Former Romney adviser opens up on 47% and other low points of the campaign
By Ashley Killough
(CNN) — A top adviser for Mitt Romney’s failed presidential bid weighed in on some of the campaign’s low moments, pointing to Clint Eastwood’s unexpected monologue, the ‘47%’ comments and Superstorm Sandy as three challenges for Romney’s team in the final months of the campaign.
In an interview with PBS’ Charlie Rose, Stuart Stevens said Wednesday that Eastwood’s now-famous skit at the Republican National Convention was a divergence from what the actor had originally planned to say.
“We had very specific things that he was supposed to say that he had said in front of us before,” Stevens aid. “He did this improv that had never been discussed.”
He later added: “To a degree it was a distraction, it was bad.”
During his RNC appearance, Eastwood spoke to an empty chair as if President Barack Obama were sitting in it. His performance was described as random and out of rhythm with the convention, though it drew laughs from the roaring audience.
“What do you want me to tell Romney?” Eastwood asked the empty chair. “I can’t tell him to do that to himself.”
The actor later admitted he didn’t come up with the idea until he saw the chair shortly before walking on stage. “I didn’t make up my mind exactly what I was going to say until I said it,” he told a California newspaper.
Less than a month later, Romney’s campaign would be dealing with another dust-up, this one more serious. On September 17, secretly-recorded video emerged showing Romney at a Florida fundraiser in May, where he told donors that nearly half of Americans were “dependent” on government and considered themselves victims. Those voters, he said, would automatically choose President Barack Obama.
The video soon sparked an outcry from Democrats and some Republicans, most notably some GOP Senate candidates in tough races attempting to distance themselves from their party’s nominee.
Asked how badly the whole episode hurt the campaign, Stevens said: “It was bad, it was bad.”
However, he said he understood “completely what (Romney) was trying to say” and pointed to the “interesting” timing of the video’s release, saying it came out just as Obama was starting to lose his post-convention bounce.
He further commended the campaign for a “fantastic” comeback job.
“Those are moments when campaigns can either fall apart and start blaming each other and start yelling in a huddle–or just hang together and put your head down,” he said.
A final hurdle came, he said, when Superstorm Sandy slammed into the Northeast, about a week before the election.
“After the storm, I never had a good feeling,” Stevens said, regarding Romney’s chances of victory. “Not that the storm impacted things so much, per se, but these races – a race like this is a lot like an NBA game. It’s all about ball control at the end.”
Both Romney and Obama suspended campaign activity shortly before and after the storm. The GOP nominee held some storm-relief events to collect donations for victims, while the president monitored the weather from Washington and later traveled to damaged areas in New Jersey to survey the aftermath.
But both candidates nixed events in key battleground states with only days to go until the election.
“We went from having these big rallies around the country to literally sitting in hotel rooms, and there was just nothing we could do about it,” Stevens said.
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