By ANNA PALMER and JOHN BRESNAHAN –
Mitt Romney’s campaign grew frustrated in September when one high-profile Republican after another second-guessed their candidate.
The timing couldn’t have been worse: Romney was being beaten in the polls by Barack Obama when former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Karl Rove and other top-tier GOP-ers decided to take to the national media to complain about his performance.
Romney wanted to quiet the doubters. And fast.
The Republican hopeful wasn’t going to win the election inside the Beltway, but the establishment’s negative drumbeat could hurt him in the headlines and damage his ability to raise money, especially with business groups and mega-donors underwriting Republican-allied super PACs.
So the campaign turned to respected Washington operator and fixer Ron Kaufman, who launched a series of special-access conference calls for top surrogates, like former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.