More on Romney’s Debate Coach

I’m going to lead with the caveat. It’s always really hard to extrapolate from campaigning to governing. The skills are overlapping but not identical, for one thing; for another, any information we receive during the campaign is filtered through all sorts of things, from the spin of the campaigns to the biases of reporters. So consider this a very tentative marker, not anything close to a conclusion.

That said: I found the conclusion of the Romney debate coach story, well, interesting. Recall that last week former Liberty U and all-around Christian conservative star debate coach Brett O’Donnell was getting a lot of credit for Mitt Romney’s strong performance in the Florida debates, credit that I thought was misplaced, or at least overemphasized. Now, over the weekend, we get word that O’Donnell is out of the campaign, perhaps because of the sense he was taking too much credit.

Again keeping all the caveats in mind: this is definitely not a positive hint about Romney’s governing skills. A president who insists on getting personal credit for such things as good speeches…well, really, a president who insists on personal credit for the various things his or her administration does is a president who is going to have problems. I strongly agree with the old political saw about how one can get all sorts of things done in Washington as long as one is willing to let others have the credit. Now, that’s more about other independent actors within the system than about staff, but if Romney really cares whether or not people think that he was helped by a debate coach? That’s not good.

Now, again, there’s every possibility that the story isn’t what we’re hearing now. And certainly one attribute a president wants in either campaign staff or White House staff is a willingness to give the candidate (or president) credit along with a willingness to absorb blame; not to mention that if the campaign believed that O’Donnell’s contributions mainly consisted of spinning himself to the press, then they were probably far better off without him. Without more facts, it’s hard to know. Still, if we’re collecting hints about Romney’s governing style and abilities, it’s one marker to note. Hey, Massachusetts reporters: anything like that during his term as governor? Sure would be useful to know.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.