Among politicos, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is frequently referenced as “Boston.” Romney’s headquarters is housed there, and for much of the campaign season, the phrase has been used to describe the former governor’s tight-knit group of senior advisers, such as Stuart Stevens and Matt Rhoades, who have long helmed the ship.
These days, that cadre of Romney loyalists and strategists continues to run the operation, but the campaign recently bulked up its management team for the general election. Ed Gillespie, a former GOP chairman, was tapped to serve as a senior adviser; Mike Biundo, Rick Santorum’s former campaign manager, was asked to be a coalitions director.
“At the top, Gillespie is the critical addition,” says one Republican operative who works with Romney’s team. “He brings a fresh voice to those inner-circle discussions, which, for any campaign, is needed after a rough primary.”
Sources say there is a sense that Gillespie will be asked to offer candid advice to Stevens, Rhoades, and the candidate — giving them an outsider’s perspective, and a trusted one. Biundo, for his part, will focus on enlisting Santorum’s conservative base — building an army of volunteers.
“They are doing a reasonably good job,” says Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and the host of an influential weekly meeting of conservative activists. “In terms of bringing the party together, the polling shows that happening. In terms of outreach to the movement, they’re sending people to our Wednesday meeting, such as policy director Lanhee Chen, and hosting lunches with key people.”
Beyond Boston, the Romney campaign has reinforced its lower-level ranks, staffing up its research, communications, fundraising, and grassroots departments. To assist, Washington-based operatives, such as Sarah Pompei and Alex Wong, have signed on. Pompei, a former aide to House Whip Kevin McCarthy, will lead regional press, and Wong, an attorney at the State Department, will assist on policy.
Other hires, which were first reported by the New York Times, include speechwriter Lindsay Hayes, who worked on the McCain-Palin campaign, and Kristy Campbell, a former spokeswoman for the American Conservative Union.
This slew of new staffers, Romney aides say, signals a strong desire within the campaign to energize the full Republican spectrum, from the big-dollar donors and Beltway insiders to Evangelicals and tea-party activists.
It’s also a realization, Romney observers add, that the discipline and control of the primary campaign cannot be sustained in coming months — that there needs to be a sprawling national effort with many faces and responsibilities. Boston may still be the nucleus, but the campaign is now bigger than a Beantown clique.