Does Romney’s Inability To Run His Own Campaign Undermine His CEO=Good Leader Argument?

by evanmcmurry

I think political campaigns are too dissimilar from anything else* to function as simulacra of anything but political campaigns. So however tempting it is to read this morning’s devastating Politico critique of Mitt Romney’s shambling campaign as an implicit counterargument to his claim that his (or anybody’s) CEO experience automatically translates into political competence, it’s not really fair.

I am happy, however, to let Politico and the Romney insiders it quotes advance that argument themselves:

As the man atop the enterprise — in effect, the CEO of a $1 billion start-up — Romney ultimately bears responsibility for the decisions he personally oversaw, such as the muffling of running mate Paul Ryan’s strict budget message and his own convention performance. 

[…] As mishaps have piled up, Stevens has taken the brunt of the blame for an unwieldy campaign structure that, as the joke goes among frustrated Republicans, badly needs a consultant from Bain & Co. to straighten it out.

[…] But whatever Stevens’s shortcomings, presidential candidates get the campaigns they want. And Romney, who in an interview with POLITICO last month said his leadership style very much centers on having a variety of smart people offering advice and him being the decider, has taken a very active role running his own campaign.

In a way, that’s the problem. Romney associates are baffled that such a successful corporate leader has created a team with so few lines of authority or accountability.

[…] Some Romney loyalists think Stevens never fully appreciated what a good and unique candidate they had in Romney, and pleaded early on to showcase what they saw as a generous, wise and gifted leader. Still, for reasons not fully understood by those around Romney, the candidate not only went with Stevens but gave him tremendous authority.

There’s more sad trombone where that came from.** It’s entirely up to you whether that list of behaviors means Romney’s “Me = Business Executive = Good President” logic falls apart, or whether campaigns are cryptoworlds where normal rules evaporate like water drops on a hot sidewalk. I tend toward the latter, but hey—if this finally gets people to question the foolish link between Romney’s CEO success and his executive branch acumen, I’m all for it.

* Except possibly sports, which is why Stevens’ quotes in this piece or all sports metaphors or sound like things a ball club manager would say.

** As Colonel Nilsen pointed out the other day, say what you want about Stevens, at least he was a wider, riskier biography than most political hands.