Romney political strategist quits

By Brian C. Mooney
Globe Staff / January 20, 2006
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Governor Mitt Romney's chief political strategist has left his payroll, just as the governor enters a new phase of his exploration of a possible presidential run.

Michael Murphy, a nationally known poltiical strategist, has served as Romney's political adivsor since his successful run for governor of Massachusetts in 2002.

"Since Governor Romney is not running for reelection, there is no campaign to run, so he's ended his contractual relationship with Mike Murphy," Eric Fehrnstrom, the governor's communications director, told the Boston Globe Friday afternoon. Murphy and Romney remain on good terms, however.

Romney last month announced he would not seek a second term, and, despite protestations that speculation about a presidential campaign was premature, continues to make political stops around the country.

"Mike has been a trusted friend and adviser and he always will be," Fehrnstrom said.

"This is something we all kind of knew would happen," Murphy said yesterday. "Mitt and I have been talking about this for months. I'll continue to advise him as a friend."

"This is more of a transition from the reelect committee to no campaign going on now than it is about some of this gossip around," Murphy said, referring to periodic rumors that he has been pushed out by several of his candidates.

"The deal is there's no reelect committee to work for, and I've made it clear all along that if there is a presidential primary campaign Mitt Romney and (Senator) John McCain, I'd have to be neutral in it," said Murphy, who was chief adviser to McCain's bid for the Republican nomination in 2000 and remains close to the Arizonan.

McCain, like Romney, has not declared whether he will be a candidate in 2008.

Romney's committee paid Murphy's firm more than $200 000 in 2005, according to state campaign finance records. The firm received $20,000 from the Massachusetts state Republican Party.

Earlier this week, press reports out of California indicated Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Murphy have agreed to a similar arrangement as Schwarzenegger begins to assemble a reelection campaign team that includes Matthew Dowd, former strategist for President Bush's campaign, and Steve Schmidt, an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. Murphy had been chief strategist for Schwarzenegger's election in 2003 and his failed initiative campaign last fall.

Murphy said Trent Wisecup, a partner in the consulting firm of DC Navigators, will continue to do work for Romney's Commonwealth Political Action Committee, which provides financial support for Republican committees and candidates in Iowa, Michigan, Arizona, South Carolina and at the congressional level.

"Part of this is this is the year I'm trying to do a lot less politics in my own life," Murphy said. "I wouldn't underestimate the amount of free advice I'm willing to give both Mitt and Arnold, but with Arnold, I didn't have time to do it on a day to day basis." Murphy, who lives in Los Angeles, said he is working on several entertainment projects.