thursday, telling the crowd the world needs strong American leadership but avoiding any references to Wednesday's argument about the president apologizing for America.”
“Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, ‘will begin receiving regular intelligence briefings next week from national security officials in the Obama administration,’ the Washington Post reports,” Political Wire reports.

Judge declines to expedite hearing in Chicago teacher strike

Scott Olson / Getty Images
Striking Chicago public school teachers picket outside of the Jose De Diego Community Academy on Sept. 17, 2012.
Updated at 7:09 p.m. ET: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's effort to use the courts to end a strike by thousands of public school teachers stalled on Monday as the contentious walkout moved into a second week.
During a short meeting, Judge Peter Flynn of Cook County Circuit Court postponed until Wednesday a request to hold an immediate  hearing on an injunction to stop the strike, city law department spokesman Roderick Drew said. 
Striking teachers are due to meet on Tuesday to decide whether to end the strike after delaying a decision on Sunday. Picketing at dozens of schools by teachers continued on Monday but was thinned by the Rosh Hashanah holiday.
"State law expressly prohibits the CTU from striking over non-economic issues, such as layoff and recall policies, teacher evaluations, class sizes and the length of the school day and year," the school district said in a statement. "The CTU's repeated statements and recent advertising campaign have made clear that these are exactly the subjects over which the CTU is striking."The Chicago Public Schools filed a complaint in circuit court against the Chicago Teachers Union seeking a preliminary injunction "to end the strike immediately." It cited two reasons: danger to "public health and safety" of the students and alleged violation of Illinois state law that prohibits strikes except for wages and benefits.
Deepening rift
Emanuel's move took the dispute into uncharted territory as no injunction request has been filed in an Illinois education labor dispute since 1984, when the state gave Chicago teachers the right to strike. It also deepens the rift between the Democratic mayor, a top fundraiser for President Barack Obama's campaign, and organized labor, which generally backs Democratic candidates.

John Gress
Chicago Teachers Union members leave a House of Delegates meeting on the seventh day of their strike in Chicago, September 16, 2012.
The dispute between Emanuel, a former top White House aide to Obama, and the union had been close to resolution on Sunday when the union bargaining team recommended to a meeting of union activists that the five-day strike be suspended.
But a majority of the 800 or so union delegates, wary of promises made by Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools, ignored the leadership and extended the strike until at least Tuesday.
The famously short-tempered Emanuel immediately issued a statement saying he would go to court to try to have the strike declared illegal.
"We are done negotiating," Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale said on Monday.
Only a fraction of the 350,000 elementary, middle school and high school students affected by the strike have been using 147 schools manned by principals and non-union staff who have provided meals and activities for part of the school day.
About 80 percent of Chicago public school students qualify for free meals due to low family incomes. Churches, community centers and park facilities have also tried to provide help for parents.
For some Chicago parents, patience was wearing thin.
ity council members also have been getting an earful from constituents."I'm very frustrated that it's taken this long," said Renee Edwards, a mother whose son attends Ray Elementary School on Chicago's south side. "Parents were not told until 10 p.m. last night what the outcome would be, so it's just frustrating."
"They feel that the negotiations have been taken to a personal level instead of negotiating on the best interests of our kids in the school," said Ray Suarez, a Chicago alderman.
“Parents are very concerned," said Walter Burnett Jr., another alderman. "There's a lot of concern about their kids. A lot of parents are leaving their kids at home."
'Not happy'
Delegates from the Chicago Teachers Union told their bargaining team Sunday that they want to meet with the schools they represent before making a decision about whether to end their strike.
"They’re not happy with the agreement and would like it to be a lot better for us than it is," Union President Karen Lewis said in a news briefing Sunday evening, adding that they are returning to their schools with the proposal because they do not want to feel rushed to make a decision.
A faction of the union sees it as a "backroom deal" that does not have unified support. A source close to the union told NBC Chicago that Lewis' caucus shouted obscenities at her and other leaders late Saturday night, saying, "You sold out" and, "Rahm's getting everything they wanted, what the hell did we get?"    A union bargaining team and city officials had worked out a proposed contract that would move away from merit pay and allow teachers to appeal their evaluations. 
At the heart of those who oppose this new deal are those who feel the negotiating team did not fight for paraprofessionals and special education teachers and students.
Some delegates shouted at Lewis there was "no way to vote on something we haven't seen."
Teachers revolted last week against sweeping education reforms sought by Emanuel, especially evaluating teachers based on the standardized test scores of their students. They also fear a wave of neighborhood school closings that could result in mass teacher layoffs. They want a guarantee that laid-off teachers will be recalled for other jobs in the district.
The contract includes what Lewis called victories for the 29,000 union members, which she outlined on the union’s website:  

