Mitt Romney Camp Keeps Focus on White House, not on Rick Perry


"I think we handled it like we've handled it from the beginning. We are focused on what we have to do. Americans are really upset about Washington," the adviser said. "You can't read a poll [where Americans aren't] frustrated with Washington, and part of the frustration is the back-and-forth bickering. What they really want to hear is, 'What do you feel on the issues?,' ... I think they want to hear that message and they don't want to hear candidates bicker and fight with each other."

The adviser added: "As it [the campaign] has gone through all these different number twos here, if you will -- from Huckabee to Palin to Trump to Barbour and Daniels, all the rest, Bachmann, now Perry -- we've been focused and disciplined on doing what we think the voters want to hear and I don't think there's any reason to change that."

Neil Levesque, the director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., said it's a "smart strategy."

The institute hosted Perry Thursday at its "Politics and Eggs" breakfast and Romney has been a frequent visitor to Saint Anselm both this campaign and during his last one.

Levesque said that Romney has closely studied the unsuccessful presidential campaign of his father, Michigan Gov. George Romney in 1968.

"I believe that Romney is sort of taking the strategy that Nixon took in '68, which is a strong, but slow, methodical, 50-state plan to get to the nomination," he said. "You don't necessarily say outrageous things that spark your base too much but, again, it's a methodical, well-thought out plan.

"He's a very relaxed candidate now, compared to four years ago," Levesque said. "I think the schedule is a little bit tighter, meaning that they have this particular event that day and that's going to be their message event, and they know he knows what he's going to say, and it's carefully worded and scripted."

Levesque added: "Nixon lost twice. He didn't really excite the base too much, but he built up a lot of friends. He has a well-crafted message and he's stuck to it. He's a very disciplined candidate. Romney's father lost that year to Nixon. I think you learn the hard mistakes of your father and he has certainly studied the campaign. I see great similarities."

Levesque said the challenge for Perry is to be a "long-term candidate and someone that can win against President Obama."

GOP strategist and former George W. Bush deputy press secretary Tony Fratto agreed that Romney's approach is the "right strategy" for right now.

"[Romney] is viewed as the distinctly different candidate, not using hot language, more seasoned and in some quarters viewed as a more serious candidate," Fratto said. "At the end of the day, you are going to have a situation where the more muscular, blunt language [comes] from Gov. Perry and a more temperate language from Gov. Romney."

Fratto added that's it is clear there is an appetite on both sides of the aisle for "hot rhetoric."

"The question is: Is there still going to be the appetite in February when it comes time for primary voters to choose the guy they want to see in the Oval Office? And we don't know that right now," he said. "But both Perry and Romney are going to have a chance to test that with voters -- and what plays well in the summer of 2011 may not play as well in the spring of 2012."

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