Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has reportedly begun to staff up for an unannounced, but nearly inevitable, 2012 presidential bid, taking on a new pollster and political director.
Neil Newhouse, a partner and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, has reportedly signed on as Team Romney’s pollster. Newhouse was named “Pollster of the Year” by the American Association of Political Consultants in recognition of his work on Scott Brown’s improbably successful campaign against Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley for the Senate seat vacated by Teddy Kennedy. The New York Times has called his firm “the leading Republican polling company” in the nation.
On the Brown campaign, Newhouse conducted daily tracking polls to identify the issues that resonated most for Massachusetts voters. One of his counterintuitive findings was that voters cared more about national security issues than the healthcare reform debate, which dominated headlines as the January 2010 special election approached. With regard to how terrorism suspects should be tried, Newhouse found that Brown’s support for military tribunals was favored 65 to 35 percent over Coakley’s support for trials in civilian courts. (C&E’s April 2010 issue featured a fascinating post-mortem of the Brown campaign by Jeremy Jacobs.)
While Newhouse is generally considered a Republican pollster, he did work for Democrat-turned-Independent, Sen. Joe Lieberman in his 2006 campaign to retain his Connecticut Senate seat against Democrat Ned Lamont.
Romney’s campaign has also reportedly retained the services of Rich Beeson, a GOP operative and partner with the voter contact firm FLS Connect, to serve as its political director. Beeson served as the political director for the RNC in 2008 and has worked on federal-level campaigns since 1989.
Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post notes that Romney has a knack for hiring staffers who move on to influential careers in politics. Although Romney’s 2008 primary campaign ultimately fell short, it was staffed by several rising stars who now occupy positions of influence within Republican politics. Carl Forti, Romney’s 2008 political director, now holds the same position with Karl Rove’s conservative fundraiser, American Crossroads. Kevin Madden, Romney’s 2008 communications director, has moved on to become executive vice president with JDA Frontline. And Joe Pounder, Romney’s 2008 rapid response director, is now deputy campaign manager for commuincations with Sen. Marco Rubio.
While Romney has not formally announced that he will run for president again, there has been speculation that he will make a formal announcement sometime in April. Romney formally announced his 2008 presidential bid on February 13, 2007.
Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org