Archive for the ‘argument’ Category

“Bottom line: the Romney campaign made their bed with the early state primary strategy and got short-sheeted,” writes Justin Hart in a race42008.com blog burst titled, strangely, Autopsy of a Great GREAT Campaign

The momentum that Huckabee gained through his stunning Iowa win together with the victory that McCain edged out in New Hampshire seriously maimed the Romney narrative [...]

Hart refers to Romney’s ill-starred von Schlieffen plan, a plan that we criticized early and often. Romney’s von Schleiffen plan was an electoral-map fantasia so over-the-top preposterous that we always assumed that it was a cover for a more rational undertaking, an undertaking that required secrecy to pursue. We were wrong about that, and about a lot else besides.

John Ellis has a different take on the “Team Romney mounted a GREAT campaign” theme, one more consonant with our experience:

[...] The sad thing about the Romney campaign’s demise is that Mitt Romney is an exceptional person; highly intelligent, enormously hard-working, a man of great integrity and grit and executive ability. Given the dearth of talent in both parties — the seemingly endless parade of mediocrity and venality — we’re lucky to have people like Mitt Romney who are willing to get in the game. But he was terribly served by his campaign staff and advisors. I would argue that they win the worst campaign team of 2008. Good riddance to them. They had everything they needed to make a good run and they made a complete hash of it [...]

The problem: to explain just went wrong is surpassingly difficult as it requires the observer to interpret the data of the world differently than is otherwise the case. Byron York attempts such an explanation on personal and narrative grounds in an NRO article titled Why Romney Failed

[...] Romney made a lot of mistakes that didn’t seem like mistakes at the time. Drawing on his enormous success as a business consultant, he put together an impressively well-organized and professional campaign. That was good. But he never fully understood that the voters were looking for some spark in a candidate that connects him to them. Instead, Romney placed his faith in his magnificent organization and his PowerPoint analyses.

He hired a lot of people, spent millions to build organizations in key states, and then spent millions more for television and radio advertisements. The day after the Iowa caucuses, I dropped by WHO radio in Des Moines, and a top station official told me that Romney had been WHO’s second-biggest advertiser in 2007. (First was Monsanto farm chemicals.) In all, Romney pumped $1 million into WHO’s bank account. In South Carolina recently, a local politico marveled at how much money Romney’s in-state consultants made from the campaign. “Those guys made a mint out of him,” the politico told me. “It’s sinful how much they made.”

Yuh-huh. How much of the Romney phenomenon is the story of a super-rich ingenue getting bilked—just mercilessly fleeced—by a corrupt and cash-starved GOP party establishment?

Back to York:

As a result of all that spending, Romney ran a campaign on a deficit, deeply in debt. Of course, it was in debt to Romney himself, who put $35 million of his own money into the campaign as of December 31, and likely a lot more since. All that money freed Romney and his team from making some of the tough decisions that other campaigns had to make every day. You could argue either way whether that was good or bad.

Just before the Iowa caucuses, I was at a corporate headquarters outside Des Moines, asking a few questions of Eric Fehrnstrom, the press secretary who usually traveled with Romney. Fehrnstrom looked at Mike Huckabee’s campaign and saw a ragtag lot. “We’re going up against a loose confederation of fair taxers, and home schoolers, and Bible study members, and so this will be a test to see who can generate the most bodies on caucus day,” Fehrnstrom said.

I interrupted for a moment. “Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those groups?” I asked.

“Not that there’s anything wrong, but that’s just a fact,” Fehrnstrom continued. “That’s just where he has found his support. I have a theory about why Mike Huckabee holds public events in Iowa like getting a haircut or going jogging, or actually leaving Iowa and going to California to appear on the Jay Leno show. It’s because he doesn’t have the infrastructure to plan events for him. And when he does do events in Iowa, he goes to the Pizza Ranch, where you have a built-in crowd, so you don’t have to make calls to turn people out. We’re very proud of the organization we have built in Iowa.”

