Tagg Romney talks about his dad’s campaign for president in the early states
HH: Quite a lot to cover as we get close to Iowa and New Hampshire. And one of the great people to check in with, surrogate for Mitt Romney, his son, Tagg Romney. Tagg, welcome back, good to have you back on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
TR: It’s great to be back. Thanks for having me.
HH: Where did we find you today?
TR: I am in Belmont, Massachusetts, actually. I’m taking a rare day off, but I’m heading up to New Hampshire tomorrow with three of my four brothers.
HH: How can you take a day off with, like, five days before Iowa?
TR: Well, my wife has pneumonia, so I’m trying to be a good husband.
HH: Oh, you’re going to use that excuse.
HH: (laughing) Is she feeling better, I hope?
TR: She’s doing a little better, and we have four little ones at home, so I’m trying my best to help her not get swamped, but at the same time, doing everything I can to help get my dad elected.
HH: Great choices. Now Tagg, one of the reasons I wanted to ask you, I asked the campaign to talk to you, is I talked to you four years ago at this time, and five years ago at this time. So you’ve actually kind of checked into presidential politics at intervals. How is this year different from four years ago?
TR: Well, I think we’re going to win this time around (laughing)
TR: Or at least I hope so. Nothing’s done yet, we’ve still got a lot of work to go. But there’s just definitely a different feeling this time around than there was four years ago at this time. There’s more excitement when you go meet with voters, and the press has been better, the endorsements we have been receiving have been very helpful and positive, and I just feel like we’re…there’s still a long way to go before a winner is declared, but it sure feels a lot better this time around than it did four years ago at the same time.
HH: Now I’m going for more than the horse race stuff, because I know in Iowa, you guys last, four years ago, thought you were going to win and you didn’t. This time, you don’t think it’s a given, but you’re surging. I understand all that stuff. New Hampshire, you’re ahead. But in terms of nuts and bolts politics, how is the media different this time around?
TR: Well, you know, the media, well, it’s a very different world to begin with. You know, it’s funny. I remember going to, after each debate four years ago, you go to the spin room, and then you talk to all the different reporters that were there from Politico and ABC, and the New York Times, and then they’d run off and write their stories after you finished talking to them. Well what’s interesting now, you show up, and they’ve already written, they’ve already Tweeted exactly what they’re going to say, and the spin room is almost irrelevant, because they’ve already spun, and you’ve been spinning during the debate, you’ve been Tweeting during the debate, and they’ve been taking notice of those things. And so it’s a whole different world. I mean, it’s just so much faster, the speed with which everything travels.
HH: And there are also some new players. I mean, four years ago, Politico existed, but now it drives the news cycle, or perhaps I’ll put it to a question. How important is Politico to a campaign now as opposed to four years ago when they were just getting launched?
TR: Very important. They really do drive. I mean, they’re very good about getting stories out and getting them up, and doing a lot of hard investigative reporting. A lot of newsrooms have cut staff, and are not nearly as hard-hitting as they used to be, and Politico, I think, does a good job of staying on top of things and keeping people honest. And they really drive what a lot of newspapers and blogs around the country report on.
HH: There are some old faces at Team Romney, and some new faces at Team Romney. How is the operation of the campaign different than it was four years ago?
TR: Well, you don’t know what you don’t know when you go into one of these things. And so we were able to figure out who were our best people last time around, and made sure we got those people back. We had some very good people that we had last time that we just decided we would have to do without this time, and save the money. We have a much smaller staff than we did last time intentionally. And some of the people we would love to have working there, but we decided it was better to save the money for ads and for direct mail pieces, and to try to take the message directly to the voters.
HH: Last time around, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Ron Paul. This time around, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry and Ron Paul. Do the competitors have a different feel? Are the tactics different that you’re seeing this time?
TR: Yes, and it’s a very different…last time, you had John McCain, who was a venerable Senator, and had been there for a long time, a war hero. I don’t think you have another candidate like that in the race today. I think it’s a different cast of characters. I recognize that I’m a little bit biased, but I look at the lineup, and I think boy, if I were hiring for a job, and the job were the president of the United States, it seems pretty obvious who I’d pick to be that person when you compare him with the other people. And all of them are good people, and have got impressive resumes, but I just think that my dad is extraordinary, and really stands out, and will be the best representative not only for our party, but for the nation.
HH: I’m talking with Tagg Romney, oldest son of Mitt Romney. Today in the New York Times, there is a story that features a quote from Eric Fehrnstrom, who is the spokesperson for the campaign, saying five years later, your dad has gotten much better at sort of retail campaigning. And I remembered and quoted an interview I did with Steve Schmidt in 2009, where he said your dad was sort of like a learning organism. Have you seen him change in how he campaigns over the last four or five years?
