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Peggy Noonan on the ‘Baker Way’

By on September 21, 2012

The Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan has a must-read column (via Mike Allen of the Politico Playbook) in which she outlines the ‘Baker Way’ to turnaround the Mitt Romney campaign.

“There is more than a month between the first debate and the voting: That’s enough time for a healthy spiral to begin. But: The Romney campaign has to get turned around. This week I called it incompetent, but only because I was being polite. I really meant ‘rolling calamity.’ … There were wistful notes from the Republicans who’d helped run previous campaigns, most of whom could be characterized as serious, moderate conservatives, all of whom want to see Mr. Romney win … Some, unbidden, brought up the name James A. Baker III, who ran Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1984 (megalandslide-those were the days) and George H.W. Bush’s in 1988 (landslide.) …

“Twice in my life I’ve seen men so respected within their organizations that people couldn’t call them by their first names. That would be Mr. Paley, the buccaneer and visionary who invented CBS, and Mr. Baker, who ran things that are by nature chaotic and messy-campaigns and White Houses-with wisdom, focus, efficiency, determination and discipline. And he did it while being attacked every day from left, right and center-and that was in the Reagan White House, never mind outside, which was a constant war zone.

“Mr. Baker’s central insight: The candidate can’t run the show. He can’t be the CEO of the campaign … The candidate is out there every day standing for things, fighting for a hearing, trying to get the American people to listen, agree and follow. That’s where his energies go. … The candidate cannot oversee strategy, statements, speechwriting, ads. He shouldn’t be debating what statistic to put on slide four of the Powerpoint presentation. He has to learn to trust others-many others.

“Mr. Baker broke up power centers while at the same time establishing clear lines of authority-and responsibility. … /He delegated, and only the gifted were welcome: Bob Teeter, Dick Darman, Roger Ailes, Marlin Fitzwater. … A campaign is a communal exercise. It isn’t about individual entrepreneurs. It’s people pitching in together … Mitt Romney needs to get his head screwed on right in this area.”

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