Posts Tagged ‘von Schlieffen plan’

“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.

“BEDFORD, N.H. — Republican Mitt Romney, a businessman-turned-politician, will take more direct control of his presidential campaign message after failing to win either the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary, a top adviser said Tuesday,” writes someone, we know not who as we could not find a name, for the Seattle Times in an article titled Advisor: Romney to assume bigger role—that is, in is his own campaign. What was Romney’s role before? Was it secondary?

Romney himself pledged a long fight for the GOP nomination. He held out his second-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, with a victory in Wyoming wedged between, as testimony to his 50-state strategy.

“There have been three races so far. I’ve gotten two silvers and one gold — thank you, Wyoming,” Romney said in a Spartan seven-minute address conceding the race.

A Romney intimate, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the candidate, said the campaign was “going to take the shackles off, have him be less measured” […]

Question:

Did Romney fail his campaign?

-or-

Did Romney’s campaign fail Romney?

The Romney intimate (RI) suggests that the one shackled the other. Now the two are decoupled. For Romney, according to the RI, victory follows emancipation, emancipation from Romney’s own campaign. As is always the case with Romney, Romney’s real struggle is with Romney.

The question turns to MI. The issue? Whether a decision for Sen. McCain or Gov. Huckabee in MI will mean the end of the Romney campaign. The end of the Romney campaign would be a victory for Romney the person according to the RI; recall: Romney’s campaign had shackled Romney and subjected the poor befuddled CEO to two humiliating defeats in two separate contests. But a defeat for Romney in MI would be a defeat for Romney the candidate according to waivering Romney sycophant Jim Geraghty of the formerly conservative National Review, our least favorite Blog for Mitt.

[…] “When you’re self-financing, you can buy yourself a lot of second chances,” writes Geraghty in a Campaign Spot post titled Sorry, Hannity, I Maintain Michigan Is Make-or-Break For Romney

And yes, Romney is leading the delegate count. But is the plan to gather the most delegates by finishing in second place in enough states that award delegates proportionally?

Nota: Romney leads in the delegate count if and only if you ignore the decision for Gov. Huckabee in IA. Romney estimates his delegates as 15 against Gov. Huckabee’s 2. ABC News.com, however, estimates Gov. Huckabee at 31 delagates to Romney’s 19. Jake Tapper writes that the Romney campaign “just pretend[s] like Iowa did not happen.” “I hope,” concludes Tapper, that “Mr. Romney was better with the numbers when he was at Bain.”

Back to Geraghty:

Where’s [Romney] going to win? I realize that after last night, we need to be cautious in putting our faith in polls, but for Romney, South Carolina’s not looking that great. Mid-December polls put him in pretty tough shape in Florida, and the second-place finisher in that state walks away with nada*. He’s nowhere in Pennsylvania. He’s not set to win New Jersey. You figure Rudy walks away with winner-take-all New York and Connecticut. (Although maybe Lieberman could help McCain there.)

Massachusetts? Maine?

At some point, Mitt Romney’s got to go out and win a hotly-contested state. Wyoming is nice, but it’s not decisive. He’s got to show that when you throw him into a hard-fought, no-quarter-given-or-asked political fight, he can come out on top […]

The make-or-break-in-MI theme is an emerging fixed point in the discussion of Romney’s fitness as a candidate. Here would be the counterpoint, provided by Ross Douthat in a theatlantic.com blog burst titled Mitt Romney’s Long March

Romney loses NH, MI, and SC. […] But heading into Florida and Super Tuesday [Romney]’ll still have plenty of money to spend [especially his own]- as much if not more than his rivals – and with Thompson gone he’ll be the only “Reagan conservative” in the race. Neither the Huckabee nor the McCain campaigns are exactly organizational juggernauts, even if the money spigot opens for McCain after New Hampshire, and both candidates have what in a different year would be disqualifying weaknesses. Why shouldn’t Romney stay in the race? If McCain stalls out around 30-35 percent in New Hampshire, arguably the best of all political environments for his candidacy, why shouldn’t the Romney campaign assume that he can be beaten further down the road, in the same way that Bush outlasted him in 2000?

True, this sort of trench warfare would be bad for GOP unity, and might even result in a brokered convention. But why should Romney care about uniting the party behind McCain or Huckabee? They both hate him like poison, and he presumably returns the sentiment: Why shouldn’t he make life as difficult for them as he possibly can?

