The smart operatives in Romney-world probably aren’t looking for advice from a columnist like me on how to fix their flailing campaign, but I am going to give my advice to them anyway. Here are 10 suggestions:
1) Don’t panic. South Carolina was never going to be friendly territory for Mitt Romney. He did well to finish in second. He had a terrible week, said some stupid things, gave an awful answer on releasing his taxes and he still got a higher percentage of the vote than he did last time in the Palmetto State. His team has to retool, but they shouldn’t fly off the handle. Romney is still the most credible candidate in the field.
2) Ignore Newt. The candidate should never mention the former Speaker by name. He shouldn’t talk about Newt’s Fannie and Freddie days, nor about his ethics charges, nor about his various marriages. Romney doesn’t have to push him over the edge. Newt will walk over the edge all by himself.
3) Let your wife do the talking. The candidate isn’t that great, but the wife is terrific. How many times have we heard that? It happens to be true this time. Anne Romney is an underused asset in this campaign. She should be used more.
4) Bash China. With Huntsman out of the race, Romney can more clearly make his case against the Red Chinese. The Republican base doesn’t like China. And the Chinese currently have a very nice deal. They take our jobs and we buy their products. Romney has a good plan to even the playing field. He should make that a bigger part of his campaign.
5) Create a better story. Bill ClintonBill ClintonWe must act now and pass the American Health Care Act Trump's message: Russia First or America First? Senate Democrats should grill Judge Gorsuch on antitrust. Here's how. MORE had a little place called Hope (and a handshake with Jack Kennedy). Barack ObamaBarack ObamaCourt rejects green group’s claim of pro-pipeline bias at regulator Obama: 'My heart goes out’ to London victims Dem rep: Nunes ‘betrayed’ Intelligence panel’s independence MORE had dreams from his father (and Abraham Lincoln imagery). George W. Bush had compassionate conservatism (and a restoration storyline). Romney needs to plug into a deeper archetype that helps to explain to voters why they should believe his destiny is to be president. Right now, they don’t feel it. I personally would use more stories from his father, the man who should have been president.
6) Give the base a reason to trust you. The Republican base does not trust Romney. He needs to make a dramatic move to establish a sense of trust with conservatives. Whether that is a contract with conservatives or a promise to serve only one term if he raises taxes, Romney can’t just allow this distrust to fester.
7) Stop with the business-experience stuff. Mitt Romney will not get elected because he has great business experience. Warren Buffett has been a pretty successful capitalist. So have Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTillerson to embassies: ID groups for tougher screening US probes Manafort’s banking: report America must improve defense against Russia's information warfare MORE and Michael Bloomberg. That is not a sufficient reason to be president. You have to tell us how you will govern. And if you don’t know the difference between governing and being a successful CEO (and yes, we know you have been successful), you don’t deserve to be president.
8) Simplify your plan. I just reread your 59-point economic plan. Man, that was boring. Give me three specific things that are achievable and just talk about those three points. Reform the tax code. Raise tariffs on China. Balance the budget.
9) Put some meat on the bone. When you say you want to restore American greatness, what exactly does that mean? Stop reciting the Declaration of Independence and give us some modern-day examples. Put a man on Mars? End cancer? Beat China in biotechnology?
10) Remember while the nomination is about you, the election is about Obama. At the end of the day, the Republican nomination is only one small step in the long road to Election Day. And Romney has to prove that he is the best one to take the fight to Obama. So far, he hasn’t proven that. How many times have we heard from Newt supporters that he would be the best one to take it to the president in a debate? That’s because Newt has the passion. Romney needs some of Newt’s passion if he is going to prove he can beat Obama not only in an election but also in the debates.
Feehery is president of Quinn Gillespie Communications and spent 15 years working in the House Republican leadership. He is a contributor to The Hill’s Pundits Blog and blogs at thefeeherytheory.com.