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Romney faces lengthy to-do list as likely GOP pick

By Thomas Beaumont

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 9 2012 3:59 p.m. MDT

The president's re-election team has opened offices and assembled teams of workers in Ohio, Florida and other critical states. The campaign has mapped out the combination of states it will compete in as it works to reach the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.

"No question Mitt Romney is the best-organized Republican I've seen in a long time, but that's not the question," said Florida Republican campaign strategist Susie Wiles, a senior Romney adviser in the state. "The question is not whether he is organized. It is whether he can identify his supporters and get them to vote better than the Obama people. I wouldn't bet against him."

Romney's team is tight-lipped about how he can get to 270. It also won't discuss when and where staff will go in the coming weeks or when it will run ads in the most contested states.

That's probably because there isn't a definitive plan — or maybe even a tentative one.

Republicans expect Romney will compete most vigorously in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, Virginia, Michigan and New Mexico, states considered among the most contested in the general election.

Obama won all eight in 2008 against Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. In 2004, all but Michigan were carried by Bush during the Republican president's re-election. Republicans say Romney sees Ohio, Michigan, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado as fertile ground this year.

Romney aides say they've lined up staff to send out to states once Romney secures the nomination, and the campaign is preparing the first floor of its three-story Boston headquarters for the influx.

Some key players have returned to states, such as Romney's Florida director Matthew Parker. And, aides point out, Romney has loyal activists and a network of supporters in key battleground states where he won primaries such as Florida and Ohio.

At the same time, the RNC is opening coordinated campaign offices in Florida and other battleground states, and has spent more than a year raising millions to support the eventual nominee. But Romney and the RNC are barred from coordinating until the nomination is in hand. Even so, the candidate and the party are entering a joint fundraising agreement to get ready for that day.

Once Romney seizes the nomination, he's expected to have little trouble taking over the party, considering his campaign manager, communication director and political director all are RNC veterans.

But an alliance with the RNC doesn't mean the party's rank-and-file will automatically rally behind Romney.

Veteran GOP presidential campaign strategist Mary Matalin said Romney needs to anchor his schedule with "unifying events" that focus on the conservative establishment.

In a sign that Romney knows he has work to do on this front, he has scheduled an appearance before the National Rifle Association's annual meeting on April 13.

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