And true, in this scenario Romney would be essentially adopting Rudy Giuliani’s much-derided “long march” strategy – but perhaps with a better chance of success […]

Our conclusion: Douthat’s Long March was Romney’s plan all along—Romney’s early state von Schlieffen plan was only ever bad science fiction—and, suckers that we are, we took Romney at his word. The only problem—a problem for us and not for Romney: Romney’s Long March requires the incremental dismantling of the GOP—its institutions and coalitions—in detail, and by means of grim attrition. This will leave Romney in a unique position come September, October, going into November. He will have the nomination of a national party without the national party. But as Douthat asks, why should Romney care?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[…] “NPR reports that Mitt Romney is shaking up his staff today and taking more control himself,” writes Erick of Redstate.com in a blog burst titled Sources Say

Also, I hear from multiple sources that he has shifted some staff around, pulling people from Florida and sending them to Michigan […]

Loses learn. This is one of the uses of adversity. Not so Team Romney, we used to argue, because Romney’s vast personal fortune insulates Team Romney from the costs of its failures.

But now there is evidence that the Romney is attempting to rationalize its organization and its operations. This could allow them to, you know, develop a message that connects with voters.

Regard:

“Mitt Romney hasn’t extended his television presence into next week in South Carolina and Florida, an aide confirms,” writes Jonathan Martin of the politico.com in a blog burst titled Mitt not re-upping his S.C. and Fla. TV time

Romney has been on TV for months in both states, owning the airwaves long before his GOP rivals purchased their first spots.

But his multimillion-dollar investment in the two key states that may ultimately decide the GOP nominee has not paid off as he continues to lag behind rivals there.

Spokesman Kevin Madden declined to say whether their decision was based upon strategy or money […]

[…] Ten days before South Carolina and 20 before Florida it’s difficult to see why he’d go dark in either crucial state, unless he’s decided to limit how much of his own cash he’s using on what has so far been a disappointing campaign.

UPDATE: Another indication that Romney is easing back on the self-funding — an adviser tells AP’s Glen Johnson that they recognize that their ad campaign wasn’t terribly effective and that now they’re going to focus on earned media. Also known as free media […]

Martin interprets this move as weakness.

We interpret it as strength, amazing strength, strength combined with a stern resolve. Viz.: Romney has the money. So this is not the voice of grim necessity. Rather: This is a rational choice, a sober choice, and the correct choice.

These corrections suggest a more accurate interpretation of the upcoming contests and the players involved. These corrections also suggest a more accurate assessment of what is achievable and for what cost. Here is the money quote from the Glen Jonhson AP article that Martin links to:

[…] Conceding Romney had been hurt by a backlash against the hard-hitting television commercials the former Massachusetts governor ran against Huckabee and McCain, the adviser said the campaign hoped to “get away from the paid media and get more of the earned media.”

The shift would suggest a greater emphasis on generating newspaper, Internet and television coverage, especially in Michigan, where Romney was born and which is next on the primary calendar on Jan. 15. Romney flies to Grand Rapids, Mich., on Wednesday after a fundraiser in Boston […]

A targeted, earned-media strategy will allow Team Romney to correctly assess the effectiveness of their messages. The data and experience that accrues from their efforts can help them increase their ROI and develop more effective messages. They will have at last organized themselves into a learning loop more closely coupled to their audiences and sources of support. They will in the very least be be spending less which will improve their image. In other words, they will have caught up with the other campaigns.

However: In the same article, Johnson also reports this:

[…] Nonetheless, Romney chided McCain and Huckabee for cherry-picking contests, with Huckabee having focused on Iowa while McCain focused on New Hampshire. Romney spent more than $7 million on advertising in each state, and held as many, if not more, events in both places than any of his GOP rivals […]

But reports are that Romney is withdrawing staff from SC and FL to invest in MI. Also: reports indicate that Romney is scaling back his ad buys in SC and FL. In other words, Romney too has learned to cherry-pick. As we have argued elsewhere, what Romney calls “cherry-picking” is the most rational strategy in an election cycle with no clear coalition. Politics specifies itself in space—demography, geography, and ideology all intertwine and pass into one another—to build a coalition from the ground up you need to first establish a regional base.

The other candidates have staked out the parts of the map they want to contest. (The first candidate to recognize and act on the new reality was Mayor Giuliani. His strategy has yet to encounter its first real contest.)

Romney has yet to do that.

But: Evidence indicates that he now moves in that direction.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

P.S. Hypothetical questions: What if Romney were to campaign on who he is instead of an invented Romney? What if Romney were to organize a rational and ethical campaign? What if Romney were to cease his grimly negative campaigning?

Answer: the governing assumptions of this web log would be all, and in an instant, overturned. And we would be forced to admit that this was the case or risk being accused of being irrational ourselves. At that moment we truly would become a Blog for Mitt as we would no longer have a case against a Romney presidency.

Question: Is such an outcome even possible?

Go Mitt!—i.e. stop lying, stop shape-shifting, stop sliming other candidates, and stop spending money that you did not raise through your own hard efforts, and go and be our President.

