HONOLULU, December 14, 2012 ― While this year’s presidential election and its legacy will continue to be studied by political scientists for years to come, sadly most Americans will soon forget and only know President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney from the angle presented by campaign advertisements and the media.
Though much has been said in judgment about Mitt Romney by conservatives and liberals alike over why he didn’t win, to find out what kind of candidate – and person – the former Governor of Massachusetts really was behind the scenes I sought out Tim Lussier, a recent graduate of Hawaii Pacific University who worked on his first-ever presidential campaign alongside Mitt Romney.
Lussier recalls his experience on the campaign as an honor and casts the Republican presidential candidate as personable, humor-filled, hardworking and “very mellow and not intense.” When asked why the election turned out the way it did, Lussier says that the bottom line was that Obama’s organization was a “well-oiled machine” that had years of preparation behind it.
Unashamed of his efforts and still proud of his candidate, Lussier shares with me a frank, behind-the-scenes, young operative’s perspective into the campaign that nearly unseated the most popular president of our 21st century. Here now is a transcript, with light edits.
Danny de Gracia: Tim, you supported Governor Mitt Romney since his very first run for president and you worked and campaigned for him in this last election. Tell us what you did, what it was like and what got you interested in his campaign.
Tim Lussier: It was an honor and a privilege and an experience of a lifetime. I’ll explain what it was like behind the scenes on a presidential campaign and some of what I learned. I’ll try to be brief because I could share stories all day but to describe what it’s like to be a part of history is something that is hard to put in words.
We had many guest speakers drop by our campaign office and give us pep talks. John McCain told me his favorite part of his presidential campaign was the day he won the Florida primary because he knew he’d be the GOP nominee. After the election, Congressman Paul Ryan answered my question about his favorite memory he made out on the trail and answered it was a huge rally with 30 thousand plus crowd in Ohio.
I was responsible for communicating our digital marketing efforts to those swing states. These efforts included email, Facebook, SMS and Twitter. A good example would be once it was approved for Governor Romney to hold a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, I would have to transfer that event info into digital format via our email team and send that to our supporters. Facebook has become a huge component of marketing promotions in new media and I constantly worked to communicate and turn out supporters at our rallies.
I’ve been a supporter of Mitt Romney since 2006 when he helped fundraise for an Oregon candidate for Governor. I helped volunteer at many of his Oregon fundraisers and helped win the Oregon primary this last spring. In January 2012, I fundraised myself and flew to New Hampshire for the first-in-the-nation primary to volunteer for Gov. Romney, and he won that primary.
DDG: How would you describe Mitt Romney having met him yourself and worked alongside him? I know the media was unkind to him at times, going after him for everything imaginable from dogs on the roof of his car to cookie comments and the “binders full of women thing.” Let’s set aside all the media frenzy and the campaign stuff. What is the real Mitt Romney like when you get to know him?
Lussier: I think Mitt Romney has always been an earnest and hardworking individual. In the spring when he dropped by the digital department, he spent much time chatting with us and making jokes. He was very mellow and not intense. He noticed the frame of my graduation my mom sent me on my desk and I told him I attended Hawaii Pacific University and recently hosted a fundraiser for the campaign with his son Matt in Honolulu.
DDG: What do you think was the greatest strength and most appealing thing about Governor Romney?
Lussier: I think Governor Romney was an extremely solid businessman. Those skills would have been incredible to have at the federal level. With all the bureaucracy and waste in Washington, having a successful business and job creator would have been helpful to deal with our problems. As Governor of Massachusetts he also was a successful bipartisan leader.
DDG: On election night when it became clear towards the end of the night that President Barack Obama was going to be re-elected, what was going through your mind and how did that make you feel?
Lussier: We started coming into the office on weekends, months before the campaign ended. Including easily twelve hour long days and weekends it was an exhausting and stressful campaign. I was ready for it to be over but most of us didn’t see us losing that badly.
I was assigned to serve on the recount team and had bags packed and stored at the campaign office. I was ready to be on the campaign airplane within an hour’s notice that night to help with anything necessary.
DDG: What do you think the American people should remember about Governor Romney and this year’s Republican presidential campaign?
Lussier: Many people have had a lot of things to say about Mitt Romney, the Republican Party, the RNC and so forth. The bottom line is we ran against a well-oiled machine that President Obama started about six years ago. We had months to become competitive to that organization.
I agree with what Stuart Stevens said. This debate was about the fundamentals of America. Lower taxes, less government and more freedom. We won that debate on stage at the debates and with the American people. President Obama had a better turnout operation and he had more time.
We greatly appreciate the opportunity to interview Mr. Lussier.
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