11.09.2012 18

A short Romney campaign autopsy

Mitt RomneyBy Rick Manning — My prediction of a Romney win was not only wrong, but as everyone knows, it wasn’t even close.

In fact, the exact opposite occurred than what I expected.  Rather than being a drag on the ticket, Obama was able to sweep into a second term as the Romney campaign’s strategy of doing nothing to upset the voters failed miserably.

My analysis did not anticipate that Romney would get fewer votes than John McCain received in 2008, and would manage to lose even though Obama drew around 10 million fewer votes than four years ago.

And that is the real untold story of this election — with an increased population, twelve million fewer Americans voted in 2012 than in 2008.  If Romney had merely gotten a few more votes than McCain, his victory would be in the midst of being celebrated today.

While some analysts are attempting to equate Obama’s victory to ethnic voters, one has to wonder if these analysts have ever been to Iowa or New Hampshire, both of which voted for Obama, and neither of which has a non-white population worth mentioning.

So, forensic political scientists will be sniffing through the data over the next few months to try to determine who these twelve million no shows were, and why they bailed out on the process.  It could be that the old axiom that negative campaigns drive down voter turnout was proven once again.  It also could be that young voters who couldn’t wait to vote for Obama bailed out, but couldn’t bring themselves to support Romney.  Or it just could be that a combination of voters impacted by Hurricane Sandy combined with these other factors to account for the depressed turnout.

In the meantime, we will wonder how Romney managed to lose a campaign that was seemingly impossible to lose, and it is here where I enter dangerous ground.  The dichotomy is that people want to know what went wrong or right immediately after a campaign, but analysis is flawed at best when it comes in the wake of the rawness of a political campaign.  So, my observations, while heavily edited, are more raw reactions without weeks of research that might lead me to other conclusions.

One thing seems clear above all else.  Having learned the lesson from the media that he was only to speak when spoken to after Romney commented after the Benghazi attack, the Romney campaign went into a shell after the first debate.  His risk averse, rope a dope campaign was designed to avoid mistakes, manage everything, and ride the wave home to victory.

Only a strange thing happened, and it wasn’t Hurricane Sandy.  A full month passed, and Obama, through aggressive ads, was able to reinforce the narrative about Romney being an unlikeable guy who was dangerous.  This was exactly the theme that they spent tens of millions of dollars to establish through a summer of uncontested attack pieces.

While anecdotes always have to be viewed with caution, I recall that in August, I was stuck waiting for service to be done on my car.  The waiting room television was on the Kelly Ripa show, which has a largely female audience.  In that one hour period, Obama ran eight commercials alternately attacking Romney and pumping up Obama.  The issues featured, and the messengers in the ads, were for a female audience.  Not one Romney ad ran during that time period.

With this set up, in the month that passed between the first debate and the election, people forgot the Mitt who seemed presidential and had a plan for the future who they met in the first debate, and instead were reminded of how much they shouldn’t like him through reinforcing advertising.

Romney’s campaign made a fateful decision based upon voter turnout assumptions they believed to be accurate.  They decided to not take any new chances, and coast to victory doing little beyond promising the public that Romney would get along with Democrats.  This caused many, like my wife, to wonder, “We already have a president who gets along with Democrats, that’s how we got into this mess in the first place.”

While I’m confident that the Republican political intelligentsia who brought us Romney in the first place will blame everything from the evangelical right, to the Chris Christie make out session with Obama, the truth is, the Romney campaign had all the money in the world, and the establishment had their hand-chosen candidate.  And they still couldn’t beat John McCain’s vote totals.

And that is the story of 2012.  Billions of dollars spent without much of an effect.  Thirty years ago, I went to Mexico and tried to explain to my tour guide what a political consultant did.  After hearing about all the campaign spending, he replied, “why don’t they just give the money to the farmers?”

Today, I’m wondering the same thing.

Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is the communications director of Americans for Limited Government.

  • rivahmitch

    There’s another problem here that seems endemic but is being ignored. Dole, McCain and Romney were all “nice” and decent guys who wanted to avoid offending anyone at all costs. The MSM loves “nice” Republican losers but it takes a ba$+ard to fight a ba$+ard and win.

  • reggiec

    I see two reasons why Romney lost.
    First he refused to take Obama to task on several fronts just like McCain and by doing so lost even more of the conservative base than McCain, read even lower turnout.
    President Woodrow Wilson has been quoted as saying, “This country is no longer a Republic, but is now a Democracy.” The following quote that has been attributed to either Alexis de Tocqueville or Professor Alexander Fraser Tyler, made clear what happens to a society on the road toward Socialism,
    “A Democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always VOTE for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that Democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, and followed by a Dictatorship and then a Monarchy.”

