Mitt Romney's Brain Trust: The Staffers Behind the Candidate

PHOTO: Mitt Romney speaks with his traveling press secretary Eric Fehrnstrom in this Jan. 31, 2008 file photo in San Diego, California.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Mitt Romney's campaign headquarters is far from Washington, D.C., and the Republican establishment, nestled in the blue state of Massachusetts.

The former governor and investment banker, who is the presumptive nominee for the Republican presidential nomination, has top staffers who have been working for or with him for a decade. Others have roots with the Republican National Committee and are veterans of George W. Bush's campaign teams.

Here's a look at some of the faces behind Romney and what roles they play in his campaign, on the trail and back at headquarters.

Senior Adviser

PHOTO: Mitt Romney speaks with his traveling press secretary Eric Fehrnstrom in this Jan. 31, 2008 file photo in San Diego, California.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Eric Fehrnstrom

Vital Stats

Age: 50

College: Boston University

Hometown: Brookline, Mass.

What he brings to Team Romney: Loyalty and time served. If you see Eric Fehrnstrom, it's likely the boss is just a few steps away. Fehrnstrom first worked with Romney in his 2002 gubernatorial campaign as his press secretary. Along with Beth Myers, he's the longest-serving Romney aide and is said to know Romney's thinking the best. He's recognized as both the Romney gatekeeper and historian, knowing the boss' policy positions and past decisions better than anyone. Fehrnstrom has worked with Romney as a communications adviser consistently throughout those 10 years and served as press secretary during the 2008 campaign. Afterwards, he launched a political consulting firm with two other Romney aides, The Shawmut Group, that led Scott Brown of Massachusetts to his surprise U.S. Senate victory in 2010. He is also helping Brown's re-election effort against Elizabeth Warren.

What he has others don't: He can be tough, especially with reporters he feels are crossing a line with Romney. In 2008, he got into a heated back-and-forth with an Associated Press reporter, getting up close and saying, "Save your opinions and act professionally!" It's a moment that will live on YouTube.

It's not all roses: Fehrnstrom is usually fastidiously on message, but last month he went on CNN and answered how the candidate would pivot to the general election.

"Everything changes," Fehrnstrom said on CNN. "It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again."

Both his GOP rivals and the Obama campaign jumped on the comments that seemed to reflect Romney's hard-to-shed "flip-flopper" reputation. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich even brought the children's toy to campaign events with them.

Fehrnstrom was also caught in an embarrassing Twitter firestorm. While working on Brown's re-election campaign, he ran an anonymous Twitter handle called @CrazyKhazei, which made fun of Democratic rival Alan Khazei, who later dropped out of the race when Warren had a huge fundraising advantage. The tweets were funny at times, mean at others. Fehrnstrom didn't get caught until he accidentally tweeted on his own @EricFehrnstrom account.

On Romney's behalf, Fehrnstrom has a consistent Twitter back-and-forth going with Obama advisor David Axelrod.

Little-known facts: He's a former reporter with an aggressive reputation who covered politics at the Boston Herald. Although it's well known he's balancing both the Romney and Brown campaigns, it's less known that, at times, the two very different candidates can put Fehrnstrom in awkward spots. Scott Brown demanded Warren release six years of her tax returns. But Fehrnstrom's other client, Mitt Romney, has refused to release more than two years of his own returns, despite calls from the Obama administration to do so.

Senior Adviser, Heading Up VP Search

PHOTO: Beth Myers is seen at the Romney 2008 campaign office in Boston in this April 27, 2007 file photo.
Elise Amendola/AP Photo
Beth Myers

Vital Stats

Age: 55

College: Tufts University

Hometown: Brookline, Mass.

What she brings to Team Romney: Loyalty and experience. She's worked closely with Romney for a decade, first serving on a volunteer basis in 2002 as the debate prep stand-in for his Democratic gubernatorial opponent, Shannon O'Brien. She served as Romney's chief of staff when he was Massachusetts governor and was campaign manager during the 2008 campaign. She is said to be detail oriented and helped prepare Romney's vetting paperwork when he was on John McCain's short list for VP last time around, so she has an advantage being on the other side of the process during this campaign. The Romney campaign is also trying to close a gender gap it is facing, although the candidate's wife, Ann, is trying to woo women voters, having a female senior advisor can't hurt.

