(Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder)
Most political pundits on both sides of the aisle agree that Mitt Romney has had a challenging week. Some of these same analysts, including conservative journalists, are calling for a major shakeup in team Romney as the campaign closes in on the 40-day mark.
Earlier this week The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan offered a brutal assessment regarding the status of the current Romney campaign.
"It's time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It's not big, it's not brave, it's not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It's always been too small for the moment," writes Noonan. "All the activists, party supporters and big donors should be pushing for change. People want to focus on who at the top is least constructive and most responsible. Fine, but Mitt Romney is no puppet: He chooses whom to listen to. An intervention is in order. "Mitt, this isn't working."
Noonan, whose career has spanned several decades including time as a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, a news producer and journalism professor, is just one of many who are clamoring for change at the Boston headquarters.
Another is Steve Lombardo, now a corporate strategist who worked in Romney's 2008 campaign but now appears to be bearish on his former boss' current prognosis.
"Governor Romney has a damaged political persona and he's running behind the President in key states like Ohio, Virginia and -- to a lesser extent – Florida," wrote Lombardo in a blog post on Thursday. "Losses in those three guarantee an Obama victory. With 47 days to go, the president has reversed his decline after his 'you didn't build that' comment, is on a three week message win roll and is now likely to be reelected."
Some GOP lawmakers are even jumping on the bandwagon. In an article in The Hill last week, members of Congress spoke on background, as not to embarrass the campaign about the changes or adjustments they would like to see the Romney campaign implement.
"He should say, 'I'm a money manager and I will manage your money in Washington. I will eliminate waste, fraud and abuse. Obama wants you to send more money so he can spend more money.'" said one House member.
"My advice is don't try to turn him into something he's not," said a GOP senator. You're never going to turn him into a teddy bear. He needs to say if you elect me, this is what you're going to get, someone who's going to bring common sense to the White House."
One campaign strategist in particular taking a lot of the heat is Stuart Stevens. In an in-depth article in Politico earlier this week, Stevens reportedly hired two separate speech writing teams to compose Romney's acceptance speech for the Republican National Convention, only to scrap both documents in favor of a last minute speech penned by he and the candidate.
"Stevens junked the entire thing, setting off a chaotic, eight-day scramble that would produce an hour of prime-time problems for Romney, including Clint Eastwood's meandering monologue to an empty chair," wrote Politico's Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei.
Several Romney staffers also spoke on the condition of anonymity, calling for top-down changes in the campaign, yet Stevens brushed off the critique while praising some who offered criticism. "Like all campaigns, we have good days and bad days. I'm happy to take responsibility for the bad days," he said. "This is a tremendously talented team."
But others say regardless of whether changes are made this close to Election Day, the ultimate responsibility lies with the candidate himself. One reason given is the lack of access some senior members are given to Romney, whom many say only surrounds himself with a few select team members.
However, Stevens' toughest critics say the bright strategist's biggest problem is that he assumes too many roles and he is avoided by many staffers.
"I always have the impression Stuart must save his best stuff for meetings I'm not important enough to attend," said one Romney campaign insider. "The campaign is filled with people who spend a lot of their time either avoiding him or resisting him."