Posts Tagged ‘failure’
[...] “Let me be the bearer of good news: no, Mitt Romney is still not acceptable,” writes Alex Knepper in a race42008.com blog burst titled The Case Against a Romney Vice-Presidency
Allow me to deconstruct the ridiculous fallacies that would lead one to support a Romney vice-presidential nomination [...]
Please read and enjoy Knepper’s arguments, one by one.
“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.
[...] “Operating in survival mode, Mr. Romney’s circle of advisers has come up with a detailed road map to try to salvage his campaign,” writes Michael Luo in a NYT article titled Romney Maps a Strategy for Survival
The plan is complete with a new infusion of cash from Mr. Romney, a long-term strategy intended to turn the campaign into a protracted delegate fight and a reframing of the race as a one-on-one battle for the future of the party that seeks to sound the alarm among conservatives about Mr. McCain.
The advisers have drawn up a list of states, dividing and ranking them into those considered relatively easy and inexpensive targets, along with a broader grouping of more costly battlegrounds where the advisers hope that Mr. Romney can be competitive.
Some states like Arizona and Arkansas, the home states of Mr. McCain and Mike Huckabee, respectively, are largely written off.
The question is whether the planning, along with the campaign’s one trump card, the candidate’s vast wealth, can overcome the growing sense of inevitability that has begun to attach itself to Mr. McCain.
Complicating the outlook, Mr. Romney’s campaign has been racked by infighting over advertising strategy between some senior advisers, including some consultants who joined the campaign after leaving Mr. McCain’s [...]
[...] The most serious obstacle in many places is Mr. Huckabee, who continues to pull social conservative voters from Mr. Romney.
“The more the Romney strategy hinges on picking up red states, the bigger a factor Mike Huckabee is going to be,” Mr. Harris said [...]
Only Romney precluded the possibility of ever reaching out to Gov. Huckabee voters when he went viciously negative against the candidate so many, many moons ago.
- Romney’s viciously negative attacks on Gov. Huckabee in Iowa still returning rich dividends for the hapless candidate from Bain Capital
- Cost: Romney’s furiously negative campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire may have already cost Romney the nomination by alienating Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain voters
- Luntz: “Romney made a ‘big mistake’ by going negative against Huckabee”—how a Faustian Romney rages against the laws of physics
But here would be a positive development for Romney. Romney’s anger may have turned on Team Romney itself. Romney may finally be thinking over whether his own organization is the cause of many of his woes.
[...] “The day after Feb. 5, Mr. Romney said he anticipated he would begin reviewing with his campaign team what states to go to next, as well as the budget. Mr. Romney seemed to allude to the possibility of downsizing his staff after Feb. 5,” writes Michael Luo in another NYT article, this time titled Romney Vows to Push on Past Tuesday
Yes. Only Romney may be pushing on past Tuesday with fewer of his hirelings and hangers-on to attend him.
“I mean, we have a very substantial staff, as you know, not what’s here but back in Boston,” he said. “And we had a big staff in Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire. That’s a much larger staff than you have as you go on to these subsequent primaries, so who are the people needed, where are we going to need them, what’s the campaign budget going to look like, all of those things.”
In typical Romney fashion the hapless candidate turned and flatly denied what he had just stated.
But then when pressed about the issue during a news conference in Minneapolis, he said there had been no discussions about downsizing [...]
But note what Romney said: “There had been no discussions”—does Romney mean that no one among his staff had discussed the issue of downsizing?—so was Romney riffing with reporters about plans he is developing independent of the candidate’s spectacularly ineffective personnel? Recall: This is the same lavishly funded and superbly equipped organization that delivered Romney Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, and other humiliating defeats.
“‘It’s over,’ one Romney advisor said of the former Massachusetts governor’s effort in his neighboring state’s primary,” writes anonymous in an abcnews.com Political Radar blog burst titled Romney Advisor: ‘Authenticity’ Made the Difference in N.H.
When asked what made the difference in Romney’s projected loss to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one Romney advisor simply said, “Authenticity.” Romney called to congratulate McCain at 8:20 p.m.
But the campaign is looking ahead, with staffers saying, “it is on to Michigan for round three.” [...]
Here is another idea. Don’t go to Michigan. Instead: Decide who you are before you do anything else.
[...] 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
(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.
[...] 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.
“DES MOINES — A year ago, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney gathered his campaign team for the first time at his suburban Boston home,” writes Michael D. Shear with the apt and able assistance of sidekick and drinking buddy, Perry Bacon Jr., scion of the legendary Perry Bacon, in a Wapo release titled Romney Strategy in Peril With Huckabee’s Ascent; Bid for Early States Appears in Jeopardy
There were PowerPoint presentations, and Ann Romney made sandwiches. “It was like the first day of school,” said one senior-level participant.
It was then that Romney put in motion his strategy to become president: Win Iowa and New Hampshire by wooing fiscal and social conservatives, and use that momentum to overwhelm the competition in the primaries that followed. But with less than two weeks before Iowans vote, that strategy is in danger of unraveling because former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has seized the conservative mantle and has emerged as the front-runner. His sudden rise in the past month — sparked by passionate support from the same Christian conservatives Romney has been unable to win over — has raised questions about Romney’s strategy.
