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Advice Overload Precedes Romney's Debate

Advice Overload Precedes Romney's Debate

By Scott Conroy - September 27, 2012


As the polls were beginning to turn more definitively against Mitt Romney last week, conservative columnist Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal called for an "intervention" for the former Massachusetts governor's presidential campaign, encouraging like-minded thinkers on the right to offer the Republican presidential nominee some advice.

For starters, Noonan had some counsel of her own.

“He should stick to speeches, and they have to be big -- where America is now, what we must do, how we can do it,” she wrote. “He needs to address the Mideast too, because it isn’t going to go away as an issue and is adding a new layer of unease to the entire election.”

Since the day Romney launched his second run for the presidency nearly a year-and-a-half ago, a steady stream of such guidance has come his way from conservative media figures, the messages focused on what he has been doing wrong and how he needs to change his trajectory.

Now, amid his slide in the polls and just one week until the first Romney-Obama debate, that stream of advice has become more like a waterfall.

“He needs to hone his message,” RedState.com’s Erick Erickson wrote on Tuesday. “He needs to focus on the failings of this administration.”

Newt Gingrich -- who knows a thing or two about Romney’s debating strengths and weaknesses after facing off against him 21 times during the GOP primaries -- offered some pugnacious instruction of his own on Wednesday.

“Be assertive and be on offense against both Obama and his media,” he wrote. “You can be on offense without being offensive. The strongest reactions I got to my debates came from people who were desperate for someone to stand up to the media and redefine the questions and reframe the assumptions. Americans are sick and tired of the unending liberalism and suffocating groupthink of the elite media.”

Some of the unsolicited advisers may have their own reasons for bestowing such guidance publicly, but that doesn’t change one essential fact: the seemingly unending flow of it.

In addition to the public counsel Romney has received ahead of the debate in Denver, he has been besieged with even more well-intended coaching from wealthy donors at private fundraisers, from rank-and-file Republicans who speak up at post-rally rope lines, and during phone calls with key Republican leaders, according to a campaign aide.

And that is to say nothing of the specific guidance Romney has received from top advisers during the several days of official debate preparation he has already engaged in.

Undoubtedly, the barrage of advice must at times seem contradictory to the presidential challenger as he tries to digest it all.

Numerous prominent Republicans, for instance, have called on him to be more specific about his vague proposals for cutting government programs. But longtime GOP debate coach Brett O’Donnell, who guided Romney before some of his primary debates, suggested to Robert Draper in a recent GQ story that getting bogged down in data was a potential hazard for Romney.

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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