Internal Squabbles Could Steer Romney Campaign Off Course

Internal Squabbles Could Steer Romney Campaign Off Course

September 17, 2012, 9:41 AM

September 17, 2012 -- Here's what this week could have been about: Fresh Gallup tracking numbers show President Obama convention bounce fading from 7 percentage points last week to just 3 percentage points today. He now leads Mitt Romney, 48 percent to 45 percent nationally.

Recall that the Romney campaign characterized the polling bump as a "sugar high" last week. However, note that Obama's job approval rating remains at 50 percent (job approval has historically served as better judge of future success than the ballot test.)

Here's what this week will be about instead: Campaign infighting.

That's thanks to a report from Politico's Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei that exposed deep internal rifts within Team Romney focused on a person the reporting duo calls Romney's "mercurial campaign muse" -- top strategist Stuart 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," Allen and VandeHei write in the piece that notes Romney "has allowed seven distinct power centers to flourish inside his campaign."

One person quoted anonymously in the story, who the reporters describe as a "longtime Romney friend" complained: "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."

Much of the story centered on Stevens' heavy-handed involvement in the drafting of Romney and running mate Paul Ryan's Republican National Convention speeches.

Speaking to ABC's David Muir, Stevens responded to today's Politico article, saying "they got my quotes right." And responding to the criticism from voices on the right about how the Romney campaign is being run, he said: "I never get mad at people who criticize."

In the interview with Muir, Stevens continued to reiterate how President Obama's convention bump is evaporating, saying "the President had a terrible week last week."

It's not the first time members of the Romney campaign have thrown one of their own under the bus, but it comes at an extremely precarious time for the campaign. And as they push their message against President Obama this week, they'll have to stay on damage control too.

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