‘Inside the Circus’ Speed Read: Best Bits From the Campaign Trail
Vampire hunting, urinal singing, and other dispatches from the endless GOP campaign. By Ben Jacobs.
Inside the Circus, the second ebook by Mike Allen and Evan Thomas chronicling the 2012 Presidential campaign in something approaching real time, has the advantages—speed and immediacy—and drawbacks—lack of perspective and sketchy sourcing—inherent in that approach. The new ebook, out today, covers the campaign in detail up until last week, relying heavily on anonymous and background sources. In particular, it seems that the writers struggled to find a source in the Romney campaign who was willing to state even the most basic and banal fact for attribution. Such is the risk taken when a campaign book is actually published while the campaign is still ongoing. Regardless, the book is full of juicy morsels of campaign gossip. Some of the highlights:
Mitt Romney’s Van Helsing CampaignRomney’s campaign “relished going negative,” write Allen and Thomas. Their philosophy with opposing candidates was to constantly attack. It was a view characterized by one adviser as “He’s dead, but wait a minute, let’s dig up the casket, open it up. We’ve got more bullets in our gun. Let’s keep shooting. You never know.” Another likened it to killing vampires: “The only way they could die was to burn them and scatter their ashes.”
Santorum Oppo BookHowever, the Romney campaign had a big problem going negative on Santorum. On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Romney’s strategists were ready to set their sights on Santorum, but they had one problem: they hadn’t prepared any opposition research on him. Their delay in putting the book together on the former Pennsylvania senator in time may have something to do with the 34-vote margin that Romney eventually lost by in Iowa.
Super PAC Indictments?The rise of super PACs has sparked predictions of scandal by John McCain. This concern was echoed by a GOP fundraiser that Allen and Thomas spoke to, who ominously warned of “the potential for scandal if the Justice Department ever started poking around at the links between super PACs and campaigns.”
WASP FuneralA Romney insider described the mood inside the campaign as very unemotional. “Romneyworld is a place where there’s not a lot of screaming and emotion. There’s no wailing at failure, nobody tearing their clothes. It’s not an Arab funeral or a Jewish funeral; it’s a WASP funeral. I mean, very stiff-upper-lip and very matter-of-fact.” Although that Romney advisor went unnamed, it seems fair to hope that he’s not involved in Middle East policy.
The Huckabee-Palin BugbearWhen Romney was running low on funds in mid-March, he was able to recharge his coffers in the Upper East Side heart of the Republican establishment and quickly raise $3 million. He did this by scaring rich donors with the prospect of a brokered convention in Tampa, where a majority of the delegates would be evangelicals. One anonymous Romney fundraiser told Allen and Thomas that “responsible Republican guys are starting to realize ... It’s probably Huckabee-Palin or Palin-Huckabee [at a brokered convention].” That was enough to get them behind Mitt Romney.
Famous Last WordsOn the eve of the Colorado caucuses, Romney’s political director, Rich Beeson, predicted “This is impregnable. We will never lose in Colorado.” The next day, Romney finished more than five points behind Santorum.
Cool Hand RickRick Perry never worried about polls or anything else in the campaign except the tasks on his plate. As Mark Miner, the campaign’s national press secretary, said somewhat incredulously, “He’s not a micromanager, which some could interpret as not in touch with the campaign. He focused on what he had to do; he had his interviews, he had his speeches, and that’s how he was. He just wasn’t focused on everything else going on within the campaign.”
Rick Perry, Dope or Dopehead?The biggest obstacle for Perry was that his bad back meant that he had to be heavily dosed with painkillers to keep standing throughout two-hour debates. The result was debate performances that ranged from weak to disastrous. The manager of a rival campaign told Allen and Thomas that while sharing a men’s room with Perry before a debate in New Hampshire, the Texas governor walked in merrily singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” and continued booming away while standing at the urinal.
Twitter More!Jon Huntsman didn’t seem to have a lot of fun on the campaign trail. He was anxious before debates, frustrated with his consultants, and congenitally unable to offer Republican voters the red meat they were looking for. The low point may have been on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, when John McCain, who Huntsman had supported at great cost in 2008, endorsed Romney. This was particularly disappointing as both of Huntsman’s sons idolized McCain as a fellow naval veteran. But Huntsman always received cheerful advice from his daughters to “smile” and, most importantly, “Twitter more.”
The RominatorJust like the Terminator, Mitt Romney is always analyzing data as he interacts with people. Although the former Massachusetts governor may not have heat vision, he does break everything down into numbers. According to Allen and Thomas, when Romney is getting advice, “in his head he assigns differing values to the advice, based on his estimate of the wisdom of the adviser.”
The Reading Habits of the CandidatesAllen and Thomas report that “Romney is constantly on his iPad. He reads the New York Times, Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and a host of news digests and summaries. “It’s sick how much news he reads,” said an adviser. “It’s too much goddamned news.” In contrast, Santorum reads hard copies of newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, and also tries to make time for his fantasy-baseball league this year.
Gingrich’s Photoshop StafferNewt Gingrich may not have an advance team or a field staff but his campaign does have someone on Photoshop duty. Allen and Thomas report that “An aide would sometimes Photoshop Callista’s pictures before the campaign sent them out, according to an inside source. Unflattering wrinkles and stray hairs were to be airbrushed away.” Even when the Gingrich campaign was flailing away, the candidate's wife’s hair helmet would always look perfect.
Rick Santorum’s Debate HelpRick Santorum was looking for help during the debates but not from the audience. “At the top of the notes he took during debates, Santorum wrote “HS,” for Holy Spirit, to remind himself to accept divine guidance. He also occasionally doodled HS on the text of his speeches but he more often went on stage with no notes.”