“When former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney closes the books on his latest campaign finance report today, it will reveal a slow but steady shift from a candidacy built on thousands of individual donations to one relying increasingly on his own personal fortune,” writes the estimable Matthew Mosk with the aid of his fast-learning apprentice, Perry Bacon Jr., and crack researcher Madonna Lebling, in a Washington Post article titled Report to Show Romney Fortune’s Bigger Role

Top Romney advisers said last week that they expected his campaign to raise almost $40 million in the first nine of months this year. And though they have not released a firm figure, they expected that Romney will have supplemented those contributions with nearly $15 million of his own money.

Romney’s candidacy has quietly morphed into one of the nation’s first hybrid campaigns for a major-party presidential nomination: one that is neither a traditional bid built on individual donations nor a self-funded effort such as those launched by billionaires Steve Forbes and Ross Perot.

“Romney is something different,” said Jennifer A. Steen, a Boston College professor who has written a book on self-financed candidates.

That Romney is spending some of his personal fortune, estimated to be between $190 million and $250 million, in part reflects a decline in donations to his campaign. He led all of the GOP contenders in fundraising during the first three months of the year. But he relied in large part on maximum donations from business allies in Massachusetts, where he ran the venture capital company Bain Capital Partners, as well as from fellow Mormons in Utah, where Romney managed the 2002 Winter Olympics. His donations from those two states fell sharply between April and June.

Romney’s personal money has helped him avoid the plight of another White House contender, Sen. John McCain, who found himself laying off staff in July while Romney was able to air ads in key primary states. His spending is a more dramatic and expansive version of what then-candidate John F. Kerry did in December 2003, when the Democratic senator from Massachusetts lent his campaign more than $6 million in a last-ditch effort that helped him win the Iowa caucuses …

… Ron Kaufman, a top Romney adviser who attended the event, said it sent a powerful message to potential supporters who might have wondered whether Romney would simply run on his personal fortune.

“As self-funding, big-spending candidates have proven, it doesn’t get you anything,” Kaufman said. “The bottom line is: The way to be a candidate for president is prove you can put the organization together, prove to the voters that you’ve earned the right to be a serious candidate for president. You’ve got to earn it; you can’t buy it.”

After that [Romney’s campaign launch], Romney punctuated that message, telling reporters that it would be “akin to a nightmare” if he were forced to contribute much of his own money to his presidential effort.

By the end of the first fundraising quarter, which closed on March 31, he had posted a headline-grabbing $21 million total, helping to vault him into the top tier of candidates seeking the GOP nomination.

That figure was critical to establishing Romney as a viable candidate. As almost an afterthought, the campaign revealed that the candidate had also put $2.4 million into his campaign account. When asked about it by a Boston Globe reporter, an aide stressed that the money was a loan to the campaign, not a gift.

Over the next three months, the balance between the money Romney raised from contributors and the money he drew from his own accounts began to shift. His fundraising haul dropped to $14 million, compared with the $17 million total of one of his top rivals, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and the more than $32 million taken in by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). But Romney also lent himself an additional $6.5 million.

At a news conference, he signaled that his message about the role his bank accounts would play had shifted. “It would be nice not to have to loan or contribute to your own campaign, but the reality is, if you want to have a strong campaign that gets out there and can talk across the nation, you’re going to have to do what’s necessary,” he told reporters.

Kevin Madden, a campaign spokesman, said Romney’s top advisers carefully weighed the political implications of turning to the candidate’s own money for help. What they determined, he said, was that the investments the campaign was making in early television ads were yielding a return, and that the campaign appeared to be blossoming.

“In order to maintain the campaign’s growth, we needed to have the resources,” Madden said. “The decision was to match that growth with his own personal contribution, so this campaign would not be short of resources, so we would remain competitive and grow into a national organization.”

The campaign also faced a significant challenge that was not confronting Romney’s chief Republican rivals, Giuliani, McCain and former senator Fred D. Thompson of Tennessee: Romney is much less well-known around the country.

Romney “invested” — the term his campaign likes to use to describe the use of his personal resources — significant sums in paid advertisements, far outpacing the other candidates by devoting more than $6 million to television spots, according to Evan Tracey of the Campaign Media Analysis Group. He also poured money into Iowa, assembling an operation for the state’s straw poll that included a statewide corps of 60 “super-volunteers,” who were paid between $500 and $1,000 per month to talk up his candidacy; a fleet of buses; a direct-mail campaign; and a straw poll consultant who was paid nearly $200,000 …

Romney’s aides have signaled that he will report putting in about $6 million more of his own money over the past three months, and there are reasons for this. Romney’s poll numbers in New Hampshire are slipping; and with him still running fourth among the leading GOP contenders in national surveys, his campaign sent out a memo both to reassure supporters and to lower their expectations.