[…] “The fact of the matter is that Massachusetts officials win in New Hampshire,” writes Holly Robichaud in a Herald.com blog burst titled Time for a graceful Romney exit

Nota: Robichaud identifies herself as […] The Lone Republican in the Herald’s Monday Morning Briefing, is a successful GOP political strategist who is known for speaking her mind […]

Robichaud continues:

[MA officials, like the former Gov. of MA, Romney] don’t lose [in NH].

When Clinton first ran for President, he was the comeback kid for placing second to Tsongas. It would have been a significant victory if McCain had placed second, but he placed first. For McCain this is a mega victory and a mega loss for Romney.

There was no reason for Romney to lose in New Hampshire. He had the Massachusetts advantage. He owns a second home in the granite state. And he significantly out spent all of his opponents. Therefore, you must conclude that not only did Iowa voters completely reject Romney, but so did New Hampshire voters. There is no excuse for this loss. There is no credible spin for this spanking.

This loss also has ramifications for the General Election in November. If somehow Romney was to be the nominee, Republicans will most likely not be able to hold on to the White House […]

Gary Matthew Miller of Truth vs. the Machine blog makes the same case on narrative grounds in a race42008 post titled It’s the Narrative, Stupid!

[…] Presidential campaigns also have a narrative. While I appreciate the Romney supporters attempt to change that narrative, here is the reality: Romney’s candidacy was predicated on 2 wins in Iowa and New Hampshire to slingshot him to the nomination.

Governor Romney may have a narrow lead in delegates. He may have more total cumulative votes than Senator McCain. But his narrative is broken. Badly.

Now we are told that Romney will prevail in Michigan because his father was governor there 40 years ago. I remember in 1988 the Kemp campaign was using a similar mantra to salvage a highly-touted candidacy that also had a broken narrative. Jack Kemp could stay in the race until California because a quarter-century prior he had quarterbacked the San Diego Chargers. Kemp’s narrative of how the campaign would play out had as much plausibility as Romney’s does in Michigan. Much like Romney is doing today, those of us involved with the Kemp campaign were touting delegate counts that had Jack essentially tied with Bush and Dole. But the narrative was broken with Bush’s triumph over Dole in New Hampshire where Kemp’s pristine anti-tax credentials were supposed to help him win the Granite State’s “Live Free Or Die!” crowd. It didn’t and the narrative passed Kemp by.

Some have valiently tried to draw parallels between 2008 and 1976. The problem is that Reagan, after losing New Hampshire by the narrowest of margins, still had his best states in front of him. Governor Romney has his best states in the rear view mirror […]

Justin Hart issues this rejoinder to G.M. Miller:

[…] Gary – I agree with your sentiment but I disagree with your semantics. The early state approach is a strategy not a narrative. The narrative is “outsider with business prowess and experience on fixing things comes to Washington”.

I have to admit that the Romney camp did wed themselves very close to the early state strategy which makes the 2nd place finishes that much more painful. But I don’t think the narrative is broken […]

We concur with Mr. Hart on this one. Mr. Miller seems to conflate the notion of a campaign narrative with the notion of an electoral scenario.

Here would the sad and despairing counterpoint to the emerging “Romney failed his won test and therefore should withdraw” fixed point, provided by Romney-sycophant and tireless Blogger-for-Mitt, Stanley Kurtz, in an NRO blog burst titled No Mentum

[…] This will probably not be a momentum-based campaign. If all the Republican candidates held roughly similar views (as with this year’s Dems), then a Romney loss in Michigan might be decisive. But in the Republican race, Romney holds a place (fairly mainstream conservative across the board) matched by no other candidate. Given the resistance of some portion of the conservative base to every other candidate, Romney would be foolish to drop out, even after a loss in Michigan. In fact, Romney stands to capitalize on what may well be the next big development in the race, the (relative) rise of Giuliani, at McCain’s expense […]

[…] At that point, if he’s been smart enough to stay in the race, Romney will be in a position to benefit from the raging battle between McCain and Giuliani. That will allow all three candidates to make it to the convention. Huckabee is a bit of a wild card here. He may turn out to be a one hit wonder. But even if Huckabee soldiers on, it won’t change the basic picture. Huckabee’s evangelical support may be enough to keep him alive, but Huck’s unconventional views won’t allow him to gain clear front-runner status.

With so many Republican candidates distancing themselves from some key part of the base, no candidate will find it easy to consolidate the support of seemingly defeated rivals. With a field holding so many candidates who speak for competing wings of the party, and excluding others, the logic is for candidates to stay in the race as the last best hope of their base, and to prevent the “horror scenarios” represented by the alternatives.

Momentum is out and substance is in […]

Momentum is out and substance is in. You don’t say. We have argued the same point—harped on that same string, as we like to say—since July of last year. On the 2nd of November we argued that the primary map was a “low mobility environment,” and that Romney had optimized himself for movement and momentum that simply wasn’t possible for him to ever achieve (see the “early state strategy” links below). We have argued these points ad nauseum:

Question: What do Romney’s frantic and out-of-control efforts to implement his von Schlieffen fantasy reveal about Romney, Romney the man, Romney the leader? Note how the troubled candidate could not let go of Iowa when a better, abler, or wiser man would have walked away. Note the bewilderment of his own top staff.

