Romney appoints long-time aide to head VP search committee

No, it’s not Ed Gillespie, who on Sunday denied the story that floated in the media last week.  Gillespie has joined the soon-to-rapidly-expand Team Romney inner circle, but the job of picking a running mate goes to an old hand instead:

Mitt Romney has tapped a longtime adviser to begin his search for a vice presidential candidate.

Romney said Monday that Beth Myers is in charge of “selection and vetting and analysis.”

“I have selected someone who has been a counselor of mine for a number of years, Beth Myers. She was my chief of staff when I was governor,” Romney said during an interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News outside Fenway Park in Boston.

Myers has been with Romney for years, serving as his chief of staff during his entire term as governor in Massachusetts, so Myers certainly has his confidence.  An undated Washington Post profile notes that Myers’ consulting firm The Shawmut Group assisted Scott Brown in his surprise victory for the US Senate in January 2010.  She began working in politics in 1980 on Ronald Reagan’s campaign in Texas, along with Karl Rove, but by 1984 had shifted to Massachusetts, working with Republican candidates.

Perhaps her best asset to the VP search is her approach to consulting:

As consultants, Myers told the Belmont Citizen-Herald, “We have a philosophy that our clients come first and we stay in the background.”

To some extent, though, this assignment puts her in the foreground, and at an opportune moment.  The Obama campaign has picked a fight for several weeks over womens’ issues, hoping to exploit a gender gap between Democrats and Republicans, an effort that blew up in their faces last week.  Myers’ high-profile assignment puts her in charge of the single biggest decision Romney has to make between now and the Republican convention, a choice of running mate that could make or break his candidacy.  Given her history and closeness to Romney, this appointment would have made sense under any circumstances, but in the current environment also sends a perhaps-not-so-subtle message that Romney has no problem putting women in charge of the most critical aspects of his campaign and organization.

It may also send a more-subtle message to his core staff at a moment when Romney will need to rapidly expand the organization, as the Boston Globe reports:

Often secretive and always loyal, the advisers now face their ultimate test: transitioning from a relatively small circle that guided Romney through bruising primaries to a group that is expected to grow far larger in just a matter of weeks in order to reset the campaign for a general election fight against President Obama.

A number of those in the inner core have not previously worked in a presidential general election campaign, and new players with national experience recently have begun joining the campaign, potentially challenging the hierarchy with which Romney feels so comfortable. But some of Romney’s top advisers, speaking in interviews in which they discussed the candidate’s general election plans and decision-making process, said the core group will remain even as they welcome newcomers and new views. …

The expansion, and the potential change that comes with it, will be swift. Romney’s campaign is preparing a dramatic increase in manpower, with the current full-time staff of about 80 expected to reach 400 in the coming weeks, according to a Romney aide.

That necessary broadening of a primary campaign to a general-election effort could create a sense of marginalization among long-time loyalists.  Picking Myers for this assignment, when Romney might have been tempted to go with a GOP eminence grise, sends a message of continuity and reciprocated loyalty.  The ultimate test of this decision will be in the choice of running mate, and even that is really Romney’s responsibility, but this seems like both smart politics and good people management.

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