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As the Chicago teachers strike enters its second week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel hopes to get students back into schools by heading to court. City lawyers are seeking an injunction to force teachers back into the classroom as soon as possible.
PAY: The teachers union wants a three-year contract that guarantees a 3-percent increase the first year and 2-percent increases for the second and third years. The contract also includes the possibility of being extended a fourth year with a 3-percent raise. A first-year teacher earns about $49,000, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality; the highest-paid teacher earns $92,227.
Chicago Public Schools would move away from merit pay for individual teachers.
EVALUATION: Teachers would be evaluated 70 percent in terms of how they teach (“teacher practice”) and 30 percent in terms of how their students improve (“student growth”). Evaluations will not affect tenured teachers during the first year, and teachers may appeal their evaluation.  
HIRES: Responding to parent demands, Chicago Public Schools would hire more than 600 teachers specialized in art, music, physical education and foreign languages, among other teacher specialties. More than half of large school districts rehire laid-off teachers,according to The New York Times; the Chicago school board has pushed to leave control to principals.
Those new hires will allow for the longer class day -- which will be seven hours for elementary school students, up from five hours and 45 minutes. Chicago had been known for one of the shortest school days in the country -- a point that became a sticking point for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Of those new hires, half must be union employees who were previously laid off. (Higher-rated teachers would have a better chance at being rehired, the Chicago Tribune reported.)
BULLYING: The contract demands ending bullying by principals and managerial personnel to “curtail some of the abusive practices that have run rampant in many neighborhood schools.” Principals, however, will continue to exercise power over hiring teachers, the Tribune reported.
Reuters contributed to this report.In one instance, according to CBS Chicago, dozens of complaints were made about a principal at Josiah Pickard Elementary School during his five years on the job. A union representative told CBS Chicago that the volume of complaints was not normal for a principal.
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Outside groups make up almost half of all presidential campaign ads

Outside groups have accounted for almost half of all ad spending during this presidential general election, according to a First Read analysis of data provided by ad-buying firm SMG Delta.
Groups supporting the presidential candidates but not affiliated with the campaign, including super PACs, have spent $267 million of the $605.7 million spent on television and radio ads.