  • KingP

    “Vote for me, I’m not him” is never a sound campaign strategy. It didn’t work for Kerry in 2004 and it didn’t work on Tuesday. In fact, the only guy I ever recall pulling it off was La Gov. Edwin Edwards against David Duke back in the early 90’s

  • vevaqus

    Everyone who wants to see some common sense happen, send an email to the White House, and demand the Keystone Pipeline project be signed by Obama.

  • pookiee

    Very simple explanation for Romney’s loss. Hard to believe that all these “experts” can not even see it, right in front of their eyes. Romney is a Mormon. Baptists and Catholics see Mormons as a cult, not a real religion. Therefore, millions of Catholics and Baptists stayed home and did not vote, because they did not want to support a cult. THESE SO CALLED CHRISTIANS ALLOWED A COMMUNIST GOD HATER TO BE RE-ELECTED BECAUSE ROMNEY IS A MORMON. That is the fact that all these “political experts” refuse to accept.

  • pookiee

    Communist/Democrats have NO soul, they have no honesty, none at all. Communist/Democrats have no problem stealing, killing, lying, anything at all to WIN, and NEVER EVER take responsibility for ANYTHING when they get caught. Republicans will ALWAYS admit whatever they are accused of, Republicans will tell the truth, they will try to do the right thing. HAVE NONE OF YOU EVER HEARD, NICE GUYS FINISH LAST??!!!!???

  • pookiee

    So what we should all do is DEMAND our entitlements, DEMAND more of them and DEMAND them right now!! LETS ACCELERATE THE COLLAPSE AND JUST GET IT OVER WITH!!! THERE’S NO HOPE, WE’RE ALL DOOMED!!

  • That explains why the women’s vote shifted back from even, back to Obama plus. It still does not explain the missing 14,000,000 voters a normal trend, based on ratios should have shown up.

    Part of the answers is in some of the exit interviews and followups with non-voters. Both showed a two noteworthy common concerns. They were concerned he was weak because he refused to fight back on Benghazi and he expressed a willingness to cross the isle. Many of those voters already knew that reaching across the isle meant caving in on principles.

    Compromise in Progressive terms is synonymous with caving in to them entirely. They said reaching across the isle too far as he did in Massachusetts, was the major factor which generated his ratings so far he did not run for a second term. In short, he is so nice, he is weak. The best soldiers are seldom the nicest. Most are brilliant and fierce.

  • And you’re wondering why you lost? It couldn’t possibly be the rabid, hate-fueled, wingnut rhetoric that scares the hell out of independent voters? The GOP needs to take a good, long hard look at itself in the mirror. This election was lost because of an irrational, vitriolic and reactionary minority of very vocal, very insane Tea Party dupes that have somehow taken over the ideological wing of the conservative GOP.

  • rivahmitch

    Precisely the Cloward-Piven strategy… but let’s leave that up to “Bill Murphy” (above) who apparently feels that demanding that the government live within its means, that societal benefits be restricted to citizens and that productive citizens be treated at least a well as parasites is “irrational, vitriolic and reactionary”. I’m sure he’ll be happy to see the desired end-result of the ClowardPiven strategy (a totally government-controlled economy and society) come to fruition.

  • Gerg

    This introspection of the Republican loss really seems to be in denial of the facts… That is, and I don’t see any mention of the fanatical, religious “right” (which in many ways is so very wrong)…the cooky and insane remarks from the likes of Murdock and Akin. It is no coincidence that they both lost their elections. These are not the only nutcases that crawled out from the ultra-conservative rocks, there were many more, these two just got the most attention.

    I am a registered Republican, but have been appalled by the No Choice stance by the GOP…No Abortions, no PBS, tear down Obamacare, and we’ll do vouchers — just another way of denying decent and reliable healthcare to Americans.

    Face it…dump the religious conservatism and the GOP may have likely won the White House. So very many people working in the Federal Procurement industry are fed up with crap, no wonder the GOP lost again.

    GOP lost on obstructing these last several years — that is not leadership.
    GOP lost because of their arcane view on the economy and who pays taxes — that is not leadership.

    GOP lost for espousing these ultra-conservative religious viewpoints that encouraged Akin and other to admit to what they are thinking — that is scary — and that is not leadership.