They had reason to be proud; it was a good organization. But in a bigger sense, they just didn’t understand what was going on. Fehrnstrom, like his boss, placed a lot of faith in Romney, Inc. How could a bunch of seat-of-the-pantsers like the Huckabee campaign possibly beat the Romney machine? Well, they could, in Iowa, and McCain could in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and then in Florida and on Super Tuesday. The race was never about the imposing infrastructure Romney had built. It was about that ineffable something that voters look for in candidates. With Huckabee, some of those voters saw an intriguing and refreshing figure. With McCain, a larger number saw someone who wanted, above all, to defend the United States. And with Romney — well, they didn’t quite know what to think [...]

This is the problem with positive feedback, say, success. Success often passes into a crisis of perception as people and organizations optimize for successful activities at the expense of a more thorough review of changing conditions etc. It is the very definition of the learning or the experience curve. Failure and tragedy are excellent teachers; but what works for us—our triumphs, our successes—affirms us in what we are already doing, and recedes into the half-consciousness of habit and routine.

But here the problem for the Romney campaign was always this: their success itself was never real. For example: Their highly professional organization was the best that money could buy, but that money was not a reliable indicator of the candidate’s success as a fund-raiser or fitness as a candidate. It was only ever an indicator of the candidate’s personal worth.

ROI, people. ROI. There is no more effective metric for the success of a message or a message campaign than the your Return on Investment, and Romney’s was always preposterously low.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “Last week, immediately after Mitt Romney pulled out of the Republican presidential race, we noted that his CPAC address sounded less like a concession speech and more like a bid to become the voice of the culture wing of the GOP,” writes The Political Insider for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a blog burst titled Reed, Sekulow in on Romney-as-face-of-conservatism meeting

Darn, we’re good.

Turns out that after the applause died, Romney huddled with “some 50 stalwarts of the political right” to discuss making the former Massachussetts governor “the face of conservatism, as Ronald Reagan became en route to his 1980 election win,” the Washington Times reported this weekend.

Participants at the meeting included Georgia’s Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, and Jay Sekulow of Alpharetta, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, who served as a kind of liaison to evangelicals for the Romney campaign.

“The movement needs someone of Ronald Reagan’s stature and Romney could fill that role,” the Times quoted Sekulow as saying [...]

The Romney watch continues.

From the Washington Times article titled Right wants Romney as standard-bearer, by the estimable Ralph Z. Hallow:

[...] Participants said the group was not organizing against the presidential bid of Sen. John McCain, the party”s presumptive nominee, but only seeking to revive core values such as lower taxes, limited government and free speech.

“The purpose of the meeting was for him to announce his willingness to fight shoulder to shoulder with true conservatives from here on out,” said political strategist Paul Erickson, who worked for Mr. Romney”s campaign. “He did just that” [...]

Um, yeahright. Is this a case of cash starved conservative activists who want to further bilk a super-stupid rich guy to fund their own projects? Or is this a move to divide the right and guarantee that Sen. McCain gets defeated in November? Whatever is the case, watch your back, Senator McCain.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“It would have been better for the nation if Mitt Romney had said he just wanted to spend more time with his family,” write the editors of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an article titled A graceless Mitt Romney shows the nation how not to bow out of a race, reproduced in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Instead, the former Massachusetts governor, in dropping his bid for the Republican presidential nomination Thursday, insulted the patriotism of most of the American electorate – and its intelligence as well.

In his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Romney said he was stepping aside because, ”I simply cannot let my campaign be part of aiding a surrender to terror.”

Both of the candidates for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, Romney said, ”have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the war on terror: They would retreat, declare defeat.” For him to continue campaigning, he said, would ”forestall the launch of a national campaign, and frankly, I’d make it easier for Sen. Clinton or Obama to win.”

Even by today’s debased standards of political discourse, this borders on slander. Most Americans in both political parties have rejected President George W. Bush’s attempt to conflate the war in Iraq with the war on terrorism. Romney is bright enough to know the connection is dubious, but his comments suggest he’s craven enough to use it to curry favor with the party’s extreme right – just in case he wants to try again in 2012.

