Former adviser to Romney joins McCain effort
By Scott Helman, Globe Staff
January 20, 2007- Rob Gray, a Boston-based GOP consultant and former senior political adviser to Mitt Romney, will join the presidential campaign of Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and a Romney rival.
Gray, who advised Romney on his 2002 gubernatorial bid and helped to manage Kerry Healey's unsuccessful run for governor last year, will serve as a political strategist for McCain in New England. He opted to go with McCain after also being courted by Romney's campaign, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
In an interview yesterday, Gray said McCain represents the sort of "common-sense conservatism" that will appeal to voters.
"It's as simple as this: I like Mitt, but I think John McCain is the right candidate to carry our party to victory in 2008," said Gray, who worked on President Bush's presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004.
Gray's hiring is a something of a coup for McCain because he brings two valuable commodities to the senator's presidential effort: a deep knowledge of Romney and his Massachusetts record and a reputation for being relentlessly tough on political opponents.
"I don't think he listed that on his resume, but we're all aware of that," said John Weaver, McCain's chief strategist. Weaver added, "Rob has a keen, strategic mind, and he is going to help us on both a regional and national basis."
Asked if there were any ethical considerations in working for a former client's rival, Gray said he was focused on helping McCain win, not helping Romney lose.
"I think everyone in this business worries about the guy they're currently working to get elected and not about what they did on past campaigns," Gray said. "We're embarking on a pro-John McCain effort, not an anti-Romney effort."
Romney's campaign declined to comment.
Gray cemented his reputation for tenacity during last year's gubernatorial race, when he helped Healey's campaign develop hard-hitting ads accusing rival Deval Patrick of being soft on crime. The most infamous television spot featured a woman walking alone in a dark parking garage while a narrator attacked Patrick's efforts to try to free a convicted rapist.
Many observers, however, believe Healey's ads backfired because polls showed voters held negative views of her as the campaign went on. Patrick defeated Healey by 21 percentage points.
Romney has signed up his own Massachusetts Republican strategist, Charley Manning, who advised Romney on his 2002 campaign and in his unsuccessful 1994 Senate bid.
Manning said yesterday that he had been contacted by other campaigns, but wouldn't consider signing up with anyone else. He will serve in a strategist role.
Manning has worked on many Republican political campaigns in Massachusetts over the past two decades, including former US representative Peter Blute's run for Congress and Governor William F. Weld's gubernatorial campaigns. This will be Manning's first presidential campaign.
"I just think that at a time when our country is facing so many problems, that Mitt is just the perfect person and has the skills to do what needs to be done," Manning said.
Scott Helman can be reached at email@example.com.