Campaign said it would add muscle amid criticism from some conservatives.
WOLFEBORO, N.H. - Mitt Romney is planning to fortify his communications and messaging team by adding seasoned operatives, advisers said Thursday, after withering criticism from conservative voices that his insular team has fumbled recent opportunities.
Romney's advisers insisted that he would keep his inner circle intact amid growing concerns about the Republican's presidential campaign. The tempest began with a weekend tweet from media tycoon Rupert Murdoch -- who called the presidential candidate's prospects "doubtful" -- and burst Thursday onto the pages of his newspaper the Wall Street Journal, as its conservative editorial board opined that Romney's advisers were "slowly squandering an historic opportunity" to beat President Obama.
By day's end, talk radio host Laura Ingraham had asked listeners whether the vacationing candidate should "get off the jet ski," and commentator William Kristol, who recently returned from a retreat with Romney and his strategists, had bemoaned the campaign's "dangerous self-delusion." Without a course correction, Kristol posited, Romney would suffer the same fate as the last two presidential nominees from Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, both Democrats.
Romney's advisers rejected the course-correction suggestion but said they have been in the process of recruiting more political muscle to his Boston-based headquarters. The campaign plans to bolster its rapid response and messaging operations and to assemble a senior staff for the eventual vice presidential running mate, strategists said. The strategists said the moves could be announced as early as next week.
For Romney, the Journal critique was a brutal exclamation point after two difficult weeks for his campaign. One GOP strategist acknowledged mistakes, especially the handling of a Washington Post report about Bain Capital's investments during Romney's tenure at the firm in companies that moved jobs overseas. The news article became the basis of attacks ads by Obama's campaign that threaten to undermine Romney's business credentials.
On Monday, Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's chief spokesman, put the campaign at odds with GOP talking points by saying that the individual mandate in Obama's health care law is not a tax. On Wednesday, Romney belatedly got in line with his party, saying that it is a tax. The Journal wrote that "the campaign looks confused in addition to being politically dumb."
Ingraham led the griping Thursday, accusing Romney of hiding from the health care debate by taking a vacation. "I don't even think this is his fault," she said. "This is the advisers telling him, 'Oh, it's fine. Take a week.' There's no week to spare. We have a country to save."