And as Romney prepared to release his third-quarter numbers this week, he began hinting that he will be using even more of his own money. He presented at an event in California a new rationale for doing this — far from the “nightmare” he had described earlier — telling supporters that, by dipping into his pocket, he would not be “beholden to any particular group for getting me into this race or for getting me elected”more

What interests us about this article is how succinctly it chronicles how every conclusion that the Romney campaign reaches is based on self-deception and circular reasoning. Consider what we call the Madden Doctrine—we call it that because in the article it gets articulated by Romney’s maddeningly inarticulate helper-monkey Keven Madden, and because it is maddeningly circular—it goes like this:

  1. We determined that the investments the campaign was making in early television ads were yielding a return
  2. Because of these investments the campaign appeared to be blossoming.
  3. In order to maintain the campaign’s growth, we needed to have the resources.”
  4. So: “The decision was to match that growth with his own personal contribution, so this campaign would not be short of resources, so we would remain competitive and grow into a national organization.”

To paraphrase: we believed our early television ad buys were working; the campaign appeared to be blossoming. (Note the use of the modal operator appeared—was it blossoming, or wasn’t it?) But to keep blossoming—to maintain our “growth”—we needed more resources—i.e. we needed more of Romney’s cash. Here is the problem: the Romney campaign was hardly “blossoming” or “growing”—i.e. developing a base of support, i.e. people willing to invest their labour or substance in the campaign—if the blossoming and growing were only sustainable with massive infusions of cash from Romney’s personal accounts. Apparent is right!—what Madden describes as “growth” was, and is, an illusion, an artifact of Romney-cash and not of interest in the candidate himself—otherwise the campaign would call on its supporters to support it, a far surer and more reliable sign of political strength.

In other words, the campaign spent lots of money, Romney-money. In return the Romneys got lots of attention. Only in the Romney-Hall-of-Mirrors this attention somehow got mistook for a “blossoming” of “growth” and support—it was not as if the Romneys were trying to deceive anyone—per contra: they had managed to deceive themselves. Now the campaign is announcing further Romney infusions to maintain the illusion as opposed to developing a genuine base, coalition, or successful message!—it is as if a patient on palliative care mistook the absence of pain as a sign that they should forgo a life-saving surgery—such is the power of illusion born of self-deception, and such are the addictive properties of free money among Romney’s entourage of parasites and hangers-on, the hireling flaks and flatterers that pass for Romney’s campaign staff.

We have been both predicting, and chronicling, these melancholy developments here for weeks now—we started this blog to follow these events to their inevitable conclusion—question: are we the only ones who have made note of this slow motion train wreck? For only a small sampling see:

Conclusion: Romney as a candidate exists only by virtue of his vast personal fortune. Romney has no base. Romney has no following. And: the man and his staff are ridiculously incompetent—bafflingly so.

Romney is more than an aberration or a transitional figure. Of this we are convinced. He is a sign of a troubled and corrupt era.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

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  1. 1 Scherer: subtract the money Romney gave himself and Romney had just as much cash on hand in June as McCain did, a little more than $3 million—”at the time, this was seen as a disastrous state of affairs for McCain, prompting the departure of h

    […] more on this theme see: Romney’s self-financing an artifact of Romney’s self-deception—we call it the Madden […]

  2. 2 Romney’s “burn rate” un-sustainable; further evidence of Romney’s frighteningly low campaign dollar ROI « who is willard milton romney?

    […] Romney’s self-financing an artifact of Romney’s self-deception—we call it the Madden Doctrine […]

  3. 3 Benin: Romney’s Jihad advertisement “strikingly ignorant”—on Romney and his illiterati « who is willard milton romney?

    […] Romney’s self-financing an artifact of Romney’s self-deception—we call it the Madden Doctrine […]

  4. 4 Kleefeld: “High Burn Rate Puts Romney Behind Rudy In Cash On Hand”—more evidence of the scarily low ROI Romney gets for his campaign dollar « who is willard milton romney?

    […] Romney’s self-financing an artifact of Romney’s self-deception—we call it the Madden Doctrine […]

  5. 5 Romney ponders Ross Perot « who is willard milton romney?

    […] Madonna Lebling, in a Washington Post article titled Report to Show Romney Fortune’s Bigger Role: […]

  6. 6 Romney campaign a victim of the “sunk cost effect”—also: how Gov. Huckabee’s sudden ascendancy is an artifact of the Romney campaign misguided activities « who is willard milton romney?

    […] continued to do so, only harder, faster, and more recklessly. Elsewhere we referred to this as The Madden Doctrine, what some would call the “sunk cost effect … manifested in a greater tendency to […]




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