Romney's Campaign Stocked With Washington Insiders

BOSTON (AP) - Republican Mitt Romney is heading a presidential campaign stocked with Washington insiders, even as he proudly casts himself as a political outsider on the campaign trail.

Unlike President Bush, who ran for the White House with followers like Karl Rove, Karen Hughes and Joe Allbaugh - the famed "Iron Triangle" that first helped him get elected governor of Texas - Romney has ceded his polling, advertising and large chunks of his communications and strategy to specialists from inside the Beltway.

Yet, the candidate frequently tells voters that one of his greatest assets is his lack of ties to Washington.

"I do not believe Washington can be transformed from within by a lifelong politician," the former Massachusetts governor declared Feb. 13 in his campaign announcement speech. "There have been too many deals, too many favors, too many entanglements and too little real world experience managing, guiding, leading."

However, the names read like a Washingtonian Who's Who list in his most recent campaign finance report, which details his fundraising and spending - including the payroll for his campaign operations.

The campaign is being managed by Beth Myers, a former Rove aide who went on to become Romney's gubernatorial chief of staff, but top strategy is being devised by Ron Kaufman, a former White House political director who is now a member of a Capitol Hill consulting group. Kaufman is also a Republican National Committee member from Massachusetts.

Romney's daily operations have been overseen by Jason Roe, most recently the top Capitol Hill aide to Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla., although he abruptly announced Tuesday he was resigning.

A commuter from Washington, he cited family reasons for his departure, although his resignation came a day after the St. Petersburg Times disclosed Roe wrote an e-mail to the newspaper defending Feeney over questions about a 2003 golfing trip to Scotland the congressman took with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Romney's polling, meanwhile, remains the responsibility of Jan van Lohuizen, who was Bush's principal pollster in 2004. Advertising is being handled by Alex Castellanos, whose National Media Inc. is based just across the Potomac River from the White House.

During Bush's 2000 campaign, in which he also cast himself as an outsider, fellow Texans such as Allbaugh, Matthew Dowd and Mark McKinnon handled the operations, polling and advertising roles.

In addition, Romney's political director is Carl Forti, previously communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which focuses on electing Republicans to Congress.

Romney's communications director, Matt Rhoades, headed up the Republican National Committee's opposition research team during the 2004 presidential campaign. The deputy communications director, Carolyn Weyforth, was spokeswoman for former Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn. Kevin Madden, the campaign's press secretary and primary spokesman, was spokesman for former Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, now the Republican minority leader.

Meanwhile, Barbara Comstock, a top campaign strategist focusing on communications, previously was spokeswoman at the U.S Department of Justice and still lives in McLean, Va. Just Thursday, Romney also announced he was hiring Cofer Black, a veteran of the CIA and State Department, to be his counterterrorism adviser.

The split between Massachusetts campaign workers who have previously served Romney and the new Washington aides prompted the campaign to launch an effort dubbed "Building Bridges," in which staffers from both groups go to local bars for social hours.

Madden, the campaign spokesman, said the former Massachusetts governor is being advised by a core group similar to that which served him in the Statehouse, even as he imports Washington talent to his campaign headquarters overlooking Boston Harbor.

"The campaign is being run from outside of Washington with ideas and policies that have been formulated outside of Washington," Madden said. "And, clearly, Mitt Romney is the candidate whose life experiences and career have been outside of politics and outside of the Beltway experience."

Madden added: "Those of us who work for the campaign and happen to have experience working in Washington are committed to his message of changing Washington because we believe he is the best person to do it. That's why many of us have joined the effort and - in many instances - relocated to Boston and moved our families here to work for his campaign."

Besides Myers, Romney's homegrown advisers include his eldest son, Tagg. Staff members say Tagg Romney, 37, stands in for his father during his frequent travels and holds great sway over campaign decision-making.

Another exception is Spencer Zwick, once Romney's gubernatorial personal aide and now his national finance director. The 28-year-old Zwick has been described as Romney's "sixth son," so close is he to the candidate.

In addition, Peter Flaherty, who served as Romney's gubernatorial deputy chief of staff, now works for the campaign as its liaison to social conservatives, while Eric Fehrnstrom, who was Romney's gubernatorial communications director, now serves as his traveling press secretary.