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As NBC's Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro discuss, both President Obama and Mitt Romney are facing unrest this week – Obama with continued protests in the Middle East and Romney within his own campaign.  
(That overall number is sure to climb, as the Romney campaign is booking buys today.)
That means about 44 cents of every dollar spent on ads this election has come from outside groups.
There’s a big difference between who they’re supporting. Three-quarters of all money spent by outside groups -- $212 million -- has gone to support Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
OVERALL SPENDING:$605.7 millionTwo-thirds of all the ads run to support Romney, including the campaign, have come from outside groups. By contrast, 20 percent of ads supporting President Barack Obama’s re-election effort have come from outside groups.
Team Obama $286,905,268
Team Romney $318,396,978
OUTSIDE SPENDING: $266,782,619 (44 percent of total)
Team Romney $212,458,408 (67 percent of total)
Team Obama $57,473,660 (20 percent of total)
Outside groups’ spending tracks with the campaigns in some ways with heavy spending in Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. But in states where the campaigns aren’t spending heavily, outside groups have stepped in to account for most of the political advertising to test out messages and try to move the needle, so to speak.
Florida, like with the campaigns, is seeing the most total spending from outside groups -- $58.6 million. That’s just about half of the $121 million total spent in the state.
Next up in total spending: Ohio $42.6 million, Virginia $33.3 million, Colorado $25.1 million, North Carolina $21.2 million, Iowa $19 million, Pennsylvania $14.4 million, Nevada $14.2 million, Wisconsin $13.4 million, New Hampshire $11.9 million, Michigan $10 million.
By percentage of total spending in that state: Michigan 99.9 percent, Wisconsin 92 percent, Pennsylvania 75 percent, Colorado 44 percent, Wisconsin 42 percent, Iowa 40 percent, Virginia 37 percent, North Carolina 37 percent, Nevada 37 percent, Ohio 36 percent.
Strikingly, in every state, outside groups have made up a majority of all ads supporting Romney. In Florida, in particular 73 percent of all ads supporting Romney have come from outside groups.
Though the Obama campaign has spent a whopping $46 million in Florida, outside groups have helped Romney even the score. The Crossroads groups have poured in more than $25 million, the Koch-brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity $9 million, Restore Our Future $8 million, America’s Future Fund $1.4 million, and the American Energy Alliance $850,000. They have combined with the Romney campaign for $60.3 million in the Sunshine State, about what Obama has spent with the help of outside groups -- $60.7 million.
The Obama campaign has gotten some help from outside groups in Florida, but not to the level Romney is benefitting. Priorities USA has spent $12.7 million there, followed by the SEIU $1.5 million, Planned Parenthood $450,000, $64,000 and the ACLU $17,000.
Here’s how it breaks down by state (plus a grand total of how much each group has spent below that): 
OUTSIDE GROUP SPENDING: $58.6 MILLION (48 percent of total) 
PRO-ROMNEY: $43.8 MILLION OF $60 MILLION (73 percent)
PRO-OBAMA: $14.7 MILLION OF $60.7 MILLION (24 percent) 
PRO-ROMNEY: $29.9 MILLION OF $53.3 MILLION (56 percent)
PRO-OBAMA: $12.7 MILLION OF $63.6 MILLION (20 percent) 
PRO-ROMNEY: $22.4 MILLION OF $42.4 MILLION (53 percent)
PRO-OBAMA: $10.9 MILLION OF $47.9 MILLION (23 percent) 
PRO-ROMNEY: $16.4 MILLION OF $27.5 MILLION (60 percent)
PRO-OBAMA: $8.6 MILLION OF $29.5 MILLION (29 percent)
PRO-ROMNEY: $21.2 MILLION OF $35.5 MILLION (60 percent)
PRO-OBAMA: $10.9 MILLION OF $47.9 MILLION (23 percent) 
PRO-ROMNEY: $15.8 MILLION OF $25.4 MILLION (62 percent)
PRO-OBAMA: $3.2 MILLION OF $22.9 MILLION (14 percent)
PRO-ROMNEY: $11.2 MILLION OF $11.2 MILLION (100 percent)
PRO-OBAMA: $3.2 MILLION OF $8.1 MILLION (40 percent)
PRO-ROMNEY: $13.3 MILLION OF $20.4 MILLION (65 percent)
PRO-OBAMA: $874,000 MILLION OF $18.2 MILLION (5 percent) 
PRO-ROMNEY: $10.2 MILLION OF $10.6 MILLION (96 percent)
PRO-OBAMA: $3.2 MILLION OF $3.9 MILLION (82 percent) 
PRO-ROMNEY: $11.9 MILLION OF $14.1 MILLION (84 percent)
PRO-OBAMA: $0 OF $14 MILLION (0 percent) 
PRO-ROMNEY: $10 MILLION OF $10 MILLION (100 percent)
PRO-OBAMA: $10,000 OF $10,000 (100 percent)
Here’s the total of how every group is spending:
 TOTAL $605.7 million
Obama $233,604,018
Crossroads GPS $59,977,352(pro-Romney)
Romney $87,648,202
American Crossroads $48,441,218 (pro-Romney)
Americans for Prosperity $46,517,357 (pro-Romney)
Priorities USA $48,176,176(pro-Obama)
Restore Our Future $44,408,615 (pro-Romney)
Republican National Committee $18,723,265 (pro-Romney)
Concerned Women for America $4,783,656 (pro-Romney)
America's Future Fund $4,580,908 (pro-Romney)
Americans Energy Alliance $3,201,354 (pro-Romney)
SEIU $2,497,313 (pro-Obama)
Planned Parenthood $1,447,734 (pro-Obama)
Priorities/League of Conservation Voters $979,048 (pro-Obama) $166,891 (pro-Obama)
Numbers USA $115,051 (pro-Romney)
ACLU $34,088 (pro-Obama)
Jill Stein (Green Party presidential candidate) $38,175


2012 Summary of Voting Law Changes

The Brennan Center's Voting Law Changes in 2012 report analyzed how a series of laws imposing new restrictions on who can vote and how could significantly change the electoral landscape. As states continue to introduce and consider new restrictive measures, we will be updating the summary below and this detailed compilation of potentially restrictive laws related to voting that were proposed nationwide in the 2011 and 2012 state legislative sessions, and that have been passed or remain pending.

