Harvard forum featuring top Obama, Romney advisers cancelled

A power outage in Cambridge forced the cancellation of a forum tonight in which key advisers to President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney were to talk publicly about the recently completed general election campaign.

David Axelrod and Jim Messina, the top figures in Obama’s winning reelection campaign, and Stuart Stevens and Eric Fehrnstrom, two senior advisers in Romney’s losing campaign, were set to speak for about 90 minutes in a forum moderated by David Gregory, host of the NBC News program “Meet the Press.’’

The forum was to come at the end of a day-long event, which also gave the advisers a chance to speak with Harvard University students. Both were organized by the Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics at Harvard.


The IOP has held such a forum every four years since 1972. During the day, sessions are open to students and reporters, but they cannot be reported about until a formal transcript is released – often months later.

The evening forum has traditionally been open for immediate news coverage.

In one of the sessions after the 2000 election, Bush adviser Karl Rove admitted that the staff for Democratic candidate Al Gore did a better job during the campaign generating local news coverage.

“We have a special office in the White House who is supposed to duplicate the Gore campaign’s local media coverage,’’ Rove said at the time.

The conversations came the same day Romney traveled to the White House for a private lunch with Obama in the president’s private dining room, just steps from the Oval Office. Romney left after more than an hour-long meeting, and the president’s staff later released a photo of the two men shaking hands in the Oval Office.

The two dined on turkey chili – the same meal Romney served up at his June 2, 2011, campaign kickoff – and Southwestern grilled chicken salad.

“Governor Romney congratulated the president for the success of his campaign and wished him well over the coming four years,’’ the White House statement said. “The focus of their discussion was on America’s leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future. They pledged to stay in touch, particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future.’’


A senior Romney adviser said the two had a conversation that spanned global hot spots and their respective thoughts on innovation and the economy. The adviser said that Romney felt it was particularly important for the country to see the two candidates united after the sometimes acrimonious election campaign.

The adviser, who requested anonymity to speak frankly, said Romney has never expressed any interest in a government role other than an elected position, and would more likely turn his attention to charitable or other civic works.

Tonight’s forum was to have came the day after Stevens offered his own take on the election in an op-ed column for The Washington Post.

“I appreciate that Mitt Romney was never a favorite of D.C.’s green-room crowd or, frankly, of many politicians,’’ Stevens wrote. “That’s why, a year ago, so few of those people thought that he would win the Republican nomination. But that was indicative not of any failing of Romney’s but of how out of touch so many were in Washington and in the professional political class. Nobody liked Romney except voters. What began in a small field in New Hampshire grew into a national movement. It wasn’t our campaign, it was Romney. He bested the competition in debates, and though he was behind almost every candidate in the GOP primary at one time or the other, he won the nomination and came very close to winning the presidency.’’

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