Ruffini: the failure of the Romney campign “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”

“In fairness to Team Romney, they did more right than not,” writes Patrick Ruffini in a 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.


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