WASHINGTON — Ten minutes into the momentum-reversing debate between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama in Denver, Tagg Romney, the Republican candidate’s oldest son, received a hug from his mother.
“This is good,” Ann Romney whispered in his ear.
A new story line about the dynamics within the Romney campaign depicts Tagg and his mother wrenching control of Mitt’s once-faltering candidacy from paid strategists. But Tagg, who recounted the debate scene to a Republican well-wisher at an event Thursday, insisted the conspiracy theories aren’t true.
Those stories, he said, are “more fairy tale than truth” and insisted there was “no palace coup. I have every confidence in all the guys and gals running the shop, and they know it.”
For now, it is Tagg who is in the spotlight. It didn’t shine on him right away.
Recent news coverage of the Romney campaign has focused on the campaign’s travails and triumphs.
First came a Sept. 16 Politico story headlined “Inside the campaign: How Mitt Romney stumbled,” an anecdote-packed evisceration of Romney’s chief strategist, Stuart Stevens.
That was followed a week later by the Politico story “In the end, it’s Mitt,” which shifted blame off of Stevens and onto the candidate. After Romney pounded Obama in the debate in Denver, things started clicking for the Republican.
On Oct. 9, in a piece titled “Inside the campaign: The Romney rebellion,” Politico reported that Tagg and his mother prevailed over paid staff members in the run-up to the debate, advocating a “Let Mitt be Mitt” approach. Their influence had expanded, the story reported, compared with Stevens, who had been “fenced in.”
That new story line, with Tagg Romney reprising the role of Howard Wolfson and Stuart Stevens playingthe part of Mark Penn in this year’s remake of the 2008 production “Let Hillary be Hillary,” has generated considerable interest in the 42-year-old Tagg.
A report in Buzzfeed, published the day after Politico’s family “intervention” story, also reported that Tagg led an “intervention.” The Buzzfeed story reported that the scion had started asserting himself in the summer during the selection of his father’s running mate.
Tagg, the website reported, argued forcefully, along with his mother, for the selection of Wisconsin congressman and conservative darling Paul Ryan as running mate, over the objections of his father’s strategists. Soon after, according to Buzzfeed, he urged his father to untether himself from movement conservatives and talk about his record as a moderate governor in Massachusetts.
Whether he was a concerned son giving his flailing father some advice or making a play for power, Tagg, a venture capitalist and someone often mentioned as a potential candidate, now finds himself as a center of attention.
“I’ve been on the road constantly if you look at my Twitter feed,” Tagg said. “I’ve only been at headquarters once in the last 10 weeks. The intervention was news to me.”
In an interview, he reiterated his peripheral role and praised Stevens, who, he said, was “really good at what he does. He led the charge on the debate prep. He clearly did a good job. He’s in charge of the paid media, and he travels around with my dad a lot.”