Yes, well, we predicted all this weeks and weeks ago.
- Chris Cillizza provides further evidence against the success of the Romney von Schieffln plan
- Romney’s early state strategy; an investigation
- Romney’s early state strategy—an addendum
Back to Shear:
“In Iowa, someone was always going to challenge Romney as a conservative alternative,” said GOP consultant Scott Reed, who managed Robert J. Dole’s presidential campaign in 1996. “Huckabee has caught the eyes of social conservatives in Iowa, and the issue is if they have grown enough in numbers to deliver a win.”
Romney’s advisers bristle at the notion that he could have run his campaign differently. They are particularly sensitive to charges that the former governor changed his positions on abortion, immigration and gay rights to be more in tune with Republican voters, particularly in Iowa. They say his conservative credentials are genuine.
And, they say, they always knew Romney would face a challenge like this, though at the December 2006 meeting, the talk was about former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani — not Huckabee.
“We were sitting around with a PowerPoint,” a senior adviser, one of a half-dozen who were at the December gathering, said on the condition of anonymity. “We weren’t sitting around with a crystal ball.”
Question: About Team Romney’s sudden clarity about the misguidedness of their “strategy,” is this genuine, or is this a naive, transparent attempt to manage expectations. Several remarks:
(1) Whether Team Romney wins or loses Iowa analysts will publish abroad how much Romney spent for every poll number relative to his rivals, and so will his rivals. Romney has so overspent, so wildly missed the mark, and so badly botched his operation that he has denied himself in advance the possibility of a clear win, an unequivocal victory.
- Romney poised to fail in Iowa no matter what the outcome (iii)—Romney’s massive spending using his own money has denied Romney the perception of a clean win on fair and equal terms
- Sargent: “[Grrrr-Romney] was spending $100,000 a week through October, and he’s now upped the ante to $200,000 a week [in NH]” (The same applies to Iowa)
Conclusion: any degree of expectations management now is risible on its face.
(2) Team Romney has—unbelievably—overshot the mark playing down expectations!—Their frank depictions of dejection and disarray within the Romney organization are conditioning expectations too effectively—Romney supporters themselves are beginning to despair.
Back to Shear:
A year later, Romney’s top aides spend their time in meetings working to beat back Huckabee’s challenge.
“Are there moments of quiet and sometimes not-so-quiet desperation? Of course,” another longtime adviser said. “But . . . this is the strategy we have. We don’t have the option of doing anything else.”
Note the tone of cruel gloom and helplessness. Note the utter failure of imagination. We predicted the pain and paralysis of the Romney campaign too:
Back to Shear:
Campaign spokesman Kevin Madden described the mood at the Boston headquarters as “determined” and “poised” these past few weeks, even as Romney’s lead in Iowa has evaporated. He said staff members are following the lead of their candidate, who appeared calm as ever last week as he skipped across Iowa in a rented jet.
Team Romney’s mood is “determined” and “poised”—translation: Team Romney is “brooding in apocalyptic despair,” and it has been for weeks now, long before Gov. Huckabee’s rise:
Back to Shear:
On the campaign trail, Romney tells how a friend, Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), told him in 2004 that he needed to start making preparations if he wanted to at least have the option of running for president.
Over the next year, Romney formed a PAC that he used to spread money to local candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire. In 2006, he became chairman of the Republican Governors Association, a position that gave him an excuse to travel regularly to those states.
And he began meeting with his brain trust: Spencer Zwick, his finance chief; Robert F. White, a partner at Bain Financial, the firm he started; Beth Myers, who would become his campaign manager; New Hampshire consultant Tom Rath; and Iowa consultant Gentry Collins, who headed the PAC. Benjamin L. Ginsberg was the PAC’s lawyer and also a confidant. Ron Kaufman, a top aide to President George H.W. Bush, was present, as were Mike Murphy, a consultant who ran Romney’s campaign for governor, and Dave Kochel, an Iowa strategist.
That group conceived the plan for Romney, who was hardly known outside of his home state and Utah.
“There are two ways to run: run as the front-runner, or you play the breakthrough/early-state strategy,” said one of Romney’s longtime advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “You don’t get to choose.”
What leadership. What moral courage. What political-moral imagination.
Why are the Romneys always telling us—and telling themselves!—what cannot be done?
The adviser added: “You burrow down deep and spend time building these organizations, going back over and over and over again. You are really playing for three years for about three weeks.”
The idea from the beginning was to focus on Romney’s business credentials and his reputation as a pragmatic problem-solver, as the savior of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and as governor of Massachusetts. It was assumed that Romney would have to work hard for acceptance in Iowa, where as many as 85 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers are against abortion rights.
