(NEW YORK) — A top strategist for Mitt Romney confirmed Sunday night that “speeches go through lots of processes and editing” after Politico first reported there were competing versions of Romney’s Tampa, Fla., convention speech. The speech Romney ultimately delivered was criticized for failing to mention Afghanistan.
Stuart Stevens has been one of Romney’s closest advisers and is the person – besides Romney – most responsible for many aspects of the campaign’s direction and message.
Much of Romney’s inner circle has been with the former Massachusetts governor for years. Stevens, who has had side trips as an author and auteur, worked for both Bush campaigns and Romney in 2008. He oversees speech-writing and ads for the campaign.
A detailed report in Politico Sunday also painted Stevens as the subject of frustration among Romney staffers after the candidate failed to receive much of a bounce in polls after his convention. Some conservatives outside the campaign, including columnists like George Will and radio-show hosts like Laura Ingraham, have questioned the direction of the campaign and its larger message, crafted by Stevens.
Romney has shied away from specific proposals for what he would do and instead made President Obama and the economy the laser-like focus of his campaign.
Stevens, it turns out, was largely responsible for Romney’s speech, as Politico first reported. He called for a re-write days before it was to be given and called in new writers who reportedly had never met with the candidate.
When ABC News asked Stevens whether he would put Afghanistan back in the speech if given a do-over, he said, “I just don’t think that way. I don’t think it would matter one vote.”
Stevens also stands by the campaign’s decision to have Clint Eastwood take the stage, and isn’t concerned whether that was a defining moment of the convention last month.
“Listen, I think Clint Eastwood, having Eastwood on your side and what he said about the president is incredibly powerful. He came out and gave a strong stance, and I think it was great,” Stevens said, “We’re talking about this when the Democrats had a floor fight over God? Give me a break.”
Stevens also brushed off the criticism from conservatives outside the campaign, including Ingraham, who said this should have been a “gimme election,” given the economy and unemployment rate.
“It’s just not how politics works,” he said. “I never get mad at people who criticize. I love her passion.”
Stevens argued that the Romney campaign is on track and that Obama’s post-convention bounce of 7 points in the Gallup Daily Tracking poll has already fallen off some.
“The president had a terrible week last week,” said Stevens, pointing to continued images of unrest and the events in Libya.
“If anybody turned on the TV and feels better about the president after last week,” he said, “I’d be surprised to hear it.”
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Scott Stuntz, Teton Valley News & Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com
Stephen Collinson and Eric Bradner, CNN