Numbers Overview
At least 180 restrictive bills introduced since the beginning of 2011 in 41 states.
27 restrictive bills currently pending in 6 states.
25 laws and 2 executive actions passed since the beginning of 2011 in 19 states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin).
17 states have passed restrictive voting laws that have the potential to impact the 2012 election (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin). These states account for 218 electoral votes, or nearly 80 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.
Of these, restrictions from 19 laws and executive actions are currently in effect in 14 states (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin).
  • Identification laws (read a detailed summary of laws passed since the beginning of 2011)
    • Photo ID laws. At least 34 states introduced legislation that would require voters to show photo identification in order to vote, and an additional four states introduced legislation requesting that voters show photo identification to register or to vote. Photo ID bills were signed into law in eight states — Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — and passed by referendum in Mississippi. In addition, Minnesota's legislature has passed a bill proposing a constitutional amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that would require government issued photo ID to vote in person. The amendment will be voted on by referendum at the 2012 general election. By contrast, before the 2011 legislative session, only two states had ever imposed strict photo ID requirements. The number of states with laws requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification quadrupled in 2011. To put this into context, 11 percent of American citizens do not possess a government-issued photo ID; that is over 21 million citizens.
    • Voter ID laws. Virginia has passed a law changing its voter ID requirements by eliminating the option of executing an affidavit of identity when voting at the polls or applying for an absentee ballot in person, while expanding the list of acceptable IDs. New Hampshire’s new voter ID requirements require a voter to produce documentary ID or submit an affidavit of identity. After September 2013, a voter must produce a New Hampshire or US government photo ID or execute an affidavit of identity, no other form of identification will be accepted.
  • Proof of citizenship laws. At least 17 states introduced legislation that would require proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, to register or vote. Proof of citizenship laws passed in Alabama, Kansas, and Tennessee. The Tennessee law, however, applies only to individuals flagged by state officials as potential non-citizens based on a database check. Previously, only two states had passed proof of citizenship laws, and only one had put such a requirement in effect. The number of states with such a require­ment has more than doubled.
  • Making voter registration harder. At least 16 states introduced bills to end highly popular Election Day and same-day voter registration, limit voter registration mobilization efforts, and reduce other registration opportunities. Florida, Illinois and Texas passed laws restricting voter registration drives, and Florida and Wisconsin passed laws making it more difficult for people who move to stay registered and vote. Ohio ended its weeklong period of same-day voter registration, and the Maine legislature passed a law eliminating Election Day registration. Luckily, Maine voters later repealed the law. In addition, some opponents of the Minnesota constitutional amendment have argued that it has the possible effect of eliminating Election Day registration as it currently exists in that state. That amendment will be voted on by referendum at the 2012 general election.
  • Reducing early and absentee days. At least nine states introduced bills to reduce their early voting periods, and four tried to reduce absentee voting opportunities. Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia succeeded in enacting bills reducing early voting.
  • Making it harder to restore voting rights. Two states — Florida and Iowa — reversed prior execu­tive actions that made it easier for citizens with past felony convictions to restore their voting rights, affecting hundreds of thousands of voters. In effect, both states now permanently disenfran­chise most citizens with past felony convictions. In addition, South Dakota recently passed a law imposing further restrictions on citizens with felony convictions by denying voting rights to persons on probation on top of existing requirement that any term of imprisonment or parole be completed before the state will restore their voting rights.
See a complete list of passed and pending legislation.

Inside the campaign: How Mitt Romney stumbled
By: Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei
September 16, 2012 07:46 PM EDT

(From left) Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney, and Clint Eastwood are shown. | AP Photos
Stuart Stevens rewrote Romney's speech -- and green-lighted Clint Eastwood's. | AP Photos

Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s top strategist, knew his candidate’s convention speech needed a memorable mix of loft and grace if he was going to bound out of Tampa with an authentic chance to win the presidency. So Stevens, bypassing the speechwriting staff at the campaign’s Boston headquarters, assigned the sensitive task of drafting it to Peter Wehner, a veteran of the last three Republican White Houses and one of the party’s smarter wordsmiths.
Not a word Wehner wrote was ever spoken.

Stevens junked the entire thing, setting off a chaotic, eight-day scramble that would produce an hour of prime-time problems for Romney, including Clint Eastwood’s meandering monologue to an empty chair.
Romney’s convention stumbles have provoked weeks of public griping and internal sniping about not only Romney but also his mercurial campaign muse, Stevens. Viewed warily by conservatives, known for his impulsiveness and described by a colleague as a “tortured artist,” Stevens has become the leading staff scapegoat for a campaign that suddenly is behind in a race that had been expected to stay neck and neck through Nov. 6.
This article is based on accounts from Romney aides, advisers and friends, most of whom refused to speak on the record because they were recounting private discussions and offering direct criticism of the candidate and his staff, Stevens in particular.