Romney’s Kevin Madden “flabbergasted” at Team Romney’s helplessness against under-funded and un-organized Gov. Huckabee—Romney loses control of his spending says Carr—more on Romney’s fantastically low ROI for his every campaign dollar

Romney lesson #1: You do not spend credibility that you do not have on a game that you cannot win, especially when you know that you cannot win it. Or: Pursue that which buys you the most gain for the lowest cost, not the other way around. And if something costs you wildly more than it costs anyone else in the game, STOP and investigate, because something is wrong.

Our own assessment: Romney’s von Schlieffen plan was a ruse. Grim and slogging attrition leading up to a brokered convention was always Romney’s plan, and always his only hope. Expect the bitterest and most negative campaigning ever to begin about … now.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Ha-ha! Boy, that Rudy Giuliani, what a loser! Boy, did his strategy backfire! The man’s an afterthought! Barely got fourth place, barely ahead of Ron Paul, not expected to be much of a player in Michigan, not expected to be a player in South Carolina,” writes writes Jim Geraghty in a Campaign Spot blog burst titled Meanwhile, Down in Florida …

… he’s going to have to be desperate, and hope that in Florida he can… he can…

…he can, uh, keep his lead in Florida. Where he’s up, 24 percent to 19 percent for Huckabee, 19 percent for McCain, 13 percent for Romney, 8 percent for Thompson.

Where there are 57 delegates, winner take all; 114 delegates if the RNC doesn’t enforce the penalty.

Hmmmm […]

Yuh-huh. We predicted all this—precisely this—weeks and weeks ago.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“NASHUA, N.H., Jan 6 (Reuters) – Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney said on Sunday he would balance the U.S. budget deficit within “a few years” if he won the 2008 race for the U.S. presidency,” writes Jason Szep in a reuters release titled Romney says would balance budge in “few years”

Asked by a voter at a rally in the southern New Hampshire city of Nashua whether he would balance the budget by March 2009 if elected, Romney said he wouldn’t give a timetable because of the cost of financing the U.S. war in Iraq […]

This is beneath comment. So let’s consider another point.

“At the Intrade Prediction Market, Romney has dropped to fourth place with only a 12.6% chance of winning the Republican nomination, behind McCain (who is now the favorite), Giuliani, and Huckabee,” writes the writer of Half Sigma in a post titled Time for Romney to withdraw?

When Romney loses to McCain in New Hampshire tomorrow, it’s time for him to withdraw. If he can’t win New Hampshire, which is sort of a suburb of Boston, where is he going to win besides in Utah and Massachusetts? […]

We’re beginning to wonder about what Romney’s plan truly is. The so-called “data driven” candidate must know by now that the primary process—as it is conventionally construed—will not support a Romney nomination. Here may be the secret of Romney’s intentions:

[…] “Romney’s campaign team is already preparing their Wolverine State campaign and they’ve already filled his schedule with retail events there, hitting conservative-dominated western Michigan for the first few days before turning to population centers like Detroit and Lansing,” Jonathan Martin and Jim VandeHei in a politico.com feast-for-the-mind titled Romney dials down expectations hard
In mail and TV spots there, they’ll drive the candidate’s change message, and if he loses here, they will continue to contrast with McCain on Washington experience, immigration and taxes.Should Romney’s New Hampshire loss be close, an adviser previewed their spin as: “Look at our body of work over 10 days. We came in first in Wyoming and second in Iowa and New Hampshire. Who else can match that?” […]

Translation: In what Team Romney specifyies as Romney’s receding regional stronghold strategy, you can detect the outlines of Romney’s new national strategy. It consists in fighting to remain a player until the convention, accumulating delegates by means of grim attrition. It is a hard, despairing, and enormously expensive strategy.

Think of it this way: the task of the primary campaigner is to develop the coherent story of a message passing into a general movement from the fragmented, particular, and variable character of the contests themselves. Romney’s strategy now becomes the precise opposite. He must simultaneously

Resist like grim death the other candidates’ attempts to beat their way out of their regional redoubts—holding them off until the convention

-and-

Eke out as many victories, near-victories, or rationales for non-victories (Iowans are religious bigots!) as possible to maintain the semblance of vialbility—again: until the convention

For Romney to prevail, he needs to develop disorder, disunity, and fragmentation. How do you accomplish this?—relentlessly negative campaigning. Every one must get slimed beyond viability. This is what happens in a game when you have a player who neither respects the game nor even the field it’s played on.

