Republican Gov. Mitt Romney is already a fish out of water in Massachusetts, its Democratic senators, congressmen and state lawmakers dominating politics. Now party members from around the country are in Boston for their nominating convention.
“People were asking me last night what it’s like having so many Democrats in town,” Romney told NBC’s “Today” on Monday, “and I said I don’t notice any difference. We have that every single day.”
Romney has more like-minded company than usual as the Democratic National Convention begins. These Republicans can be found in a nondescript, red-brick building near the convention site, scouring the Internet, monitoring convention coverage and fielding media calls.
They don’t give out the address of their makeshift war room, and they don’t advertise their presence in Boston.
“We’re behind enemy lines and we’re well aware of that fact,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie. “But we can’t allow baseless charges to go unanswered.”
Republicans were holding the first of their daily news conferences from the GOP war room Monday with Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, Rep. Henry Bonilla and Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey. Other prominent Republicans will follow during the week.
The war room is on two floors of the building a couple of blocks from the FleetCenter, the downtown arena where the Democrats are holding their nominating convention.
Researchers from the RNC are searching computer screens that line all four walls in the research room that is the nerve center of the war room. They are looking for online reports about the Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards.
Tools of the trade: TV and e-mail
Televisions are tuned to news stations covering the convention. The researchers fire out e-mails to respond quickly to any Democratic claim they feel they must counter.
On the walls, the Democratic senators are listed along with the National Journal’s rating of their voting records. Kerry’s is the most liberal; Edwards is No. 4.
A Boston Herald front page pictures Kerry and Edwards with the headline: “They’re left of Ted! GOP: Dem team more liberal than Kennedy.”
The Kerry campaign scoffs at such labels, saying he’s a fiscal conservative with a moderate view on many issues.
The GOP war room is freshly painted and sports blue carpeting, but the offices are labeled with scraps of paper taped to the glass.
The room marked “Spinners” is where GOP strategists such as Mary Matalin and Rich Galen will give interviews and provide their interpretation of events during the Democrats’ big week.
“The entire week will be an exercise in giving John Kerry’s voting record a makeover,” said Christine Iverson, a RNC spokeswoman. Republicans will try to counter those efforts.
“We understand we’re swimming upstream,” Gillespie said. The GOP war room in Boston is similar to the Bush campaign’s war room in Arlington, Va. Both are modeled after Bill Clinton’s campaign war room in 1992, designed to respond rapidly to all opposition charges. The Boston location offers advantages.
“It’s the best peg we could have,” said Scott Hogenson, director of radio press for the RNC. “If we were doing this out of Washington, it would be lame.”