Washington Prowler

Analyze This

Luncheons With Mitt Romney. Plus: NPR's progressive reasons for firing Juan Williams. Also: Giants ball girls.

By 10.25.10

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MEETINGS WITH MITT
Back in the 2008 primary season, Mitt Romney's staff ran a tight and close-knit shop, and when meeting with prospective donors felt confident enough in their campaign to lay it on the line bluntly. "I remember being at a meeting of [Gov. Jeb] Bush alumni here in D.C.," says a former Bush staffer, "and the Romney people who organized the meeting telling us something along the line, 'You need to make your decision soon; either you join us or you're out of luck. I left there joking about finding a horse head in my bed if I didn't sign up right away."

So perhaps Romney and his fundraising team didn't intend to make a recent donor recruitment luncheon feel like an organized crime meeting, but the all-expenses-paid lunch they hosted at Carmine's Italian eatery in downtown Washington had that feel, according to several attendees. The lunch, attended by about 25 men and women who were active fundraisers for candidates in 2008 and 2010, was one of several Romney and his team are holding around the country to recruit new people to Romney's money team.

Aides to Romney cautioned attendees that their candidate had not made up his mind about running 2012. "We thought given the layout and the kinds of people who were there that that was intended as a joke," says one attendee.

The luncheon featured a detailed PowerPoint presentation that laid out a case that Romney has been raising more money and supporting more Republican candidates than others in the prospective 2012 field. He explicitly targeted Newt Gingrich, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, but had nice things to say about Sen. John Thune, whom Romney insiders say the former Massachusetts governor regards as not a serious threat to win a GOP presidential nomination that Romney believes is rightfully his given his failed run in 2008.

"It was an impressive road show," says another attendee. "He had answers for everything, and clearly is going to run on the economy and his finance background. He even had a better answer for why Romneycare isn't like Obamacare. He's clearly running, so why they make it seem like he isn't makes the whole exercise a bit of a farce."

It's a good thing Romney finally has an answer for the Romneycare/Obamacare comparisons, which are valid. Both plans share similar policy approaches, and both have led to rising healthcare costs for businesses and individuals and reduced services. Romney has taken a pummeling for more than year because so many Democrats claimed that his approach to mandatory healthcare insurance in Massachusetts was the model for Obamacare.

NPR PROGRESSIVELY MEAN AND HIP
According to a source inside National Public Radio's Washington office, NPR senior executives and outside consultants believed that while the blowback from firing long-time employee Juan Williams might prove a distraction during the loosely affiliated network's fall fundraising, it might actually help with NPR's funding drive, which was taking place nationwide when Williams was fired.

"You actually had people in the office saying that they were talking to friends and our radio consultants who were saying the firing might be a good thing for us, because the Republicans and what they called the 'tea baggers' would get so ugly and aggressive by calling for public radio to be defunded that our traditional progressive base would come to our aid," says the NPR source.

The decision to can Williams comes about six weeks after Public Radio executives gathered in Fort Worth, Texas, at the annual "Public Media Marketing and Development Conference," where executives once again heard from their consultants that NPR and its programming were not attracting the younger audiences they need to sustain the network.

"That whole swath of young Obama voters who were willing to donate money to his cause? Public radio isn't attracting them," says one consultant. "They want to be engaged, they want news and features that appeal to them. Public Radio -- at least nationally out of Washington and Los Angeles and New York -- isn't giving it to them. They want progressive and politically engaging programming or music programming that appeals."

Other consultants have pushed for more programming to appeal to what is now considered the more traditional NPR listener: "The folks who listen for classical music or the arts tend to skew older," says the consultant. "Frankly, if we could have two stations in one city, I'd recommend that one target younger listeners and the other one target older ones." To "youth up" NPR, the network has spent the past several years attempting to hire senior executives with backgrounds in what it would consider "mainstream media," including the hiring of former CNN and Discovery executive Vivian Schiller as its President and CEO and Deborah A. Cowan as its new chief financial officer. Cowan was formerly a senior vice president at "urban radio" network, Radio One. She also serves on the board of the National Education Association Foundation.

BALL GIRLS
Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer have never been known as a San Francisco Giants fans, but that may be changing now that the Giants are in the World Series and both women are desperate to be associated with a winner. Both women's campaigns have reached out to the Giants seeking opportunities to be at the first two Series games, which are Wednesday and Thursday in San Francisco.

"The Speaker was a huge booster of the Giants all year long, and she has long supported the team," said a Pelosi staffer in San Francisco. Perhaps in private.

Pelosi over the years has managed to do very little either in support of or opposition to the Bay Area teams, though she was known to attend a 49er game or two during the championship years when owner Eddie DeBartolo would host extravagant parties before and during the games.

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