Stevens, in a lengthy interview Sunday afternoon, defended the campaign’s performance, refused to discuss internal conversations and insisted Romney is doing far better than the pundits portray. “Like all campaigns, we have good days and bad days. I’m happy to take responsibility for the bad days,” he said. “This is a tremendously talented team.”
To pin recent stumbles on Stevens would be to overlook Romney’s role in all this. As the man atop the enterprise — in effect, the CEO of a $1 billion start-up — Romney ultimately bears responsibility for the decisions he personally oversaw, such as the muffling of running mate Paul Ryan’s strict budget message and his own convention performance.
As the Tampa convention drew near, Wehner, now a “senior adviser” and blogger for the campaign, was laboring under an unusual constraint for the author of a high-stakes political speech. He was not invited to spend time with Romney, making it impossible to channel him fluently.
Nevertheless, Wehner came up with a draft he found pleasing, including the memorable line: “The incumbent president is trying to lower the expectations of our nation to the sorry level of his own achievement. He only wins if you settle.” It also included a reference to Afghanistan, which was jettisoned with the rest of his work.

Instead, eight days before the convention, at a time when a campaign usually would be done drafting and focused instead on practicing such a high-stakes speech, Stevens frantically contacted John McConnell and Matthew Scully, a speechwriting duo that had worked in George W. Bush’s campaign and White House. Stevens told them they would have to start from scratch on a new acceptance speech. Not only would they have only a few days to write it, but Romney would have little time to practice it.
McConnell and Scully, drawing on their experience writing for Vice President Dick Cheney, were racing to finish the convention speech for Romney’s running mate, Ryan (R-Wis.), the House Budget Committee chairman. It was the Wednesday before convention week. Ryan was to speak the following Wednesday, followed by Romney on Thursday.
The two finished Ryan’s text the next day and started crashing on Romney’s. That weekend, Stevens accompanied Romney as he went to a school auditorium in New Hampshire with his wife, Ann, to practice yet another version of the speech. Only one paragraph from the McConnell-Scully draft wound up being used, about a rose that Romney’s father had put on his mother’s bedside table each day. The speech that was actually delivered, it turned out, had been cobbled together by Stevens and Romney himself.
When asked about the various versions of the convention speech, Stevens said: “The governor writes his speeches.” Pressed on whether he does so with no help, Stevens added: “He reaches out to a lot of people. … We don’t discuss who works on what. It’s all just the Romney campaign. Everything is just the Romney campaign.”

The hasty process resulted in a colossal oversight: Romney did not include a salute to troops serving in war zones, and did not mention Al Qaeda or Afghanistan, putting him on the defensive on national security just as the Middle East was about to erupt. It was also very light on policy specifics, much to the chagrin of conservatives who were certain the addition of Ryan and inclusion of Wehner meant a real battle of ideas was about to begin.
The damage had been compounded when, in compressing the program from four days to three because of a hurricane delay, convention organizers had scrapped a planned remote appearance by Romney and veterans that was to be fed live into the Tampa hall from a speech he was giving to an American Legion convention in Indiana. With the salute-the-troops tribute out, the assumption was Romney would pay tribute to them in the speech. He didn’t.
The convention finale was undermined even further by Eastwood’s rambling comedy routine, which became the only glimpse that many swing voters got of the Republican show. Eastwood had been added to the program after chatting with Romney at a fundraiser in Idaho just weeks before the convention.

Stevens and his team loved the idea of the tough-talking American icon greeting the millions of viewers tuning in to the main event. But Eastwood, unlike every other speaker at the tightly controlled convention, had free rein to say or do whatever he wanted without the campaign’s approval. Eastwood has said just minutes before going live, he was handed a chair to sit on, which he promptly decided should become a prop in his speech.
Many in the Romney high command watched in fury. Later, a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that for many voters — especially independents and casual viewers, exactly the ones convention organizers hoped to reach — the Eastwood skit, not Romney’s speech, was the highlight of the convention.

As mishaps have piled up, Stevens has taken the brunt of the blame for an unwieldy campaign structure that, as the joke goes among frustrated Republicans, badly needs a consultant from Bain & Co. to straighten it out.
“You design a campaign to reinforce the guy that you’ve got,” said a longtime Romney friend. “The campaign has utterly failed to switch from a primary mind-set to a general-election mind-set, and did not come up with a compelling, policy-backed argument for credible change.”
In what many in the campaign now consider a fundamental design flaw, Stevens is doing three major jobs: chief strategist, chief ad maker and chief speechwriter. It would be as if George W. Bush had run for president in 2000 with one person playing the roles of Karl Rove, Mark McKinnon and Michael Gerson. Or if on the Obama campaign of 2008, David Axelrod had not been backed up by Jim Margolis, Robert Gibbs and Jon Favreau.
Asked if he had assumed too many roles, Stevens said he had big teams to help him in each area. “Everybody wears a lot of hats,” he said. “We’re that kind of campaign — very un-compartmentalized.” He said that making the ads in-house has been a huge advantage. “You can walk down and stick your finger in the cookie batter.”