Yet it is exactly this sort of transparent, say-anything political opportunism that characterized and, ultimately, torpedoed Romney’s campaign. Time and again, he espoused positions that conflicted with views he had expressed previously – on abortion, gay rights, stem cell research, immigration and health-care reform. Those flip-flops, more than his Mormon faith, caused evangelical Christians in the GOP to be wary of him [...]

[...] Romney tried Thursday to compare his 2008 campaign with that of former California Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1976. Reagan, although narrowly trailing President Gerald R. Ford in the delegate count, took his battle for the nomination to the August convention in Kansas City. But those were different times, when primaries and state party conventions lasted well into the summer. Reagan didn’t have to wage an expensive six-month campaign to stay in the race, as Romney would.

Reagan did emerge, however, as the party’s heir apparent, a slot Romney clearly covets. His withdrawal from this race gives him four years to polish his conservative credentials for the next one – or change them if that’s more expedient [...]

John Ellis in a RealClearPolitics article titled The Romney Campaign’s 5 Big Mistakes comments as well on Romney’s invocation of Reagan:

[...] Having mismanaged their candidate to political defeat, the Romney team added insult to injury by spinning his departure as reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s defeat in 1976. This is preposterous. Reagan electrified the conservative movement in 1964 with his televised address on behalf of Barry Goldwater. Reagan came within one endorsement — Strom Thurmond’s — of wresting away the Republican nomination from Richard Nixon in 1968. And when he arrived in Kansas City in the summer of 1976, he had carried any number of critical states by majority votes (and in some cases, by wide margins) in Republican primary elections. Reagan left the stage as a force because he was a force. Romney leaves the stage having carried Michigan and Massachusetts and a number of caucus states. And he leaves having given it his very best effort. But he does not leave as a force, because he is not yet a significant force in the Republican Party [...]

The emphases are ours, all ours.

The editorialists of The Kansas City Star concur with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an editorial titled Romney’s withdrawal clears way for GOP’s best candidate

[...] In ceding the Republican nomination to John McCain on Thursday, Mitt Romney did not blame his own inept campaign.

He did not blame inconsistencies between his campaign rhetoric and his record as governor of Massachusetts.

He did not blame intraparty religious squabbles that another candidate, Mike Huckabee, cynically encouraged.

No, Romney chose to blame his withdrawal on . . . the Democrats!

As Romney told it, Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama would “surrender” to our enemies abroad.

By prolonging the Republican nomination battle, Romney said, he would dangerously hobble McCain’s ability to attack the Democrats. “And in this time of war,” Romney said, “I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.”

That’s quite a charge, reminiscent of Vice President Dick Cheney’s worst rhetorical excesses. In the last presidential campaign, for example, Cheney was widely mocked for his claim that voting for Democrats would raise the danger of another big terrorist attack on the United States.

A question for Romney: Whatever happened to simply congratulating the rival who beat you in a hard-fought primary battle?

Whether they count themselves as Democrats, Republicans or independents, many voters have tired of the bitter political partisanship they see in our national government.

So Romney’s statement Thursday provided further evidence of the tin ear that hurt his candidacy [...]

The reviews are in. Romney’s final tirade tanked. Romney departed us the same way he greeted us, disastrously.

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dr. g.d.

“With Mitt Romney officially out of the race, it’s time for Republican strategist Alex Vogel to weigh in with his final Gramm-o-meter for the former Massachusetts governor,” writes Jonathan Weisman in Wapo blog burst for the The Trail titled Romney and the Gramm-o-meter

[...] Romney’s Super Tuesday finishes put his spending ratio well below Gramm’s 1996 record of $2.5 million. Vogel estimates that Romney finished his race having spent $309,439 per delegate.

By contrast, the campaigns of John McCain and Mike Huckabee, have been more efficient in their spending. Huckabee spent roughly $49, 649 per delegate; McCain’s spent $57,566 [...]

Yuh-huh.We harped on this string for months. But in his final hours as a candidate Romney was beginning however slowly to solve his ROI problem.

