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Saturday, February 13, 2010

The New and Improved Romney - Mr. Fix-it!

Via The Boston Phoenix:

"Granted, it's very early in the 2012 presidential cycle, and if you ask the Romney camp, they'll profess him to be focused exclusively on helping GOP candidates this November. But make no mistake: Romney is in the process of re-launching himself for 2012.

His new book — No Apology: The Case for American Greatness — comes out in two weeks, and he'll be promoting it with a tour blitz that starts on The View and quickly heads to the crucial first-voting state of Iowa. This weekend, he's scheduled to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, DC, which will conduct a 2012 presidential straw poll. And he is already busy traveling the country, raising money for himself and other Republicans, to maintain and grow his national network.

From the looks of it, the 2012 version of Romney will be somewhat different than the one that lost in 2008. In that campaign, Romney tacked hard to the right — where Romney and his strategists perceived an opening as the conservative alternative to front-runners John McCain and Rudy Giuliani.

In retrospect, Team Romney believes their strategy was in error, according to some who are familiar with the campaign's post-election brainstorming. Although exit polls showed that he did well among the most ideological conservatives — particularly those most adamantly opposed to McCain's immigration-reform stance — he was not able to win over religious Christian conservatives.

"He was a Massachusetts moderate who tried to be a hard-right conservative," says one Republican strategist. "It turned out he probably would have been better off sticking with what he was — Mr. Fix-It."

"He got himself caught up in the social-issues debate," says Bill Achtmayer, chairman of business-strategy consultants the Parthenon Group and a supporter of Romney, his former colleague at Bain Consulting. "It diverted people's attention from what he does bring to the table."

As a result, the new Romney is now de-emphasizing social issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and illegal immigration.....

No Apology, and a series of planned speeches Romney will give during his book tour, will drive home that shift in emphasis. Advance word on the book, plus an audio excerpt released on the Web, make clear that it avoids those topics, and focuses on Romney's vision of maintaining America's fiscal and military superiority....

Much has changed since Romney decided to chase hard-core conservative votes four years ago. At that time, Romney was nationally unknown and needed a way to distinguish himself from a group of second-tier potential candidates.

Today, Republican insiders and political analysts say that Romney is already the de facto front-runner, regardless of whether he says he's running or not, thanks to his name recognition, his proven fundraising ability, and his established national operation....

"Mitt Romney is 'next'," says Mike Dennehy, a political consultant in New Hampshire and senior policy advisor to McCain's 2008 campaign.

Plus, at least for the moment, pressing economic and foreign-policy concerns seem to have sent to the back burner the social issues that dogged Romney in '08. "It looks like the environment is shaping up to be favorable to him," says Dennehy. "Mitt Romney is the guy to beat. He's positioned himself real well since the 2008 election."

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