Stevens enjoys little of the internal affection that surrounded the brain trusts of the Bush and Obama campaigns. “I always have the impression Stuart must save his best stuff for meetings I’m not important enough to attend,” said one Romney campaign insider. “The campaign is filled with people who spend a lot of their time either avoiding him or resisting him.”
Stevens, who has won a string of U.S. Senate and governor’s races, worked on the Bush campaigns of 2000 and 2004, and was signed up with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008, but then switched to Romney.
POLITICO has learned when Romney was gearing up for his 2012 run, he made never-before-reported overtures to Ken Mehlman, the manager of Bush’s campaign, and Mike Murphy, a top strategist who remains close to Romney.
Still, when Romney went for a leaner campaign with fewer consultants, Stevens was left standing. At Romney’s insistence, Stevens and his business partner, Russ Schriefer, went all in, closing the Stevens and Schriefer Group office in Washington and moving into a first-floor warren at Romney headquarters in Boston’s North End.
Schriefer said Stevens “has done a very good job of keeping the campaign focused on a message of jobs and the economy, and focused on what it takes to win.”
“He has a competitive spirit that translates to the rest of the team,” Schriefer said. “When there’s criticism, you’re always going to get people trying to blame someone. This is not something unusual. The important thing is that the campaign is staying very focused. We know what we want to do, and we think we’re in a very good position to win.”
A mad-professor aura, combined with post-midnight calls to sleeping senior staffers, have led some colleagues to express increasing concern about what the campaign is doing to Stevens — and what Stevens is doing to the campaign.

The GOP convention failed to generate momentum or excitement for Romney — a potentially fatal setback for the struggling campaign. Before that, Romney’s criticism of Olympics organizers just after he landed in London set the tone for a snake-bitten foreign tour that some top campaign officials had argued against taking. Last week, Romney diluted his repeal-“Obamacare” message by saying on“Meet the Press” that he would keep part of the plan. Then Romney’s incendiary late-night statement after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya led many conservative allies to say he had squandered credibility as a potential commander in chief.
Stevens had vocal internal critics long before the recent blunders. One proposal by the strategist that drew ridicule behind his back envisioned a “Route 66” bus tour along the pre-Interstate, Dust Bowl migration highway. Other advisers argued that Romney hardly needs more retro or nostalgic connotations. That idea morphed into a blander “Every Town Counts” week, hitting smaller population centers of six target states in the Northeast and Midwest.
Asked about the bus-tour ideas, Stevens said: “We bat around a lot of ideas. … The campaign has a very collegial — we have a good locker room. There’s a lot of support, a lot of collaboration, a lot of cross-pollination of idea from across the board.”
But whatever Stevens’s shortcomings, presidential candidates get the campaigns they want. And Romney, who in an interview with POLITICO last month said his leadership style very much centers on having a variety of smart people offering advice and him being the decider, has taken a very active role running his own campaign.

In a way, that’s the problem. Romney associates are baffled that such a successful corporate leader has created a team with so few lines of authority or accountability.
Romney has allowed seven distinct power centers to flourish inside his campaign, with the strategy pod, headed by Stevens and Schriefer, handling the most essential ingredient — the candidate’s public message and image.
Then there is the conventional staff, led by campaign manager Matt Rhoades, who functions as an air-traffic controller. For months, Republicans inside and out of the campaign have said the structure is problematic. Rhoades, for instance, is as disciplined and methodical as Stevens is improvisational and disorganized.
Add to those the old Boston hands — Beth Myers, Peter Flaherty and Eric Fehrnstrom; longtime friends and advisers — Mike Leavitt, Bob White and Ron Kaufman; newcomers with juice, especially Ed Gillespie; the family, with his sons and Ann Romney involved in many decisions; and the money folks, headed by a longtime Romney friend and helper, Spencer Zwick.
Campaign officials said most parts of the Romney operation run in the rigid, metrics-driven style of Rhoades, a veteran of the buttoned-up Bush operation of 2004. These parts include finance, voter contact, legal and communications. This stands in contrast to the hazy controls over things in Stevens’s domain, the officials said.
“It is organized the way enterprises are organized: There is a person in charge, and people underneath him with specific responsibilities,” a Romney official said. “There are clear goals and objectives, and constant measurement. Elsewhere in the enterprise, there are all kinds of people with influence and authority but only vague responsibilities.”
Stevens, a 58-year-old son of the South, is easy for conservatives to dislike. His official bio does not exactly scream “Republican ad guy from Mississippi”: “Stuart was educated at Colorado College, Middlebury College, Oxford University and the UCLA Film School, [and] is also a former Fellow of the American Film Institute.”
He is not particularly ideological, and has a big-city, Hollywood aura that grates on movement conservatives. “He’s a smart, capable guy but he sends bad signals” to the right, said a Republican operative who works closely with the campaign. “He has a lot of goofy quotes that cause everybody to shake their heads. … Stuart is one of the most insecure guys in the business. But he has become the top strategic adviser to the nominee, which is a huge accomplishment.”
A Romney official explained: “Mitt is a sticker — he stays with you. He had a reputation at Bain for sticking with people. They made a bad investment, he hung with them. … None of this is going to be fixed. This is the organization, and this is who Mitt is betting on to win. There aren’t going to be further changes.”
A person who recently was alone with Romney added: “Big changes would destabilize the thing.”

