When asked directly whether Mr. Romney regretted tacking to the right on immigration to appeal to conservative primary voters, the room fell silent.
Stuart Stevens, a senior strategist to Mr. Romney, shook his head no. But after pausing for several seconds, Mr. Rhoades said, “I regret that.”
He went on to explain that the campaign, in hindsight, had been too worried about a potential threat from Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who jumped into the race to challenge Mr. Romney as the jobs-and-economy candidate. For weeks in fall 2011, Mr. Romney hammered Mr. Perry on Social Security, particularly his calling the program a “Ponzi scheme” that should be overtaken by state governments.
In retrospect,” Mr. Rhoades said, “I believe that we could have probably just beaten Governor Perry with the Social Security hit.”National Journal reports on Pawlenty and Perry:
Pawlenty bet his campaign on the August 2011 Iowa straw poll, only to come in a distant third -- behind Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul – and drop out the next day. If he had skipped the straw poll, he might have gone all the way to the nomination or the White House. Until Perry got into the race, “we were most worried about Tim Pawlenty,” Rhoades said. He said Pawlenty’s retail campaign skills could have won him Iowa and New Hampshire, and “we had respect” for his jobs record as governor of Minnesota.
Phil Musser, a senior adviser to Pawlenty’s brief campaign, called the straw poll “a circus” and “a joke” and “a celebrity contest” that has run its course. “We made a fundamental strategic miscalculation about the level of investment that we chose to deploy there,” he said. One of the lessons of the 2012 campaign for top-tier candidates, he said, should be “don’t chase the shiny object.”
Strategist Dave Carney said that Perry expected to recover from what he considered minor back surgery in two weeks, but he was still having problems after four months. “It had a big impact” on his late-starting bid, Carney said. “The whole campaign was built upon a very aggressive, arduous schedule of travel in order to make up for lost time.” Perry’s discomfort affected his ability to stand, sleep, travel, study briefing materials, and pack his schedule with meetings, Carney said. If Perry had been pain-free and healthier, would he have given better speeches and been a better debater? And would that have made a difference? Hard to tell, given other problems such as Perry’s belated entry and lack of preparedness, but also hard not to wonder.