I’m previewing excerpts from my upcoming book Why Romney Won : The [Fictional] True Story of the Campaign That Should Have Been. It’s part alternative history, part political messaging manifesto. Permission granted to reprint this excerpt.
In the first excerpt we learned how Mitt Romney lost all this major campaign staff just after clinching the nomination. An ‘open call’ for Romney advisors is held at a Maryland hotel. Every Republican with any campaign experience shows up and makes a quick pitch. In the second excerpt, a rumpled old man named Ly McRae stands up and lays it on the line; Romney will lose the campaign if he plays it safe.
In this excerpt, McRae is now running the Romney campaign. It’s late June when McRae bursts into a meeting room where Romney and some aides are going over his schedule.
McRae threw his iPad down on the desk so hard that the screen instantly shattered.
“Why the hell doesn’t everyone in America know about this?”
Romney looked at McRae’s flushed face, trying to find the right words to deal with this madman. He went with a simple declarative sentence.
“You just broke that iPad, Ly.”
McRae scooped up the iPad laying in front of one of Romney’s aides and punched at it with his fingers for a few seconds. He swiped his finger across the screen and then, very gingerly this time, laid the tablet down in front of Romney.[pullquote align=”left”]The strategy of the Obama campaign is to portray you as a bad man. A very bad man.[/pullquote]On the screen was a segment from the CBS show This Morning that had aired in mid-April. It showed Mitt Romney and his sons chopping at a tree. Another clip showed Ronney using a chainsaw. Romney grinned a little watching.
McRae glared at him.
“What the hell is that?”
A blonde Romney aide grimaced and whispered the word “language” at McRae, who ignored him.
Romney was puzzled, still watching the screen.
“This? It’s me and my sons–that’s Matt there–pulling out a stump from a neighbor’s yard after those awful fires in California a few years ago. I don’t understand why you’re so mad.”
“Why isn’t that video of you swinging that axe running as a thirty-second spot? Everywhere? Last week?”
“Okay, Ly, try to understand me here. I know you mean well but that’s not why I helped out my neighbor. I don’t help people just to make some silly thirty second spot.”
* * * * * * *
McRae could see he was getting nowhere. He sighed and ran his hand through his thinning hair.[pullquote align=”right”]This is on the President’s website right now…[/pullquote]”Look, you’re a good man. Better than me, that’s for sure. The strategy of the Obama campaign is to portray you as a bad man. A very bad man. A selfish, greedy one per-enter. Trust me, they’d call you a bourgeois pig if they thought more people knew what ‘bourgeois’ meant. And don’t delude yourself; these people in both the Obama campaign and their admirers in the media, they will lie.”
Romney was growing tense and tired of the conversation.
“Look, Ly. I know you mean well. You’re a bit more cynical than I am but that’s part of the reason–”
“Cynical? Don’t believe me? You know who Joe Soptic is?”
“Soptic, you said? No, I don’t believe I know that name.”
“You should know him. You killed his wife.”
Romney’s eyes narrowed. For a moment, he looked genuinely angry.
“What are you—“
McRae stabbed at the iPad again and then showed Romney the screen.
It was a slide from presentation posted on the Barack Obama campaign website. At the top, it read:
THE ROMNEY MODEL
Profiting from debt.
In the middle of the screen it read:
I worked hard all my life and played by the rules, and they allowed this to happen.
—Joe Soptic, employee for 28 years, whose wife died of lung cancer after he lost his GST health plan
“They are accusing you of murder. You realize that, right? That is the clear implication. It’s on the President’s website right now and it’s saying that you killed this man’s wife because you’re a greedy S.O.B.”
“Do you know what happened with this man’s wife?”
“In 2006. Diagnosed with cancer.
“Well, that’s horrible.”
“I will bet you my shoes that there’s going to be a campaign ad at some point, shot in muted tones with tender music playing in the background and featuring Joe Soptic looking very sympathetic and telling the world that you killed his wife. Maybe it will come straight from the Obama campaign. This is on his website, remember. Maybe they will bring it out from some committee or PAC or something. That’d be a good play, actually, because if they get criticized on the ad, they can blame it on Super PACs and Citizens United. That’s a two-fer.
“Sorry. Thinking out loud. My point is, they will have no problem at all in pinning a woman’s death on you. None. Are you planning to let them do that, Mr. Romney?”