Meet The 'Dark Knight' Behind Mitt Romney's Presidential Campaign

eric fehrnstrom

Photo: Courtesy of MSNBC

Eric Fehrnstrom, the ubiquitous Mitt Romney campaign advisor made (in)famous by his Etch-a-Sketch gaffe, was thrust into the glossy media spotlight this morning with a new GQ profile that highlights his tight bond with the former Massachusetts Governor.The piece, written by GQ politics reporter Jason Zengerle, outlines the relationship between Romney and Fehrnstrom, a pugnacious Boston operative who Zengerle describes as both Romney’s “backbone” and his “balls.” 

As Zengerle explains it, Fehrnstrom, like most top political strategists, acts as a foil to his candidate. But in a departure from typical operative-politician buddy teams, Fehrnstrom’s main job is not to rein in Romney — it’s to rile it up. 

To illustrate Fehrnstrom’s particular brand of aggressive politics, Zengerle traces his pre-Romney career as a political reporter for the Murdoch-owned Boston Herald. Here’s an excerpt, via GQ: 

Fehrnstrom saved his cheap shots for smaller-time Massachusetts pols. When a political activist and gadfly named Althea Garrison was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, the fact that she was transgender was an open secret in Boston political circles. But Fehrnstrom was the first one to put that information into print—”I can remember his glee when he found the birth certificate,” says former Herald reporter Robert Connolly—thus bringing a swift end to Garrison’s future on Beacon Hill.

His biggest scoop of all came in December 1989, when he received a tip that Evelyn Murphy, Dukakis’s lieutenant governor, who was running to succeed him, was vacationing on Sanibel Island in Florida during budget talks. Together with a photographer, he flew from freezing Boston to sunny Sanibel and staked her out. They eventually ambushed Murphy while she was jogging, leading to an unflattering picture of her in her running shorts on the Herald’s front page—”her middle-aged thighs flouncing across 300,000 newspapers,” as Fehrnstrom would later describe it. The photograph helped end her political career. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this background — and Fehrnstrom’s equally colourful political career — have made him a polarising figure in Republican circles, first in Massachusetts, and now nationally. Top GOP  leaders have repeatedly raised concerns about Ferhnstrom’s abrasive approach, including his penchant for getting into Twitter fights with Obama strategist David Axelrod. Recently, he has come under fire for backing Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns, while simultaneously advising U.S. Sen. Scott Brown to demand his opponent, Elizabeth Warren, release her own returns. 

But despite these criticisms, it looks like Fehrnstrom is with the Romney camp for the long haul.

As one Romney veteran told GQ: “I can just see Eric in Karl Rove’s old office upstairs at the White House now.” 

Read the whole GQ profile here > 

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