Mitt Romney Conference Call

This morning, Mitt Romney held a New Media conference call to discuss the state of the race and his strategy for the Super Tuesday primaries. This is the first one of these I recall from the Romney campaign, and I hope that it won’t be the last.
Romney started off by saying that “it’s fun to watch the Democratic race,” noting that the national media hasn’t called it a done deal despite having one candidate who won twice as many as the other. He and McCain have essentially tied for states, and yet the media has tried to call the GOP contest a done deal. He also mentioned the “false claim” that he had supported a troop withdrawal from Iraq. Romney also sees Mike Huckabee as drawing some votes away from Romney.
Romney cast the election, in part, as a struggle for the Republican soul. He drew a comparison to 1976, when Ronald Reagan challenged insider Gerald Ford. The insider won the nomination and lost the election. Romney says that McCain represents “the quintessential Washington insider” who has too many existing ties to make a difference as President.
Romney said he would “repeal McCain-Feingold if I could”. He also would fight against McCain-Kennedy, and oppose McCain-Lieberman, with its 50-cent-per-gallon burden on drivers and the energy costs it will produce. He declares the unilateral imposition of energy controls would drive jobs overseas at an even greater rate.
* Why the delay to buy ads for Tuesday? – Needed 24 hours to determine the best use of money after Giuliani’s withdrawal and endorsement of McCain. Some part of the buy would be national, but the state and local buys depended on how the politics had shifted.
* Will anything be decided on Tuesday, and in what states do you see your strength? – He thinks it’s possible that nothing will get decided at all. California looks good, and some winner-take-all states look pretty good too. Proportional states could at least gain delegates. He is “pleasantly surprised” that leading lights in the conservative movement — like Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity — understand the defining moment. He thinks talk radio will continue to get underestimated by the national media. He’s proud of the support he gets from conservative talk radio.
* How is McCain remaining competitive with economic-first voters? — He leaves it to us to explain that. In Florida, it may have been the Crist endorsement. There may be more correlation than causation in this data. He still thinks his strength lies in his experience in the economy, and that McCain’s admission that he has a weakness in this area will hurt him. McCain’s response about punishing Wall Street during the debate “proves he does not” understand the economy, as does McCain-Lieberman.
* Wasn’t Romney inconsistent on chastising McCain for voting against the Medicare Part D expansion? – Romney says that he would have joined McCain on that vote, because it didn’t include an overall reform of Medicare. He will make sure that he clarifies that in the future.
* What comes after Iraq in the war on terror? – We will continue to see these eruptions in the Middle East until we get terrorism under control. We need to move far more aggressively on getting NATO involved in the entire GWOT. Romney would expand the intelligence and advisor units of special-ops forces. He reminds everyone that McCain’s accusation was “completely discredited”.
Anaysis: Romney handled himself well in this briefing. When Philip Klein noted the contradiction on Medicare Part D, Romney didn’t try evading it or spinning it. He said that he apparently was incorrect, that he would have voted with McCain on Part D, and that he would ensure that it didn’t happen again. That alone was pretty refreshing.
Romney sounded upbeat but realistic. He understands that he has an uphill battle on Tuesday thanks to the Florida loss, but doesn’t think the sky has fallen. He has made a careful use of his organizational and funding strength to try to aim surgically at getting the most of both on February 5th and the contests beyond. I’d call the tone guardedly optimistic, but he sounded ready to fight for this nomination.