Meanwhile: expect lots more grandiosity from the hapless candidate as he fights to stay in the headlines.

yours &c.
dr g.d.

“Mitt Romney, a dominant favorite in New Hampshire just weeks ago, said Sunday that a “close second” to Arizona Sen. John McCain would be a significant feat on Tuesday,” write Jonathan Martin and Jim VandeHei in a politico.com feast-for-the-mind titled Romney dials down expectations hard, which is an interesting use of the of the word “dial”

The almost frantic downsizing of expectations for the former Massachusetts governor came as the candidate and his staff are publicly and privately preparing to explain away what would be a disheartening loss and shift to a last-ditch strategy predicated on his ability to outlast and outspend his rivals, according to sources inside the campaign.

Last ditch strategy? Precisely the opposite is the case. To outlast and outspend his rivals has always been Romney’s strategy, his only practical strategy.

Romney’s early-state von Schlieffen plan was a ruse, a subterfuge to suggest the cover of a legitimate primary campaign with legimate primary campaign objectives. And this expectations bull roar emitted by the Romneys is but a ruse within a ruse.

Back to Martin and VandeHei:

“This is a must-win state for him,” Romney said of McCain, in a Politico interview Sunday. “If he doesn’t win here, I don’t know where he is going to win. So for me it’s can I catch John McCain — can I keep him from getting this?”

We predicted Romney would say this. What is eerie is that we predicted that Romney would say precisely this. Here is what we predicted Romney would say on 01.01:

  • NH is Sen. McCain’s to lose,
  • Team Romney assumed from the beginning of time that Sen. McCain would surpass them in NH by a million points,
  • Even a close number 2 for the Romneys behind Sen. McCain finish would be a disaster for Sen. McCain’s campaign and a breakthrough for Team Romney

More evidence of Romney’s inexperience and naivete—more evidence of his amateur-hour campaigning. In a realclearpolitics post titled Mitt’s Ham-Handed Campaign, Jay Cost opines:

[…] This is par for the course for the Romney campaign, in my estimation. His candidacy has been the most transparently strategic this cycle. McCain is up? Go after McCain. McCain is down? Leave McCain alone. Thompson enters the race and seems a threat? Take a cheap shot about Law and Order. Thompson fades? Ignore him. Rudy is up? Go after Rudy. Huckabee is up? Go after Huck. You need to win a Republican primary? Make yourself the most socially conservative candidate in the race. And on and on and on.

If somebody asked me which candidate on the Republican side has won just a single election (in a year that his party did very well nationwide) — I would answer Mitt Romney, even knowing nothing about anybody’s biography. This kind of transparency is, to me, a sign of political inexperience. He’s only won one election, and it shows […]

Back to Martin and VandeHei:

Left unsaid was that Romney has led in state polls for much of the race, and McCain only caught him recently.

The Romney campaign has the feel of one bracing for a possible loss, including the tell-tale emergence of behind-the-scenes clashes. Several Romney advisers described internal disputes over strategic missteps leading up to Iowa — with some contending Romney should have focused earlier on his ability as a Washington outsider and businessman to change the political process and fix Washington’s big problems […]

Romney’s solution? Focus on both strategies. What got sacrificed? Any chance at a coherent message:

Luo: “Ever since Mr. Romney began his presidential bid, his campaign has oscillated between two distinct, some would say contradictory, themes—Mr. Romney as a conservative standard-bearer and him as a pragmatic problem-solving businessman”

Back to Martin and VandeHei:

[…] Romney said tension inside his campaign over strategic decisions has not been a big deal. He blamed reporters — not his advisers — for forcing him to focus intensely on his conservative views instead of the message of change he is carrying to every event in New Hampshire.

“I get asked a lot about my conservative credentials, largely by members of the media,” he said in the interview. “I go on TV and it’s like: ‘Tell me about your church, tell me where you stand on abortion.’

“There is no question the focus of my campaign has been on changing Washington” […]

Romney blamed reporters? Does the press corps work for Romney now? Is the press corps responsible for promulgating Romney’s message, or do they pursue other goals? Is it wise for the hapless candidate to cast himself as at the mercy of bully reporters?—what sort of “leader” allows others to control his message?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[…] In fact, even when Mike Huckabee began his ascendance in Iowa, one that culminated in his convincing victory in Thursday’s caucuses, New Hampshire was still viewed as a firewall for the Romney campaign,” writes CBSNews.com political reporter David Miller in an article titled Mitt Romney’s Rebound Plan; Stung By Iowa Loss, Republican Takes Up Banner Of Change While Going After McCain

Polls there showed him with a solid lead – but that collapsed in the two weeks preceding the caucuses, when John McCain, once beleagured, quickly caught up to Romney, and in some surveys, even passed him.

Winning in Iowa would have been the best way to reverse that situation – and since that did not come to pass, the Romney campaign is now shifting gears by borrowing a page from the book of an unlikely candidate: Barack Obama, whose message of change helped him win Iowa’s Democratic contest.

