More than a half a dozen friends and advisers to the two said
that their relationship can be summed up rather simply: They don't
have much of one.
To hear Rupert Murdoch tell it, Mitt Romney lacks stomach and heart. He "seems to play everything safe." And he is not nearly as tough as he needs to be on President Barack Obama.
"Easy for Romney to spell out restoration of the American dream and bash incompetent administration," Mr. Murdoch tapped out in a Twitter message from his iPad recently. "But not a word!"
The next weekend, evidently feeling little satisfaction that the Romney campaign was heeding his unsolicited advice, Mr. Murdoch gave his thoughts on the candidate's prospects. "Doubtful," he wrote. Then he offered a suggestion: Fire the campaign staff.
Mr. Murdoch has met with every president since Harry S. Truman. Not only is he used to having politicians listen to him, but his control over U.S. media outlets like The Wall Street Journal and Fox News gives him influence over the high and low end of the debate as Mr. Romney tries to energize the Republican right to drive Mr. Obama from office.
Mr. Murdoch later made clear that he supports Mr. Romney, but his recent outbursts point to a disconnect between the two men, one that has existed since Mr. Romney's first run for president four years ago, people who know them both said. In interviews, more than a half a dozen friends and advisers to the two said that their relationship can be summed up rather simply: They don't have much of one.
They have met only a handful of times. And their lukewarm feelings toward one another stem from their encounter at a meeting of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board in 2007, when Mr. Romney visited to pitch himself as the most capable candidate from the right about two months before the Iowa caucuses.
People who attended said that despite being deeply prepared and animated -- particularly on his love for rote data crunching -- Mr. Romney failed to connect with either Mr. Murdoch or The Journal's editorial page editor, Paul A. Gigot. Instead of articulating a clear and consistent rightist philosophy, he dwelled on organizational charts and executive management, areas of expertise that made him a multimillionaire as head of Bain Capital.
Mr. Murdoch sat mostly silent, asking just a couple of follow-up questions. The Journal's write up of that meeting would later glibly refer to Mr. Romney as "Consultant in Chief."
Mr. Romney followed up later in the campaign with a one-on-one meeting in Mr. Murdoch's office. "I don't think he ever got excited about Romney," one associate of Mr. Murdoch said.
By the time the first Republican primaries of 2012 were closing in, Mr. Romney sat down again with The Journal's editorial board. Mr. Murdoch sat in again as Mr. Romney avoided sounding like a consultant. "America doesn't need a manager; America needs a leader," he told the board. The Romney campaign felt the meeting went well -- so well that they were surprised when The Journal kept hammering him, reprising its complaints about his "inability, or unwillingness, to defend conservative principles."
Fundamentally, Mr. Romney and Mr. Murdoch are two very different men. Mr. Romney is said to respect Mr. Murdoch as a visionary business mind and to admire deeply the way he built the company he
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