Every profile of Stevens includes the descriptor “eclectic,” which seems fair, given he has skied to the North Pole, chronicled his use of steroids to compete in an extreme race, written novels and a campaign memoir, advised clients in Albania and Congo and consulted on Hollywood projects, including the political film “The Ides of March.”
Stevens has a free-flowing way about his life and is excited by ideas he deems wonderful or weird. He enjoys a love-hate relationship with the media — firing off emails with his candid and often illuminating take on the political spat of the moment, while also stoking the media-is-so-damned-biased flames inside the campaign and among conservatives.
Inside the Romney campaign, Stevens has preached a gospel of caution and consistency: Keep the candidate tightly focused on a bad economy and a worse president. In an interview last year with Robert Draper for The New York Times Magazine, Stevens explained his theory of the case this way: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback “Michael Vick’s not a real good pocket guy … So don’t tell him he can’t roll out. Try to make him the best rollout guy that’s ever played.”
A growing number of conservatives are blaming Stevens for advocating a campaign of caution, one that puts all the emphasis not on how good Romney could be but how bad Obama is. “Credit for this fog goes to that inner circle of Romney advisers who never liked the Ryan pick and have reasserted their will over a candidate who is naturally cautious,” conservative columnist Kimberley Strassel wrote in Friday’s Wall Street Journal. “In the la-la land where adviser Stuart Stevens presides, Mr. Romney wins by never saying a single thing, ever, that might rock a single boat, ever.”’
Stevens was a big, early advocate of a bland vice presidential candidate, privately talking up former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and pushing the idea of an outsider, anti-Beltway ticket. But Stevens is hardly to blame for what many conservatives consider a campaign that is specifics-free and lame. That blame goes straight to the man running his own campaign: Romney himself, according to a number of people in and out of the campaign.
Some Romney loyalists think Stevens never fully appreciated what a good and unique candidate they had in Romney, and pleaded early on to showcase what they saw as a generous, wise and gifted leader. Still, for reasons not fully understood by those around Romney, the candidate not only went with Stevens but gave him tremendous authority.
There are no signs his authority is getting curtailed: Sources inside the campaign said he just prevailed in an internal battle over the next rounds of ads, customized for each swing state.
“Politics is like sports,” Stevens said. “A lot of people have ideas, and there’s no right or wrong. You just have to chart a course, and stay on that course.”
Mitt Romney abruptly shifts strategy
By: Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei
September 17, 2012 06:21 AM EDT

Campaign strategist Stuart Stevens (left) talks with Mitt Romney during a podium check at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 30. | AP Photo
Chief strategist Stuart Stevens argued that the race is actually trending for Romney. | AP Photo