At an event in Manchester on Friday, Romney seemed to work the “c-word” in at every possible opportunity.

“If you really want to have change, you don’t just want to have a gadfly or somebody fighting for this or fighting for that,” Romney said. “You want to have somebody who will bring change, who will sell the company America has – it’s going to have to be somebody from outside Washington, not a Washington insider […]

We’re sorry, but what?—what does Romney mean by “sell the company America has?”

Romney has spent a year insisting he was Ronald Reagan. Now he wants to be Barack Obama. Has this man ever tried being Willard Milton Romney?

[…] But for all the talk of change, some aspects of Romney’s campaign haven’t. Take his advertising. In New Hampshire, the target is different – it’s McCain instead of Huckabee – but in terms of look and structure, his spots in the two states are identical. In both cases, there’s an initial nicety, describing Romney and, most recently, McCain as “two good men.”

After that comes harsh criticism of McCain’s views on immigration and tax cuts – a method McCain has said didn’t work in Iowa and wouldn’t work in New Hampshire.

But the Romney campaign believes the ads weren’t why Romney lost in Iowa, and the results there should not be seen as proof of their ineffectiveness.

“I don’t agree that we lost to Huckabee because we ran ads,” said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden. “I think Huckabee won because he identified with a lot of the core voters out there, such as evangelicals, on a lot of social conservative issues. He had a lot of voters he identified with, with what is a traditional, conservative part of that base out there. He did a good job doing that. We competed with Mike Huckabee on those votes, and we met our vote goals pretty much.” […]

We met our goals? Did we? We met our goals and lost Iowa decisively? Boy, we must be geniuses! Perhaps—and this is just a suggestion, Mr. Madden—we need to review our current goals and performance standards before we get our heads handed to us on a platter in New Hampshire too.

This is more evidence of Romney’s predict-and-control operational method.

About Romney’s ugly “contrast” ads and their effectiveness, opinions differ:

Luntz: “Romney made a ‘big mistake’ by going negative against Huckabee”—how a Faustian Romney rages against the laws of physics

Opinions differed at the posh waterfront headquarters of a besieged Team Romney too.

[…] Internally, the Romney campaign began to debate and disagree, a sharp contrast to the campaign’s usual organized and by-the-books culture,” writes Monica Langley in an Online.wsj article titled owa Touches Off a Free-for-All; Romney’s Best-Laid Plans Mugged by Political Realities

Two speechwriters were let go. Although the master plan had anticipated that negative ads might be necessary, the campaign was hit with internal dissension about whether to continue the “branding” plan or “go negative” in campaign commercials and direct mail.

Campaign operatives fought over when and how to “draw contrasts” between Mr. Romney and his chief rivals. Mr. Castellanos, Mr. Romney’s chief media adviser, pushed to shift message as needed to focus on changing rivals and issues. Others argued the merits of keeping the focus on a single overarching message. […]

History has proven those two lowly speech writers right. Kevin Madden—the maddeningly inarticulate Kevin Madden, Romney’s least effective helper-monkey—should immediately telephone those two speechwriters, apologize profusely, and offer them their jobs back at twice what they were paid before.

Everyone else should go to the wall, starting with Madden.

Back to Miller:

[…]“You’ve only got one guy running for president who’s signed the front of an employment check,” Romney said Friday.

Compare that with a line delivered by Huckabee only hours earlier: “One of the reasons I did well in Iowa, and I’ll do well here, is that people realized that they want a president who reminds them of the guy they worked with, not the guy who laid them off.”

The disparate messages may be emblematic of a growing divide in the Republican Party, which is seeing the coalition built by Ronald Reagan – between blue-collar workers, the business community and Christian conservatives – put under severe distress, said GOP consultant Mike Collins.

“I think it’s more of a universal problem than a Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee or Fred Thompson solution. We’re battling for the soul of the Republican Party,” he said. “You have very discrete elements of this party that are coming apart at the seams.”

Yet Romney’s campaign maintains that they, alone among the GOP field, have support that is deep and broad enough to keep Republicans unified – an essential for winning in November. […]

Here is the problem: Romney insists that he has “support broad and deep enough to keep Republicans unified.” But he has yet to demonstrate that support in any way or form. Precisely the opposite is the case: Romney has thus far unified no one constituency behind him; he has only managed to unify the other candidates against him. In fact, Team Romney has failed at every task it has set for itself, Iowa was only the latest. Besides: Who is Romney’s base? Who is his natural constituency? Who has he even convinced that he is a conservative?—oh, wait, now he wants to be the agent of change candidate.

How can this primped, powdered, and pampered non-entity pretend to unify our party when he has yet to unify himself?