What she has others don't: Said to be one of the advisors closest to Romney personally, her opinion on who would be good a No. 2 will undoubtedly go a long way.

It's not all roses: As campaign manager in 2008, Myers headed up the last team, which was obviously unsuccessful and also suffered from infighting. Matt Rhoades now fills that role.

Little-known facts: She worked in Texas Republican politics in the 1980s, working alongside and learning from Karl Rove. She has two children. She also worked to help elect Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., in his surprise 2010 victory. Myers is so close to her boss, she's known as the "Mitt Whisperer."

Campaign Manager

PHOTO: Matt Rhoades, checks his PDA at the Romney 2008 campaign office in Boston in this April 27, 2007 file photo.
Elise Amendola/AP Photo
Matt Rhoades

Vital Stats


College:Syracuse University

Hometown: Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Background check: Rhoades served as Romney's director of communications during his first presidential bid in 2008. Before that, Rhoades worked at the Republican National Committee, where he did research. In 2004, he worked on the Bush-Cheney presidential re-election campaign, serving as the research director. Rhoades' strength is in opposition research.

Connections can't hurt: It's no secret that Rhoades has a close -- and clearly beneficial -- relationship with Matt Drudge, the man behind the Drudge Report, who he reportedly first met back in 2005. So far this campaign cycle, various pro-Romney headlines have splashed across the Drudge Report home page, including one that showed Romney holding an Olympic torch with the headline that read "Finally," on the day after Super Tuesday.

Little-known facts: He once smashed the screen of his computer, according to the Washington Post -- smashing it with his fist ahead of the 2004 presidential election after reading something online.

Fun resume fact: According to Rhoades' hometown paper, The Saratogian, Romney's campaign manager spent some time at the track -- the race track that is. Rhoades worked at the Saratoga Race Course from age 16 through his graduation from Syracuse.

What you don't know: A lot. Rhoades is rarely seen outside of Boston HQ, preferring a more low-key profile -- remaining behind the scenes but always at the helm.

National Finance Director

PHOTO: Spencer Zwick
Morning Market Call/YouTube
Spencer Zwick

Vital Stats

Age: 32

College: Brigham Young University

Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah

What he brings to Team Romney: He's the man behind the money. Zwick is the one at the helm of the "national call days," both this cycle and last, that bring in large amounts of money in short 24-hour periods. He is said to keep and maintain close relationships with high-dollar donors, making sure to keep them aware of campaign updates and holding regular calls with them. Romney will continue to crisscross the country this week to raise money; even his wife, Ann, pitching in and attending a fundraiser on her own this Thursday in Georgia. Romney is set to attend fundraisers in Indianapolis, Omaha and Tulsa, all organized by Zwick.

He's Called the Sixth Romney Son: He is so close to the Romney clan that he's like a member of the family and he's known as the sixth son for those Romney-like good looks and friendship with the entire family, especially eldest son, Tagg Romney. He first met the boss when he was volunteering at the 2002 Winter Olympics. He went on a Church of Latter-day Saints mission to Bangkok, Thailand, and also lived abroad for almost 10 years of his childhood in both Chile and Brazil. He used his language skills to help translate documents and soon caught the eye of Mitt Romney.

Little Known Facts: After serving on the Olympic organizing committee in Salt Lake City, he became Romney's personal aide. He has been in his orbit since, including becoming deputy chief of staff when Romney became governor of Massachusetts when he was 25 years old. Zwick started a private equity investing firm with Tagg Romney two weeks after the last campaign called Solamere Capital. Mitt Romney was one of the first investors, putting in $10 million, according to the Boston Globe. The company tapped other high-dollar Romney donors to invest in the firm, using their wealthy contacts from the campaign to help fund their venture.

How He Feels About Romney: "There's a floor mat outside my office that says one word and that's 'passion,'" Zwick told the Salt Lake Tribune in 2007. "That's how I feel about Gov. Romney and people working for him."

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