Too little, too late.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“In fairness to Team Romney, they did more right than not,” writes Patrick Ruffini in a patrickruffini.com blog burst titled The Fall of Romney, Inc.

They rose from single digits in the national polls to receiving 32% of the primary votes cast to date. They became the conservative establishment’s choice.

They leveraged mechanical and resource superiority into solid leads in Iowa and New Hampshire, giving Rudy Giuliani pause about competing in the early states and chasing John McCain from Iowa. They leveraged their candidate’s mastery of pat, 60-second answers into dominance (and rising poll numbers) out of the first debates. They met their goal of winning Ames, and got a bump. They met their goal of 30,000 votes in the Iowa Caucus.

Comment: What is “mechanical superiority?”

Also, “leverage” implies that you get more back in return for what you invested, that you managed to get a lot for a little. But for Tribe Romney the opposite was always the case. Romney’s principle was always to invest superabundantly beyond what the moment demanded for the most meager ROI. But Romney’s consistent willingness to sacrifice all for almost nothing did “giv[e] Rudy Giuliani pause about competing in the early states and chas[ed] John McCain from Iowa.”

Back to Ruffini:

Nearly all of the benchmarks set by Romney, Inc. were met — and often with flying colors. They checked every box they needed to become the nominee. Practically everything the Romney campaign could keep under control, they did. But for a few thousand votes in New Hampshire, the conversation today would be dramatically different.

Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, goals and benchmarks are not the same as real-world outcomes. John McCain missed nearly all of his campaign’s benchmarks and yet will become the nominee.

The X-factor in translating a campaign’s technical mastery into victory is the candidate himself. And here, there was something missing.

Comment: yuh-huh. Here be the primary fixed point of the Romney post-mortems. The man as inauthentic.

I am attending CPAC this week. This is the same CPAC Mitt Romney put a huge effort into last year, paying some 200 students to come vote for him and likely providing his margin of victory over Rudy Giuliani (I know! Rudy once finished second at CPAC. Wild…). His speech last year was packed with every conservative insider’s code word imaginable. McCain-Feingold, McCain-Kennedy — you name it [...]

Comment: Another code word from Romney’s ungracious CPAC tirade, or code date, was 1976, a suggestion that Romney believes that Sen. McCain will lose in the general in vindication of the assumptions of the Romney campaign, and that Romney plans to return in triumph in 2012.

[...] What Romney didn’t account for is that it would take more than being a CPAC, or Agenda Conservative to win the nomination. Country Music Conservatives — and frankly, most voters outside the Beltway swamp — don’t listen to your words; they listen to your tone of voice as you’re delivering those words. Do you get angry when you should? What’s your sense of humor like? For social conservatives, are you grounded in faith? And ultimately, are you the real deal?

This has nothing to do with being right on issues. It has everything to do with being authentic [...]

The problem for Romney: You cannot separate the issue from the issuer, the message from the messenger. We would argue that an apter term than authenticity would be ethos, i.e. Romney’s problem was not that he was inauthentic; Romney’s problem was that his life and character were inconsistent with the issues he alleged that he wanted to advance. This in itself became an issue, and a decisive one.

[...] Even those of us who are social conservatives rarely live in the rural South. And because of this cocooning, the conservative elite failed to understand how those voters could possibly have more in common with a Baptist minister with a Massachusetts millionaire. We can debate the LDS effect all we want, but even without it, Romney already had two strikes against him: that he was from the land of Kennedy and Kerry and acted like it, and that he was too white collar for a party that most of the bluebloods have left.

The idea that talk radio could paper over this basic demographic divide is almost comical. The leader/follower model of conservative support (get Rush, the talkers, the CPAC people, all the groups on your side, and in so doing win the hearts and minds of a decisive majority of conservatives) has been proven starkly and decisively wrong.

Despite these challenges, it was still a close call. As I said: a few thousand votes the other way in New Hampshire… But still: the ease with which John McCain won states like South Carolina and Florida has taken us all aback. It all boils down to Agenda Conservatives being nowhere near a majority of the party. Yes, John McCain was a weak frontrunner, but Mitt Romney was a weak challenger, and enough conservatives chose character and authenticity over issues to make the difference [...]

