Mitt Romney’s campaign manager Matt Rhoades wishes his team hadn’t taken such a far-right position on immigration. The Romney campaign chief made the comments at the Harvard University Institute of Politics over the weekend.

The New York Times reports the details:

When asked directly whether Mr. Romney regretted tacking to the right on immigration to appeal to conservative primary voters, the room fell silent.

Stuart Stevens, a senior strategist to Mr. Romney, shook his head no. But after pausing for several seconds, Mr. Rhoades said, “I regret that.”

He went on to explain that the campaign, in hindsight, had been too worried about a potential threat from Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who jumped into the race to challenge Mr. Romney as the jobs-and-economy candidate. For weeks in fall 2011, Mr. Romney hammered Mr. Perry on Social Security, particularly his calling the program a “Ponzi scheme” that should be overtaken by state governments.

“In retrospect,” Mr. Rhoades said, “I believe that we could have probably just beaten Governor Perry with the Social Security hit.”

Other interesting bits from the conference:

  • Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said that the “real hidden story from our side” came from the number of white men who did not vote in the election in some key states:

“We weren’t surprised by racial composition; we were surprised by the partisan composition. … The real hidden story here on our side, the number of white men who didn’t vote in this election compared to four years ago was extraordinary. And these white men were replaced by white women. We were taking a group we won by 27 points and replacing them with a group we won by 12-14 points.”

  • And no surprise here but a low point for the Romney campaign came in September when Romney’s 47% remarks went viral:

“There was a lot of negativity about our campaign as a whole, but he’s a person who takes personal responsibility,” Mr. Rhoades said. “He would tell me: ‘You didn’t say 47 percent, Matt. Stuart didn’t say 47 percent. I did.’ “

The Harvard University Institute of Politics “2012 Campaign Decision Makers Conference” runs every four years, in the weeks following Election Day. The Institute brings together campaign managers and analysts from major presidential campaigns to examine the electoral process.

Recordings of the talks are available on IOP.Harvard.edu.


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