It’s no coincidence that Mitt Romney’s top aide, Beth Myers, can be painted in the same shades of beige as her boss. From his first foray into governing in 2003 to all of his subsequent political activities, and now as head of his vice presidential search process, Romney’s right-hand woman has been someone who’s awfully like him.
Unlike some political pairings – President Obama and his first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, come to mind – Myers is not the yin to Romney’s yang. Instead, people she’s worked with over the years use the same terms to describe her that they’d use to talk about Romney himself: well-organized, meticulous, discreet, good at assembling a team, devoted to family, fiercely loyal.
Though Myers says she met Romney in the 1990s after moving to Massachusetts, the two didn’t come to know each other well until they faced off in a debate in 2002. He was running for governor; she was a volunteer playing the stand-in for Shannon O’Brien, his Democratic opponent. She was such a tough sparring partner that she came out of the first session worried she might have offended him. Just the opposite.
“He found Beth’s portrayal of Shannon so compelling and her mind so sharp that he asked her to become his chief of staff,” said Kerry Healey, who served as Romney’s lieutenant governor. The feeling was mutual: longtime friend and associate Peter Flaherty says Myers was “blown away by Mitt’s intellectual capacity.” Since that time, she has been in charge of every single debate-preparation session of his political career.
Thus began a decade of partnership that has brought the two so close, former Romney administration member Tom Trimarco says, that Myers practically has a family relationship with the Romneys.
"You don’t often talk about a political operative, about someone who would take a bullet for the boss. Beth Myers would take a bullet for Mitt Romney. And I think I mean that literally,” said another former administration staffer who asked not to be named because hadn’t spoken to Myers about discussing her publicly.
That closeness is both psychological and physical. Myers had the office next to Romney’s in the Massachusetts governor’s suite, the same place she would be located in Boston headquarters as his campaign manager in 2008 and as a senior aide this cycle. When Romney is off campaigning, someone who wants to “find out what Mitt would think about a problem or a solution goes to Beth to get her thoughts,” said Ron Kaufman, a senior adviser to the campaign.
Myers got her start in politics long before Romney came into the picture. After graduating from Tufts University in 1979, she went to work on Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign in Texas, where she ran the voter-contact program. It was the first year in which state parties were allowed to spend unlimited funds on get-out-the-vote efforts, so the young woman found herself overseeing a voter ID effort that included 100,000 volunteers and contact with 3 million households, the largest in the state’s history.
Each night Myers would collect reports from around the state – before the Internet and nearly before fax machines were ubiquitous – and summarize the campaign’s progress. Her work left a lasting impression on her boss, Republican operative Karl Rove. Thirty years later they’re still in touch, although his role at the GOP super PAC American Crossroads, which must be independent of the campaign, has limited their contact of late.
“She struck me as first of all incredibly pleasant. She is a very even-keeled kind person to be around, which you don’t run into a lot,” Rove said. He also called her “unbelievably well organized” and a capable problem-solver.
Rove and Myers went on to work together on other political campaigns, interspersed with Myers’ stints putting together get-out-the-vote operations in California, Texas, Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Missouri for Market Opinion Research. In the late 1980s, she left politics for law school at Southern Methodist University and worked as a litigation associate at the firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP in Dallas. Then she returned to Massachusetts, where she served as chief of staff to state Treasurer Joe Malone.
Myers is married to Marc Myers, a partner at the consulting firm Ernst & Young. In 1998, she took five years off to stay home with her children, who are now 19 and 21. When she interviewed Flaherty for a position as deputy chief of staff to Romney and chief of staff to Healey, the two spent most of the interview discussing their families.
Flaherty describes Myers as a devoted mother and a devotee of pop culture. She reads the books that top The New York Times bestseller list and is a connoisseur of trendy TV. Among her favorite past and present shows, according to Flaherty, are The Wire, Friday Night Lights ,and Mad Men.
As Romney’s gubernatorial chief of staff, Myers would begin each day early in the morning by walking into his office, where the two of them would review his schedule line by line. Her role evolved not only as a key adviser but also as the protector of his time and reputation.
“If you messed up for Mitt Romney in his administration, you had no sympathy with her,” said Trimarco. He said that extended even to people whom Myers herself had brought into the administration. But he noted that Myers -- whom many colleagues said had a talent for putting together teams that worked well together – didn’t find herself faced with that task very often.
In a world of big egos, she was a chief of staff singularly concerned with Romney’s success and tried to surround him with people who shared that view; she has “no agenda other than his,” Kaufman said.
No one interviewed for this article could recall discussing with Myers a possible future for her in the White House. But there was wide agreement that it was difficult to imagine Romney going without her. “It would be Beth Myers’ happiest day in her life if Mitt Romney can be elected president,” Trimarco said.