[...] At a minimum, [the Romney debacle] challenges us to think differently about the movement, to junk the leader/follower model for a networked model that elevates real grassroots outside the Beltway over “grasstops” and to find new ways of bringing low-information conservative voters into the fold [...]

Low information conservatives?

Note the disconnect Ruffini describes between doctrinaire conservatives—or “agenda” conservatives, as Ruffini puts it—and those who tend to vote conservative but live more rounded lives. It is this, and not authenticity, that predicts the failures of the Romney campaign. We will return to this theme later.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “Mr Romney’s best showing came in Michigan, where his father had been a popular governor, and where he backed extra help for the hard-pressed car industry,” writes the estimable Steve Schifferes in a BBC news release titled Why Mitt Romney quit the race

But ironically, as the economy became the dominant issue in the election, even among Republicans, Mr Romney did not gain the expected boost from his business background.

Instead, he was attacked by Mr McCain and Mr Huckabee as a business executive who had little sympathy for the average worker and his troubles.

Mr Romney’s role as head of the consultancy Bain left him with plenty of money to finance his own presidential campaign, and he never faced the fundraising difficulties of Mr McCain and Mr Huckabee.

He was also able to mobilise the support of many right-wing Republican commentators who have played a key role in mobilising grassroots activists in the party.

But the failure of his well-financed campaign to galvanize that base means that the Republican right now lacks a credible standard bearer to fight its cause.

Mr Romney’s lukewarm endorsement of Mr McCain, whom he praised only for his stand on Iraq, shows that the Republican civil war has not ended with his retirement from the field.

Mr Romney said he was standing down in the best interests of his party.

But in the end, his comfortable circumstances may have meant he did not have the fire in his belly to continue what looked like an increasingly hopeless campaign [...]

The emphasis is ours, all ours.

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dr. g.d.

“OMAHA, NE — Barack Obama called Mitt Romney’s candidacy ‘ineffective’ on the day that the former MA governor exited the presidential race,” writes Aswini Anburajan in a National Journal Hotline.blog blog burst titled Obama On Romney: An “Ineffective Candidate”

Romney, who dropped out of the race for president today in Washington, said in his exit speech that the GOP must unify and not allow Democrats to allow the country to “surrender to terror.”

“Well my reaction to Mitt Romney’s comment that’s the kind of poorly thought out comment that lead him to drop out,” Obama said during a press avail on his campaign plane. “It’s a classic attempt to appeal to people’s fears that will not work in this campaign. I think that’s part of the reason he was such an ineffective candidate” [...]

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dr. g.d.

“A few moments ago, I spoke to someone in the Romney camp,” writes Byron York of NRO’s The Corner in a blog burst titled Romney Pulling Out? Campaign Doesn’t Want “To Look Destructive At What Might Be The End.”

Would I be crazy to read that into the email traffic? “You would not be crazy to read that into it,” he said. “There have been a lot of discussions going on about whether there is a path to victory, and not wanting to look destructive at what might be the end. You are reading the right thing into it.”

Update: It’s official, Gov. Romney to withdraw.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “Apparently the word is going around Team Romney that McCain will need 77 percent of the delegates remaining to win,” writes Romney sycophant Jim Geraghty in an NRO Campaign Spot blog burst titled Romney Fighting All The Way To The Convention?

(I’m pretty sure that’s wrong, if the numbers 720-256-194 are accurate. And if McCain, the guy in the 600-700s needs to win an extremely high percentage, doesn’t Romney, the guy in the 200s, have to win an even higher percentage?)

However, if Romney stays in, it’s very plausible to see a scenario in which he denies McCain the nomination on a straight delegate victory. This would result in some really, really rough coverage and criticism. I’m hearing some fans of Mitt talk about doing something like this to “keep McCain honest” and to broker concessions in St. Paul.

We’ll see. If the sense is that his campaign isn’t being run to win, but being run to make a point, I think you’ll see his support in subsequent states drop … I’m not sure the Romney campaign was built to be a protest candidacy [...]

