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Mitt Romney's inner circle

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is running for president again in 2012. Getty photo

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has never really stopped running for president since that February day in 2008 when he ended his challenge to Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).

While Romney took an extended hiatus to write his book -- "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness" -- he never really left the political game, staying in close touch with a small group of political advisers who have kept the presidential flame lit over the past two plus years.

That loyal group has helped Romney emerge as the frontrunner in the Invisible Primary -- the behind-the-scenes battle before the battle for the nomination, a contest defined by fundraising, endorsements and general political sway. (The Romney team's performance was near perfect until a background quote disparaging former Alaska Sen. Sarah Palin caused a bit of stir nationally.)

What better way to kick off our 2012 inner circle lists -- the men and women closest to the various Republicans (and Democrat) running for president -- than with Romney. Look for future inner circles for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and, yes, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in this space in the coming weeks.

The Romney Inner Circle

*Matt Rhoades: Rhoades served as communications director for Romney's 2008 bid and earned a reputation as a savvy strategist in and out of the press world. Rhoades was named director of Romney's Free and Strong America PAC earlier this year -- a move that won the governor praise among insiders -- and is widely expected to be the campaign manager for the 2012 race.

* Beth Myers: Myers served as chief of staff during Romney's time as governor and managed the 2008 race. Myers is regarded as the staffer with the closest personal relationship with Romney -- a not-insignificant thing in a presidential campaign where scads of advisers seek to win the candidate's ear.

* Eric Fehrnstrom: While Fehnstrom has dabbled in outside consulting -- he helped guide Sen. Scott Brown (R) to victory in Massachusetts earlier this year -- he is still focused heavily on forwarding Romney's political interests. Fehnrstrom's relationship with Romney cemented during the '08 campaign when he served as traveling press secretary but the two also have history; Fehnstrom served as Romney's deputy campaign manager in the 2002 governor's race.

* Stuart Stevens/Russ Schriefer: Romney had many -- too many, according to some -- media consultants on board during the 2008 presidential campaign. (Check out our 2008 Romney inner circle post for a look at all of them.). Stevens and Schriefer, whose firm helped elect Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.) in 2009, are the only image men left standing and are a near-lock to produce Romney's ads in the race to come.

* Spencer Zwick: Commonly referred to as the sixth Romney son (Romney has five boys), Zwick is tasked with raising the money for the PAC -- and, by any measure, has done a bang-up job. Romney has collected nearly $6 million for Free and Strong America since the start of 2009 and had doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates across the country as well. In both money raised and donations made, Romney stands alone among 2012 candidates -- thanks to Zwick.

* Peter Flaherty: Flaherty is Romney's go-to guy in outreach to conservatives, the same critical role he played for the governor in the 2008 presidential race. Flaherty, like Myers and Fehnrstrom, goes way back with Romney; he served as Romney's deputy chief of staff in the governor's office.

* Bob White: White is a longtime Romney confidante -- they worked together at Bain Capital -- and remains a trusted voice for the governor.

* Kevin Madden: Madden, the telegenic spokesman for Romney in 2008, has moved on to the world of political consulting -- he is partners with former Republican National Committee strategist Jim Dyke -- but keeps a hand in Romney world. Madden is also a regular presence on cable television, a role he's likely to reprise if/when he signs up for a second bid.

* Ben Ginsberg: Ginsberg (and his law firm Patton Boggs) remains on Romney's PAC payroll -- a sign that the governor values the advice of one of the top election lawyers in Washington (or anywhere.)

* Ron Kaufman: Kaufman, a principal at the Dutko Group, is the insider's insider and serves as a behind-the-scenes advocate for Romney within the professional political class in Washington.

* Jim Talent/Mike Leavitt: Talent, the former Missouri Senator, and Leavitt, the former Utah governor, know the life of an elected official and can relate to Romney in a way that few others in the inner circle can as a result.

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 20, 2010; 3:39 PM ET
Categories:  Inner Circle  
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'The GOP decision to try to filibuster the unemployment compensation extension is a grooved fastball down the middle for President 44. BHO needs to talk about this for the next two years, non-stop.

@Brig-ade. Sherrod? I see you and raise you Billy Roper and Ryan J. Murdough.'

I'm in for this hand.

Posted by: drindl | July 20, 2010 10:43 PM | Report abuse

drindl@455 -- that Obama: his ideas are so ridiculous he can't get anything passed on the Hill! Everyone rejects his ideas.


Posted by: margaretmeyers | July 20, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

The GOP decision to try to filibuster the unemployment compensation extension is a grooved fastball down the middle for President 44. BHO needs to talk about this for the next two years, non-stop.

@Brig-ade. Sherrod? I see you and raise you Billy Roper and Ryan J. Murdough.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | July 20, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how unemployed republicans felt about having their own party filibuster their benefits?

Posted by: drindl | July 20, 2010 4:55 PM

More free lunch for the grandkids to pay for. All Republicans were asking was for the Dems to PAY FOR IT like Obama had promised. Just put it on the plastic. How long have you been on the dole?

Posted by: Brigade | July 20, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Well, Joe, I see the Obama gang has thrown Shirley Sherrod under the bus, and they acted quickly. Go figure. They drop charges against a Black Panther who intimidated black voters, and then they dump on this poor soul for a few words taken totally out of context. She says they pulled her over in traffic and demanded that she resign immediately!

Ben Jealous was quick to call for her to go, but he spoke before he knew the details. Now he's walked back and claimed he was misled by Fox News. When did the NAACP start taking its marching orders from Fox News? You just can't make this stuff up.