[…] “A lot of the other candidates seem to be working on a slingshot effect – do well in one state and hope it builds momentum for other states,” Madden said. “We have a greater ability to motivate our organization as well as deploy the resources across several states in order to compete.”

But ironically, Romney may now be reliant on the same slingshot effect, even as they maintain they could survive a second-place finish – one that most observers agree would be a devastating loss, given the high expectations driven by campaign’s large organization and vast financial resources […]

Madden is projecting. To “slingshot” early victories into performance gains in other states was always the organizing principle of Romney’s now inoperative early-states von Schlieffen plan. Now Romney has now been beaten back to a regional stronghold strategy. Only Romney keeps withdrawing from his strongholds. Team Romney’s stronghold used to New Hampshire until Sen. McCain deprived them of their lead there. Now they say it’s Michigan.

We predict that their last redoubt will be the floor of a brokered convention. This would be where targeted donations may actually produce an effective return. To try to buy off an angry and fragmented coalition—undoable. To try to buy off the elites of a corrupt party organzation—easily achievable; in fact, the groundwork is already laid in.

To simply stay in the game now becomes the object of the Romney Tribe.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“MANCHESTER, N.H. — Having barely slept after landing at 3 a.m. on Friday, weary advisers for Mitt Romney gathered a few hours later in a conference room in the Courtyard Marriott in Portsmouth to regroup after the resounding defeat Mike Huckabee handed them in Iowa,” writes the estimable Michael Luo in a NYT article titled Romney Embraces Theme Used to Beat Him

Romney’s model is simple predict-and-control. For example, Romney and his same “advisors” developed Romney’s last plan over a year ago in a posh Boston suburb:

“We were sitting around with a PowerPoint”—said a senior Romney advisor, “We weren’t sitting around with a crystal ball”—how Team Romney lost Iowa over a year ago in a posh Boston suburb

This was Romney’s ill-considered early state von Schlieffen plan. Romney clung to it for months in the very teeth of contrary data. And lots of contrary data developed all around the hapless candidate in Iowa and elsewhere—we harped on it in this blog almost constantly. Romney’s response? To try to control for whatever contrary stimuli developed around him, e.g., Romney’s hyper-massive out-of-control spending as an attempt to control for Gov. Huckabee’ s ascendency.

Only predict-and-control failed for the hapless candidate. Iowa decided against him.

Back to Luo:

Dominating the conversation was the idea that the central lesson from Iowa in both parties was that voters wanted change in Washington and a focus on how Mr. Romney might harness that sentiment to defeat his main rival in New Hampshire, Senator John McCain.

So far Mr. Romney has tried with varying degrees of fervor to portray himself as a change agent for Washington, often playing up his private-sector background and arguing that he has not been in politics long enough to be “infected.” In September, he even rolled out the slogan “change begins with us.”

Often, however, the point has gotten lost in Mr. Romney’s speeches as he has tried to hit a jumble of other notes establishing his conservative credentials. It is also a balancing act for any Republican presidential candidate to try to carry off, given how popular President Bush remains with the Republican base. […]

Yuh-huh. The larger question: Has the noisy and frantic candidate from Bain Capital learned how to stay on message? See:

Luo: “Ever since Mr. Romney began his presidential bid, his campaign has oscillated between two distinct, some would say contradictory, themes—Mr. Romney as a conservative standard-bearer and him as a pragmatic problem-solving businessman”

Also: Romney has been reduced to a regional player after months of ridiculing the other campaigns for their regional stronghold strategies. Romney’s last redoubt (or firewall)? Michigan.

[…] A loss in New Hampshire would be devastating for the Romney campaign, his aides privately conceded, given their stated strategy of winning “early and often.” They argue that they will be able to fight on, with Michigan’s primary on Jan. 15 acting as a fire wall. The campaign has recently stepped up efforts in Michigan, where Mr. Romney has deep roots, releasing an advertisement focused on the economy and starting a direct-mail campaign on economic issues. […]

Yeahright. This is meaningless noise of course. Romney has no base, no region, no natural constituency. He cannot carry his home state. He is running against his own record of governance and policy. He will fight on because he is flush with funds, his own funds in the form of the patrimony of his beloved sons, whether NH or MI decide for him or not.

For months the chattering classes insisted that Romney’s national strategy indicated the candidate’s strength. They claimed Romney was the only GOP candidate in control of his destiny. They also argued that the regional stronghold strategy of the other candidates was an artifact of their various weakness etc. We argued here on this blog that precisely the opposite is the case. It is precisely because Romney has no natural constituency, and no base, that the hapless candidate is constrained to try to “win early and often” to compensate. This is why we refer to Romney’s desperate early state plan as his von Schlieffen plan, another shock-and-awe plan that depended for its success on lightening and nearly simultaneous victories on multiple fronts, and another plan that failed to survive its first encounter with grim reality.

