An internal document shows Mitt Romney's presidential campaign is concerned about his vulnerability to charges of flip-flopping, while suggesting he can differentiate from President Bush with a single word: "intelligence."
Campaign advisers even fret that the former Massachusetts governor has too perfect hair, according to the 77-slide PowerPoint presentation, a copy of which was obtained by The Boston Globe.
The document also outlines plans for positively branding the Republican contender, negatively framing rivals John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, and allaying voter concerns about his record and Mormon faith.
One idea for dealing with the religious question is to address it head-on, perhaps as John F. Kennedy did in a 1960 speech amid concerns about his relationship to the Catholic Church.
The document appears to raise the possibility of Romney speaking at the presidential library of Bush's father, George H.W. Bush. It is located outside Houston, the same city where Kennedy delivered his speech.
The blueprint, dated Dec. 11, was drafted in part by Alex Castellanos, Romney's media adviser. It is similar to one for GOP rival Rudy Giuliani that was recently obtained and published by the New York Daily News.
Examining the opponents
McCain is described as a war hero and maverick with a compelling narrative and a reputation for wit, authenticity, and straight talk. But he's also seen as "too Washington," "too close to (Democratic) Left," an "uncertain, erratic, unreliable leader in uncertain times." "Does he fit The Big Chair?" the document asks.
Giuliani is called an outside-the-Beltway rock star and truth teller who earned the nation's trust for his leadership of New York City's response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But he is also described as a one-dimensional Lone Ranger whose social views - he supports abortion rights and civil unions for gay couples - could destroy the "GOP brand."
"We can't disqualify Dems like Hillary (Rodham Clinton) on social issues ever again" if Giuliani is the nominee, the document states.
Romney spokesman Kevin Madden declined to verify the document's authenticity in response to a request from The Associated Press.
"Outside consultants routinely offer input and analysis - both solicited and unsolicited - on the dynamics of a political campaign all the time," Madden said. "But we cannot and will not verify any documents that are not marked Romney for President, Inc."