TR: Absolutely. He’s much more comfortable doing it now than he was. Listen, you’re better the second time you do anything than the first time you do anything. And it’s not that the last one was his first campaign, but it was his first presidential campaign. And he has learned a lot better how to…and by the way, he enjoys, he really enjoys going to the diners and talking to people. And I was with him in New Hampshire. I was exhausted. He hopped off the bus, we were in a town and we had an extra hour, he ran off the bus and started running up and down the street knocking on doors. And he enjoys it. He enjoys talking to people, hearing their feedback, hearing what they’re worried about.
HH: What gets under Tagg Romney’s skin? Does the flip-flopper stuff get under your skin?
TR: I’m not going to tell you, because if I do, the one person who knows that better than anyone else is my brother, Matt, who’s only a year and a half younger than I. He knows how to push all my buttons, and he enjoys doing it. So I’m not going to teach anyone else how to do it, because it’s easy to get me going.
HH: All right, now today, later in the show, John Hinderaker from Powerline is going to join me. He wrote a very influential endorsement of your dad today. Powerline matters a great deal in the online world. And there are still some other big players out there. Are more endorsements coming this week and next that you think will surprise or enthuse your base?
TR: If I told you, I’d have to kill you afterwards (laughing). But I would imagine there are some more endorsements coming out. As you saw, we got Elizabeth Dole to endorse us today.
HH: No, I didn’t see that. Okay.
TR: Yeah, so she endorsed us today, which is very gratifying. You had some more newspapers in New Hampshire endorse us, another newspaper in Iowa endorsed us. You had another state senator in New Hampshire endorsed us yesterday. I think you’re going to continue to see just more and more people are coming our way as this thing tightens up.
HH: Now later in the day, I’m also going to be talking with Kevin Williamson, who wrote a pretty negative piece about your dad at National Review, in which it’s involved in the Repo Men. And it’s sort of a sinister look at Wall Street, intimating that Wall Street is bad for the country, and that Mitt Romney’s a creature of Wall Street. I don’t know if you’ve seen it yet, but obviously, this is going to be a theme not just from someone on the right, but it’s going to be the Obama team theme, isn’t it?
TR: Yeah, that’s more of a theme from them. I’m surprised to hear it coming from the National Review. That’s unusual for them to attack capitalism that way. You know, really, I think what this election’s going to be about is you can have, Barack Obama has a vision on the left of a society that is primarily run by government, and you have my dad on the right who thinks that the government should stay out of the way, mostly, and that markets are the things that make things work best, and that we ought to have an opportunity society and not an entitlement society.
HH: How much are you personally thinking about what Axelrod and Company have got coming, because it’s going to be $2 billion dollars of negative.
TR: Yeah, it’s, you know, they’re going to come at us with all guns blazing, and I think what my dad’s job will be, will be to communicate the competing visions and say listen, if you believe that we ought to be borrowing more and more money from the Chinese, and giving more and more people entitlements, and having our children be loaded with more and more debt to pay for all the programs that the people on the left want to pay for, then vote for Barack Obama. If you on the other hand believe that business is good, that employment is good, that markets work best, then you ought to vote for Mitt Romney.
HH: All right, a couple of personal things to end with.
HH: The Fetching Mrs. Hewitt’s mom had MS, and so she’s always wondering how your mom is doing in the management of her disease, and the stress that she’s under.
TR: Well, knock on wood, she’s doing very, very well. She hasn’t had a flare up of her MS for many years. She’s learned how to, she’s one of the lucky few that the treatment has really worked for her. And she’s gotten, we don’t want to say all the way better, because you hate to tempt fate that way. But she really hasn’t had any symptoms for quite a long time. And she’s learned to not push as hard as my dad does on the campaign trail. Getting overly tired is not good for her. But she goes out and she has a busy schedule, and she just knows only to do six events a day as opposed to twelve or thirteen like my dad does.
HH: Okay, and then grandchild management. How many grandchildren do your mom and dad have?
TR: 16 grandchildren, and 11 of them are boys, and five of them are girls. And I don’t think they’re done having grandchildren. It’s not an announcement, but we’ll see.
HH: And do they go out on the trail at all? I mean, obviously, you and your brothers deploy. I see you guys doing a lot of different events. But are they out there?
TR: They are. You know, my son, Joe, who is 10, loves this stuff. My daughter, Allie, is 16, and she’s taking a year off of school. And she travels around quite a bit with my dad. We try to keep her out of the media limelight, but we like her to be there as an observer, and think this is a good education. We’re home schooling her for the year so she can witness American history firsthand.
HH: Tagg Romney, so you feel good about Iowa? Any predictions as we close out?
TR: No predictions. We’re going to do the best that we can, and let the voters decide, and then move onto New Hampshire and South Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Arizona, and right on through and do the best everywhere we can.
HH: Thanks for spending time. Happy New Year, and I hope your wife feels better and gets better, Tagg Romney.
End of interview.