Washington - Mitt Romney faced accusations Monday of deep disarray within his campaign after an explosive report laid out how the Republican White House hopeful has stumbled badly in recent weeks.
The chatter erupted late Sunday when the Washington news website Politico posted a comprehensive, behind-the-scenes look at Romney's faltering campaign.
The report focused on how chief strategist Stuart Stevens morphed from Romney's top advisor to the major scapegoat for the team's series of missteps.
Romney, a multimillionaire investor and former governor of Massachusetts, had drawn neck and neck with President Barack Obama during the summer campaign season, but with less than two months to go until the November 6 election, polls show the challenger trailing behind.
Politico dissected Romney's campaign battle strategy, laying out how the candidate put his faith for the most part in an impulsive advisor who has ended up serving three crucial roles himself: top strategist, ad maker and speechwriter.
It said Stevens scrapped two early versions of Romney's Republican convention speech in Tampa, bypassing the campaign's speechwriters in Boston and writing much of it himself.
The speech was seen as helping to humanize Romney, but it lacked key elements such as a salute to US troops or any mention of Al-Qaeda or Afghanistan.
Romney received no substantial boost from the convention, and some conservatives ripped the campaign for allowing Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood to ramble on about Obama Ä an act which Stevens reportedly greenlighted Ä minutes before the most important speech of Romney's life.
Stevens defended the campaign's performance.
“Like all campaigns, we have good days and bad days. I'm happy to take responsibility for the bad days,” he told Politico, adding that Romney was doing better than many pundits have been saying.
There appears to be no love lost within the campaign for the adrenaline junkie with a long resume of successful political consulting, speechwriting and strategizing for former president George W. Bush and others.
“The campaign is filled with people who spend a lot of their time either avoiding (Stevens) or resisting him,” a Romney campaign insider told Politico.
But the article cited sources close to Romney as saying the blame cannot be pinned entirely on Stevens, and that Romney bears responsibility for decisions he personally oversaw.
“Romney associates are baffled that such a successful corporate leader has created a team with so few lines of authority or accountability,” the report said.
A Republican operative was quoted in the piece as saying that Stevens has a Hollywood aura that leaves conservatives distrustful. He has traveled the world, advised actor George Clooney on TV productions, taken steroids in order to compete in extreme sports, and written a campaign memoir, according to the operative.
“He's a smart, capable guy but he sends bad signals” to conservatives, the operative said.
A Romney official insisted Stevens is likely to stay put.
“None of this is going to be fixed. This is the organization, and this is who Mitt is betting on to win,” he said. “There aren't going to be further changes.”
Senior Romney advisor Ed Gillespie held a conference call with reporters on Monday without mentioning the Politico report, stressing instead Romney's refocus on economic issues.
While he said Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan were not “rolling out new policy” this week, they will “reinforce more specifics about the Romney plan for a stronger middle class,” Gillespie said. - Sapa-AFP