Mitt Romney, sensing an opening in the Middle East mess and catching flak from conservatives for giving too little detail about his policy plans, is rolling out a new and broader strategy to make the election a referendum on “status quo versus change,” chief strategist Stuart Stevens  told POLITICO.
The shift, which is to include much more emphasis on Romney’s policy prescriptions, means he is scrapping the most basic precept of his campaign. From the time he began contemplating running again after his loss in the 2008 primaries, Romney’s theory of the case has been a relentless and nearly exclusive focus on the listless economy.
But with polls showing Obama for the first time moving clearly ahead in important swing states— most notably, Ohio—Romney advisers concluded they had to make a painful course correction.
Stevens said the economy is likely to remain “the dominant focus” of the campaign. But ads and speeches will focus on a wider array of issues, including foreign policy, the threat from China, debt and the tone in Washington.
Stevens said the big, unifying question will be: “Can we do better on every front?”
On Monday, Romney unveiled a new ad, “The Romney Plan,” that punches back at Obama’s consistent emphasis on growing the economy for the middle class, and emphasizes what the Republican would do.
“My plan is to help the middle class,” Romney says in the ad. “Trade has to work for America. That means crack down on cheaters like China. It means open up new markets.”
A second Romney ad out Monday, “Failing American Families,” is harsher, with a male narrator saying: “Barack Obama: More spending. More debt. Failing American families.”
The news ads are a concession to internal critics of the previous Romney ad series — 16 “A Better Future” ads, customized for nine swing states. Each begins with a clip of Romney at the convention, followed by a quick statistic arguing that Obama has failed that particular state, and ending with Romney’s plan to help the state (defense in Colorado, home values in Florida, manufacturing in North Carolina).
Some Romney officials had argued that straight negative ads would be the only way to move numbers the way the campaign needs to.
Romney also plans to emphasize policy solutions when he speaks Monday to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, in Los Angeles. “I expected the president, at his convention, to talk about the unemployed and to unveil a jobs plan,” Romney says in prepared remarks. “Astonishingly, he did not.”
Romney, badly losing the Hispanic vote to Obama, includes a pitch to improve “legal immigration.”
“I will work with Republicans and Democrats to permanently fix our immigration system,” he says. “I believe we can all agree that what we need are fair and enforceable immigration laws that will stem the flow of illegal immigration, while strengthening legal immigration.”
Arguing that Romney is doing better than many pundits recognize, Stevens said the Middle East unrest and continuing economic unease will help the Republican regain momentum and quiet the concerns among GOP insiders.
“The events abroad are disconcerting and don’t reinforce that the status quo leadership is positive,” Stevens said. “There’s nothing that is happening, at home or abroad, that doesn’t reinforce the need for strong leadership and a change.
“When the [Federal Reserve] did something it’s never done before, because the economy was so weak, we had to step back and say: ‘That’s nothing but a cry for change in the status quo.’ … We’re on track to win this race.”
But the campaign is eager to spread the word they are responding to critics and shifting gears. After POLITICO reported Sunday night about internal concerns with Stevens’s role in the campaign, The New York Times and other publications went up with stories promising a new approach.
Stevens defended his role, saying he works for a great campaign and takes responsibility for any bad days in the election. He conceded Romney will be second-guessed for allowing Obama to out-spend him 7-to-1 on ads during the two national party conventions. The following week, an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll showed Obama ahead by seven points in Ohio, 5 in Florida and 5 in Virginia – for Romney, the most ominous public poll of the cycle so far.
Obama spent $20 million on 37,000 ads during the conventions, compared with $3.3 million on 4,500 ads for Romney, according to the Wesleyan Media Project, using data from the nonpartisan Kantar Media/CMAG.
Stevens said the campaign went nearly dark for those two weeks because “the dominant story was going to be the convention.”
“Life is always more pleasant when you’re on the air, but we were being very disciplined about it,” he said. “We would rather have that $20 million to spend now that it’s not competing with the conventions. You have to be disciplined about these things.”
Romney’s own convention acceptance speech—on the same night actor Clint Eastwood stole headlines with his empty-chair monologue—criticized Obama’s leadership style and barely mentioned the GOP’s own policy alternatives. There was no bounce in polls following the GOP’s Tampa gathering.
Alert for flickers of sunshine, Stevens pointed to slight movement in tracking polls by Rasmussen and Gallup to argue the race is actually trending for Romney.
“In races, you’re going up or you’re doing down. He’s going down and we’re going up,” Stevens said. “His convention bounce has faded faster than most. If you’re losing 4 points [in Gallup and Rasmussen] and that’s a good week, I’d hate to see a bad week…
“Obama lost [4] points and it was a rough week for us? I don’t quite see it that way. Any poll you pick, he’s losing a point a day.”
Stevens insisted, contrary to what most strategists think, that national trends matter most at this point in the race.
“Tracking polls track the race,” he insisted. “It would be like walking into a department store with 50 different scales and standing on them.”
Stevens dismissed the hand-wringing that in recent days has consumed Washington GOP circles. He said commentators and political reporters have “a self-reinforcing feedback loop” that yields a misleading conventional wisdom among the Washington elite.
“I feel good about where things are,” he said. “In races, you’re going up or you’re going down. He’s going down and we’re going up. His convention bounce has faded faster than most. At the convention, he missed a huge opportunity to lay out a new agenda. I think Mitt Romney is going to win.”
Stevens paused and added: “Fairly comfortably.”