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Romney campaign having difficulty controlling message

June 21, 2012|By Michael Finnegan and Morgan Little | This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
  • Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt… (Gerardo Mora / Getty Images )

Few campaigns are more disciplined than Mitt Romney’s about keeping tight control of their message. Apart from occasional candidate gaffes — “I like being able to fire people” will be remembered long after the November election — his campaign is ruthless about sticking to what it wants to say.

But day after day, Romney is reminded that even the most disciplined campaign cannot fully control the day’s message.

President Obama knocked Romney off stride last week when he ordered a halt to deportations of many young illegal immigrants, forcing the Republican presidential candidate to address a topic he’d rather avoid. On Tuesday, reports that Romney was not seriously vetting Marco Rubio as a potential running mate led Romney to say publicly that the Florida senator was actually on his short list.

And on Thursday came a Bloomberg News report that Romney’s campaign had asked Florida Gov. Rick Scott to tone down his statements hailing the state’s economic recovery because they clash with his message that the nation was suffering under Obama.

Romney and Scott spokeswomen both denied the report, but the damage had been done.

“If we learned anything from today’s revelation that Mitt Romney urged Gov. Rick Scott to downplay good economic news in Florida, it’s this: Mitt Romney would rather see the American economy fail before the election than see President Obama win,” said Martin O’Malley, the Democratic governor of Maryland whose statement was circulated Friday by the Obama reelection campaign.

The dust-up reflected the growing tension between Romney, whose campaign is premised on portrayals of economic misery under Obama, and Republican governors who are eager to take credit for job growth in their states.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who campaigned with Romney in his state on Tuesday, boasts on his Facebook page that there are 111,647 more people working in Michigan now than when he took office last year. Next to a photo of a packed Ann Arbor football stadium, he adds: “That’s enough to fill U of M’s Big House.”

Snyder and the governors of Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia have all boasted of a jobs recovery at campaign events with Romney, a dissonance that could well get worse in the months ahead, given the governors’ impulse to take credit for good economic news that Romney would prefer not to stress.

But Florida’s unpopular Republican governor has been one of the most aggressive in promoting the state’s recovery. “2012 is already shaping up to be a great year for Florida’s economy,” he announces on his campaign website.

Scott elaborates in what, to the Romney campaign, could only be considered painstaking detail: 141,500 private sector jobs created since January 2011; Miami named CNBC’s No. 1 "Turnaround Town," with seven other Florida communities in the Top 10; 641 new construction jobs on a Port of Tampa project and 600 jobs at a children’s hospital in Orlando.

In a statement denying the Bloomberg report, Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said, “Many governors have brought new ideas and fresh approaches to their states, and Gov. Romney frequently praises them for their ability to overcome the job-stifling policies of the Obama administration. Any statement to the contrary is not in line with Gov. Romney’s thoughts or his message.”

[For the Record, 2:46 p.m. PST  June 21: An earlier version of this ran with the headline "Romney campaign having difficulty controlling message amid leaks." The reference to leaks has since been removed, since neither of the anonymous sources used by Bloomberg or ABC have been verified.]

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