    There is a lot of denial going around for the Republicans. They can certainly keep a conservative viewpoint on jobs, taxes, economy, etc. — but let personal choices remain personal choices!

  • Gerg

    But they did offend “us”…carrying on with the ultraconservative religious viewpoints. Remember, we’re supposed to have separation of church and state. We were also offended because the likes of Rove and others thought the campaign as a game and tried to win it with ads and phrases, thereby lacking any substance. I bet that if Flip Romney hadn’t been one of so many personalities, the Pubs would be enjoying this victory right now. Instead, all I am hearing and seeing is whining and GOP stomping their feet, insisting they won’t give and inch. Well, what did that get them?

  • Gerg

    Well said…

  • Gerg

    Right…to hell with the 47%.
    Overturn Roe v. Wade.
    Shut down PBS…

    All ultra right viewpoints, and nothing to do with a focus on the economy. It is insane to hear the silence on abortion, “legitimate rape”, “God’s will…rape is…”, etc.

    Too much denial going on here. Wake up GOP, it could be your turn next election if you dump the ancient, Talibanic behavior and approach to this subjects.

  • rivahmitch

    Offending such as you doesn’t bother me a bit. I’m offended by the idea that I should pay for Sandy Fluke’s sexual activities or PBS left-wing news coverage, but that probably doesn’t bother you either. I don’t have much use for Rove and his games but, then, I have even less
    use for Soros and Obozos games and those of the Chicago political
    machine. Then, again I guess you missed the meaningless “ads and phrases” your Kenyan Marxist buddy put out (remember “hoax and chains”?) BTW, you don’t find “separation of church and state” in the Constitution. The specific language is “Congress shall make no law… with respect to the establishment of religion” (which had a specific meaning coming from fairly recent european history) “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. As for “whining”, none here, just stockpiling and waiting. As for “giving an inch”, why don’t you come and try to take it? Semper Fi!

  • jwatersphd

    finally a sensible piece, Rick. we can speculate on many things, but women, who are the majority of the voting population, were heavily for Obama, as were Blacks, Hispanics and gay. Although Romney did his best to confuse everyone in the final month by pretending he was no longer the “severe conservative” that he had recently become, I think a lot of people in those 3 groups were truly scared by his willingness to sell his soul to the right wing. Even if he didn’t really believe it – and who can say what he believes? – he was clearly willing to stand up for the legitimate-rape-is-god’s-gift and embryo-is-a-person group, was glad to propose measures that would serve himself as one of the ultra rich (like no capital gains taxes), proposed self-deportation as immigration reform, and was in alignment with the massive voter suppression efforts barely disguised as election security measures. Plus he advocated spending more on defense than even the defense dept wanted, and people really do clearly see that Mormonism is a cult. Yes, by adopting these positions, he appealed to many White males and older folks, but not all (I’m a member of both blocs, but he didn’t appeal to me), and if you adopt clearly outrageous positions with regards to women, and to ethnic and sexual-preference minorities who make up maybe 20% of the voting population, what do you really expect? A lot of people, myself included, see these policies as simple meanness of spirit and whims by people who already have far more in the way of privilege and resources than most people, and it scares those it’s supposed to (women, minorities, gays, and the 47%) and turns off a lot of the rest of us. I’m privileged, white and male, and i don’t need any of that crap. Finally, the republicans and right wing had clearly established themselves as being primarily committed to blocking and defeating Obama regardless what he proposed, and i think a lot of people found the “he didn’t keep his promises” and “didn’t fix the economy” arguments preposterous in light of the pervasive, unceasing oppositionalism. You can’t fight someone clean and dirty, night and day, and then fault them for not succeeding.

  • And the message to women? Republicans will institute vagina police. Given the Drug War experience that was a fearsome proposition.

    Did Romney counter with “the Feds should leave med pot alone”? (favored by 70% to 80% of the population) Nope. They let it stand that Republicans favor a war on youth (the largest demographic of pot users). And care not a wit for those who gain advantage from med pot. (Soldiers with PTSD, MS sufferers, etc.) The call off the Drug War dogs would have given the impression that Republicans are not the “War On” party.

    Yes. The Rs should change nothing. I will work with who ever is in power. It looks like Democrats for as far as the eye can see.

  • Well fine Rivah. But you lost. Any more voters you don’t want? As one of the libertarians mine is probably unwanted as well. Fine.

    This year is the last one that I do anything to support Republicans. I’m throwing my lot in with the communists. Nothing personal. It is just tactics.

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