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The Man Behind Massachusetts’ Republicans

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
Eric Fehrnstrom (center) is a senior political adviser to presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and he is also working on Sen. Scott Brown’s re-election. Fehrnstrom was in the spotlight last month when he compared Romney’s campaign to an Etch A Sketch.

At this time next year, it’s possible Eric Fehrnstrom’s telephone number will be among the most valuable commodities in Washington, D.C.

The Republican consultant is serving as a senior political adviser to presumptive GOP White House nominee Mitt Romney and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). If both candidates manage to survive tough battles and win in November,
Fehrnstrom might be in the unique position of having both the president and an influential Senator on speed dial. In a town that determines power according to access and relationships, Fehrnstrom would rank.

“Not only would he become the next Karl Rove on a national scale, he would be sought after as the Republican operative who cracked the code in the Northeast,” a D.C.-based GOP operative said.

Fehrnstrom was Brown’s key adviser in his upset special election victory in January 2010 — a campaign that shocked the political establishment of both parties. But Fehrnstrom’s relationship with Romney goes deeper than consultant-candidate, described by some Republican operatives familiar with the dynamic as similar to the role Karen Hughes played in the world of President George W. Bush. Hughes, a former journalist like Fehrnstrom, started with Bush when he was governor of Texas.

Fehrnstrom has been with Romney since his 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign, he was by his side when he first ran for president in 2008, and he is with him again during this contentious race.

He has acted as the gatekeeper to Romney as the governor’s world of consultants and aides has expanded beyond his tight, Boston-based inner circle, and he functions as an encyclopedic source for the campaign team any time questions arise about the candidate’s political or biographical record.

If there’s an inquiry about what Romney thinks and he’s unavailable to answer the question, Fehrnstrom probably can — and often does. GOP operatives who have observed their relationship say he doesn’t just have Romney’s “trust” and his “ear” — they say he’s earned both. Romney “values his advice and calls on it,” one Republican said. Fehrnstrom “has been with the governor a long time and knows him well.”

But playing a crucial role in two high-profile campaigns has brought challenges and thrust Fehrnstrom onto the national stage. Although known for sparring with the Bay State press during Romney’s single gubernatorial term, he had cultivated  a subtle presence in the 2012 campaign.

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