Um, we’re not so sure either. A protest candidate? Romney?

[...] “Al Cardenas, a member of Mr. Romney’s national finance team and his Florida chairman, said the campaign could still achieve certain goals, including pushing a conservative agenda, while hoping for the outside possibility of winning the nomination,” writes Michael Luo in a NYT article titled Losses Aside, Romney Puts Convention on Calendar

“You’ve got a chance to win the nomination based on either getting the required number of delegates in the first round,” Mr. Cardenas said, “or having a campaign that results in no one have the required number of delegates in the first round, which is maybe a more tangible goal.”

Mr. Romney’s advisers had said that if he reached only 300 delegates by Tuesday, a threshold he fell short of, he would essentially have to win every remaining contest, often by large margins because most of them allocate delegates proportionally.

Charlie Black, a senior strategist for Mr. McCain, put out a strategy memorandum on Wednesday that made a similar argument. McCain advisers said that, by conservative estimates, they expected to wrap up the nomination by early March.

“I will not say, in order to stay consistent with my boss’s superstition, which I share, that it’s impossible for these guys to get nominated,” said Mr. Black, referring to Mr. Romney and Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, “but it is virtually impossible just based on the arithmetic of the matter.”

But Mr. Romney’s advisers have been discussing three categories of delegates: those that have been already been awarded and bound to a candidate; those that have been promised but are not technically bound; and those that have not yet been allocated.

The goal would be to continue to battle, hoping that Mr. Romney starts to sweep up states, and then arrive at the convention with no clear winner and the momentum to wrest some of those promised but not officially bound delegates into his column.

Mr. Romney appeared to allude to this possibility in his speech on Tuesday night, promising to take the Republican race “all the way to the convention” [...]

The emphases are ours, all ours.

We harp more on this string here:

Romney attempting to engineer a brokered convention, hints at plans to foment mutiny among promised but not officially bound delegates

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dr. g.d.

[...] “In a measure of just how dire the situation is for the campaign, Mr. Romney’s advisers have been discussing the existence of three different categories of delegates: those that have been already been awarded and bound to a candidate; those that have been promised to someone but are not technically bound; and those that have not yet been allocated,” writes Michael Luo in a NYT The Caucus blog burst titled Romney Prepared to Keep On Going

They are mapping out a farfetched possibility premised on conservative fears continuing to fester against Mr. McCain, which they hope fuels a series of wins for Mr. Romney and then perhaps get him to a point where he has enough momentum to wrest some of those promised but not officially bound delegates into his column at a contested convention.

Mr. Romney appeared to even allude to this potential route in his speech on Tuesday night, promising to take the contest “all the way to the convention.”

“There’s a whole lot of scenarios that get us there,” Tagg Romney said [...]

Yeahright. A lot of scenarios. More than ever. Possibilities everywhere. Options abound. But the scenario Tagg Romney suggests is singular, pointed, clear, and perilous. It consists in an attempt to nullify the expressed counsel of Republican primary voters—i.e. the returns of the primary contests themselves—by turning-around promised but technically not bound party delegates. It also consists in continuing to drive up Sen. John McCain’s negatives to undermine any claim the man has to being electable in November, as Luo indicates below:

[...] Tagg Romney also seemed to allude to his father’s continued willingness to pour his own money into his presidential bid, saying the campaigning hope is that conservative alarm about Mr. McCain continues to grow, allowing the campaign to still “fund-raise outside as well as from my dad and make this a real battle” [...]

So, what should we call Romney’s newest and probably boldest yet hare-brained scheme? We haven’t decided yet. But think about it, friends, fans, and well-wishers. Romney is supposed to be a dispassionate android number-cruncher problem-solver, a man of facts, data, and detail, a man of argument and not affect, a man of reason and not rebellion. So why is Romney behaving like a desperate out-of-control wannabee Captain Ahab or Richard III, i.e. a drastic figure willing to sacrifice everything and everyone? What in this man’s past would have predicted this? And what else do we not know about Romney?

Who, we would ask again, is Willard Milton Romney?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





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