Our surmise: Romney knows by now that he cannot win the GOP nomination through the primary process. His only chance is a brokered convention. And his only chance of prevailing at a brokered convention is to so slime his rivals that none can any longer rise to national standing.

Does this sound preposterous? Of course it does. But the one premise we use to ground all our analyses posted to this blog is that whatever Romney says is the case is either

(a) flat wrong

or

(b) the precise opposite of what is actually the case

To satisfy yourself that our method returns fairly predictive and explanatory results, peruse our blog going back to last summer.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[…] Romney […] must find a new rationale for a candidacy that was based almost entirely on the prospect of scoring early victories in Iowa and New Hampshire and using them to build national momentum,” write John F. Harris and Jonathan Martin in a surprisingly inept politico.com account titled Iowa leaves GOP in total dissarray, only the writers, despite themselves, somehow do discover an underlying structure. We just need to try to clarify it for them.

[…] If Romney loses again in New Hampshire, where he had until recently been leading, his candidacy will go on life support.

Some aides suggested that the former Massachusetts governor’s last-stand effort would be later this month in Michigan, where Romney grew up and where his father was governor in the 1960s.

But the Iowa results underscored problems of a candidate who had money, organizational skill, good looks and the support of many establishment politicians and Washington operatives.

Conservatives had questions over his consistency and qualms over his Mormon faith and a personal style that leaves many cold.

These reservations trumped what had been a skilled organization and millions of dollars spent from his own fortune on television ads — many of them unsuccessful attacks on Huckabee as outside the mainstream of conservative thinking.

Huckabee can be sure that there are more attacks ahead […]

Translation: In the space of one evening Romney has defacto been beaten back from his so-called national strategy to a regional strongholds strategy, as described by Brownstein of the NYT.

Our take: Romney’s von Schlieffen plan—a lightening strike on two fronts to secure the center—is finally dead.

Recall: Romney’s von Schlieffen plan consisted in

(a) Securing the social conservative base by running far to the right of the other candidates as Pres. Bush the younger did in 2000, and by spreading around a lot of love to conservative elites and intellectuals

-and-

(b) Developing the organization on the ground to guarantee victories in the early states

Team Romney has failed at both tasks. Only they had failed at both tasks by last summer, as we have argued over and over on this blog using only secondary sources as our grounds or data.

What interests us is how facts and developments on the ground fail to register at the posh, waterfront headquarters of Team Romney. In the very teeth of contrary data or testimony Team Romney always respond by doing what they had been doing only harder, faster, and more frantically. And for what? Iowa? Further, Romney had to have seen this coming—no one polls on the ground like Romney. It was as if Romney was at war with the laws of physics as opposed to trying to persuade a quirky and eccentric regional segment of the US electorate.

Regard:

[…] Each candidate will focus on different elements of the conservative coalition, and who wins could say much about what issues are paramount to a party in transition.

Romney will press economic and cultural issues, hoping to contrast his views with those of McCain and Huckabee on taxes on immigration and those of Giuliani on immigration and abortion rights.

Despite his moderate past, he’ll argue that to be successful the party needs a candidate who can appeal to social, economic and security conservatives […]

Translation: Expect Romney to have learned nothing. Romney’s record of governance and his character do not support this message. Perhaps the party does need “a candidate who can appeal to social, economic and security conservatives.” But Romney has never done that, nor has he demonstrated that he can do it now. Precisely the opposite is the case. 

Back to Harris and Martin:

[…] There is no question that evangelical support — estimated by network entrance polls as 60 percent of the Republican caucus turnout — was critical to Huckabee’s victory.

But some strategists said that Huckabee has the ability to widen his support.

“His success was also due to his appeal as an authentic and genuine candidate that connected with middle America,” veteran conservative strategist Greg Mueller e-mailed.

“This is an important characteristic of his campaign as it heads to New Hampshire, where [former] Gov. Huckabee now needs to broaden his populist appeal by using the bully pulpit to contrast with McCain on populist themes such as his fair tax plan, immigration and fair trade. In each of these issue areas, Huckabee can position McCain as a Washington insider that represents special interests […]

Yes, only no. Gov. Huckabee will never attempt to position Sen McCain as anything other than a friend and national hero. Have Harris and Martin not been watching or listening to anything so far in this election cycle? And Gov. Huckabee will bypass NH altogether to invest his modest resources where he can be guaranteed a higher return, because this is how you develop a coalition from the ground up. Yes, “each candidate will focus on different elements of the conservative coalition, and who wins could say much about what issues are paramount to a party in transition,” but these “elements” specify themselves regionally—as we have argued elsewhere, politics specifies itself in space—ideology, demography, and geography all intertwine.

Apparently observers and commentators still need time to reflect upon the lesson of the 2008 Iowa caucuses.

Apparently so does Romney.

Wake up, dudes.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





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