DeWayne Wickham had an interesting column in today's USA TODAY. He thinks it's time for the NAACP to stop kissing Obama's butt and start demanding action. Two years ago black unemployment was 9.9%; today it's 15.4%. Two years ago joblessness among black teenagers was 27%; today it's 40%. So the NAACP is planning a march on Washington in October to pressure Congress---not the president---about the need for jobs. How's that hopey-changey stuff working out?

As Wickham wrote, "Joblessness is certainly a greater threat to blacks than the bigots who show up at Tea Party events."

Posted by: Brigade | July 20, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

If we're doing rightwing staff directories today, how about the Tea Party's?

Dale (n-word sign) Robertson
Mike (Letter to Abe Lincoln insulting blacks) Williams
Ryan J. Murdough (Google his name; it's too outrageous to repeat)
Billy (white revolution) Roper
Sharron "Right Angle" Angle (Google her name and "making lemonade out of lemons")
Rand (pure lunch counters) Paul

When it comes to teabagging at its highest level, this list is as good as it gets.

Upcoming staff directories to be posted here: RNC, stormfront, Michigan militia, and the Minutemen.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | July 20, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

How is Mitt Romney's staff directory a news story?

Or for that matter Palin's, Pawlenty's, or Barbour's staff directories?

Weak tea...

Posted by: broadwayjoe | July 20, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: mark_in_austin | July 20, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: drindl | July 20, 2010 4:55 PM
"I wonder how unemployed republicans felt about having their own party filibuster their benefits?"

The test will be if republicans flip-flop and vote for the bill. Then they can go home and tell the unemployed republicans that they supported extending benefits all the time but those dang democrats wouldn't cut spending somewhere else to offset the $34 Billion (8 1/2 weeks in Iraq) dollar cost.
I hope someone asks them to explain why their leaders, on Meet the Press, could not come up with "ONE", not one!, program they would be willing to cut.

Posted by: knjincvc | July 20, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

I don't chat with those that are banned.

Posted by: mariewilson11 | July 20, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Marie Wilson

Were you this critical of the press when Obama was given a free ride - and practically never had any vetting?

Seriously - unless you say the same things when the subject involves the other party - I really don't think you have much to stand on.


Posted by: YouCanPostThis | July 20, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Bain capital says it all.

More outsourcing!!!

Posted by: knjincvc | July 20, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

jake3D is like many of us who are very interested in the direction our country needs to take yet influential writers like CC take the easy road to DC prominence.

He takes the obvious mixes it with the patently unexciting and leavens it with Republican insiders' talking points and polls to make a good living here. a spin machine producing Republican cotton candy.

I just don't know why this shouldn't be renamed: WP Republican Fan Club News. It is that incisive.

Posted by: mariewilson11 | July 20, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Oh look, Dems broke another filibuster and people will now get their unemployment back:

'Legislation to restore unemployment benefits to millions who have been out of work for more than six months broke free of Senate Republican delaying tactics on Tuesday.

Senators voted 60-40, clearing the way for passage of the bill later on Tuesday. The measure would restore jobless checks for 2.5 million people whose benefits started running out seven weeks ago.

The vote was a modest victory for President Barack Obama and Democrats, whose more ambitious hopes for a jobs agenda have mostly fizzled in the face of GOP opposition in the Senate.

The vote came moments after Carte Goodiwn was sworn in as a successor to West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, who died last month at the age of 92. Goodwin was the crucial 60th senator to defeat a Republican filibuster that has led to a lapse in benefits for 2.5 million people.

The Senate gallery was packed with Goodwin supporters, who broke into applause as he cast his "aye" vote.

Two Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, voted to end the filibuster. '

I wonder how unemployed republicans felt about having their own party filibuster their benefits?

Posted by: drindl | July 20, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

...Besides with so many wonderful and worthy Republicans, Chris will be busily editing his posts to make sure he is fair in promoting all of them for 2010, 2012 and beyond.

What about pit bulls, and hockey moms and all the Joe the Plumbers and pink elephants and mama Grizzlies?...and I only it gave 3 seconds of thought! Imagine a whole job based on passing this stuff off as real news....and she calls it lamestream...INDEED!

Posted by: mariewilson11 | July 20, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

God, all the excitement that's coming up! More fawning over some of the most boring people on the planet! We can't wait!

Posted by: drindl | July 20, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I don't think a lot of evangalicals will vote for a man with magic underwear who believes that another messiah came to america..

and anyone who thinks out sourcing American jobs to china is wrong, should know that's how Romney made his money..

he's a hack

Posted by: newagent99 | July 20, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Should I read into this that Romney's inner circle is comprised only of politicos and political operatives? No academics, no mentors, no policy folk, no smart people from Bain? If true, this is scary. However, I doubt this is true, but highlights jake3D's point -- political coverage is all process.

Posted by: megatron57 | July 20, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Fawning? Must we pick a nit?

What about TPaw? He should bet the same tough incisive Fix treatment! Fair is fair!

Posted by: mariewilson11 | July 20, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

It would be nice, besides writing about the spin and drag of these campaigns, to do a though piece about what makes these candidates persuasive, or not, to an electorate that is progressively jaded about leadership.

Mitt has some clear strengths (which are not really covered here properly despite the sweet, sweet coverage) but there are weaknesses that have prevented him from achieving his life's goal. Where does this level of thought fit in the Fix?

Posted by: jake3D | July 20, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

He needs someone as vulgar as the Rhamster and as creepy as Rodaxel.

Posted by: leapin | July 20, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

What?? Who cares!!

This is just .. fawning.

Posted by: Noacoler | July 20, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

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