I know that had the American people spoken for the Romney-Ryan ticket, we were not only ready, we were one step ahead. —Jordan Smallwood, Romney Readiness Project document
Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt and his team were ready for President Mitt Romney's election, armed with a detailed plan to make presidential appointments and tackle — among other things — the tax code, federal regulations, government spending, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act in his first 200 days in office.
In the end, though, the effort was for naught as President Barack Obama cruised to victory and a second term in office.
"Obviously there was a lot of excitement the day before the election and a lot of disappointment the day after," Leavitt said during an interview with KSL's Dave Cawley Wednesday. "We were ready. We built a fine ship. Unfortunately, it did not sail."
Even though Romney didn't take office as his transition team had hoped, Leavitt said he believes there's still a lot that future Republican and Democratic transition teams can learn from their work on the 138-page "Romney Readiness Project 2012: Retrospectives and Lessons Learned," which is now available for purchase on Amazon.com.
The Romney team's transition blueprint was the first to be formulated after the House and Senate passed the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010, which aimed to provide support to eligible candidates in pre-election transition planning.
The blueprint "chronicles the key decisions the project's leadership were faced with, how the organization was designed and how the deliverables were identified and executed," a news release said.
During the process of planning for President Romney's first term, Leavitt and his team chose to focus their efforts on commitments Romney made to the country during the presidential campaign: to revitalize the American economy, reduce the deficit, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and restore American leadership.
"We made a decision early on that rather than doing a general critique of the federal government where there's lots of ways to improve, that we would focus very specifically on the things Mitt Romney committed to do during the campaign," Leavitt said. "So the campaign laid out the platform, and our job was to plan to execute on the promises that he made."
Any promise a candidate makes while campaigning requires government action to make good on that commitment, Leavitt said, and the transition team actions reflected that reality, with the team essentially forming a "federal government in miniature" by developing plans to work with the government agencies needed to carry out Romney's promises.
"It's unfortunate, really, that the federal government couldn't be in miniature, because we were able to get so many more things done than having a big bureaucracy," Leavitt told Cawley.
Leavitt, whose name was discussed as Romney's choice for chief of staff, shared the process of finding and vetting possible candidates for key presidential appointments in the team's transition blueprint, but didn't reveal names.
The big takeaways from the experience of putting together the blueprint are that teams should start early, maximize knowledge from previous transition teams and clearly define who is going to do what, because organizing a government is a big task that takes time and discipline, Leavitt said.
"It was a big job, but a fascinating one, and one that, while it had a disappointing end, was a privilege to do," he concluded.