Yet Romney could never develop within himself the courage, the focus, or the intention necessary to stay on topic. 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”
Further: Romney’s attempt to position himself as “conservative standard bearer” has failed miserably:
Rasmussen Reports: “Romney is now viewed as politically conservative by 38% of Republican voters and moderate or liberal by 43%—Those figures reflect an eight-point decline in the number seeing him as conservative and a ten-point increase in the number seeing him as moderate or liberal”
Back to Shear:
“He’s a Midwestern guy. He’s from Michigan. His family was always well received in Iowa,” a longtime adviser said. “We felt pretty good that we could do well in Iowa. And it was self-evident that if you are going to be running against John McCain, who was known in the party, and Rudy Giuliani, the fifth most famous man in the world, an early-state strategy was really the best — and perhaps only — way to establish a rationale.”
But Romney advisers concede their candidate has spent more time than they planned talking about social issues. They say that is because rival campaigns have forced him to react, and because of the rise of Huckabee, who has coalesced more of the Christian vote than past candidates.
If Huckabee wins the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3, Romney’s campaign will have four days to recover before making a stand in New Hampshire, where he is leading in recent opinion polls. Romney aides claim a potential upside for their candidate: Huckabee’s meteoric rise has reset expectations for Romney, who will be credited with a meaningful win in Iowa should he pull it off.
Romney no longer talks about Giuliani on the stump. His advisers barely mention former senator Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.). The message has become “all Huck, all the time,” though in the past several days Romney also has had to contend with a resurgence by McCain in New Hampshire. Romney last week began a barnstorming of three early-voting states by assailing Huckabee as a liberal, adding his own voice to new negative television ads and to mailings that his campaign has begun churning out every day.
On immigration, Romney cited Huckabee’s support for a bill that would have granted in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. On crime, he highlighted the 1,033 pardons and commutations Huckabee granted as governor. On the economy, he told reporters that Huckabee presided over a state budget that grew from $6 billion to $16 billion.
“I’m convinced that as people take a close look, that the good, conservative Republicans of South Carolina will be supporting a conservative candidate like myself and they won’t be supporting Governor Huckabee,” Romney said, campaigning in South Carolina on his way to Iowa. “But time will tell.”
Romney received a boost last week when Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed him, saying he believed Romney would protect the country’s borders.
Huckabee spent the week basking in newfound popularity in Iowa. A month ago, he was having events in pizza parlors with 40 people and almost no press. Last week, 200 people packed into a raucous event in West Des Moines, with 50 more waiting outside.
Huckabee has described Romney as “desperate,” and his descriptions of Huckabee’s record as “dishonest,” “misleading” and “unfair.” For the moment, Romney’s advisers insist, they feel apprehension but not panic. “Would we like it to be different? Of course,” said one adviser who has been with Romney for years. “You have to trust the team. You have to trust the strategy. You have to trust what your original instinct was. I think that’s where the governor is.”
Note the tone of abject despair. “You have to trust what your original instinct was. I think that’s where the governor is.”—groupthink, is what they call it.
How else do you account for Team Romney’s complete failure of the imagination?
“Senator John McCain who had previously been endorsed by the New Hampshire Manchester Union Leader was today endorsed by the Boston Globe and Des Moines Register,” writes FullosseousFlap in a FullosseousFlap Dental Blog post titled John McCain Watch: McCain Endorsed by Boston Globe and Des Moines Register
In a direct slap (or more like a knife in the back) at Mitt Romney – Romney was the Governor and is long time resident of Massachusetts, the Boston Globe played it safe with McCain and by its endorsement hopes to deny a New Hampshire victory to Romney.
The Des Moines Register disagrees with John McCain on a number of issues (including abortion rights) but denied the endorsement to Romney who has spent over $7 million in Iowa and who desperately needs a win in Iowa and New Hampshire to gather momentum to win later primary/caucus states.
Will these endorsements help John McCain?
But, McCain is short on campaign cash and organization. It is doubtful his campaign could parlay these endorsements into wins besides New Hamsphire and perhaps Michigan.
If anyone is a major beneficiary of these endorsements it is Rudy Giuliani. A muddled primary season with various winners in early states plays to his big state Super Duper Tuesday February 5th strategy … etc.
We concur. See:
“Mitt Romney’s pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination has followed a time-tested route with an unorthodox twist,” writes Dan Balz in a WaPo release titled Fighting Head Winds
His path reprises that of others who began their campaigns overshadowed by better-known opponents. The strategy is built on the belief that winning begets winning and that early victories produce inevitable, even unstoppable, momentum.This would be true if e.g. Romney had been a governor of Texas or California. The sad truth is that Romney’s path is without precedent.
What is unusual about Romney’s White House quest is that he is neither true dark horse nor formidable front-runner. He is neither the candidate poised to spring a surprise in Iowa or New Hampshire, nor the candidate judged by his fellow Republicans nationally as the top choice for the nomination — or even the second or third.
He has become burdened by a front-runner’s expectations without many of the traditional assets. Losses in any of the early states could significantly set back his hopes of winning — and that is what he faces in Iowa from a surging Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas …
… Some Republican strategists consider Romney’s campaign to be the most effective and skilled of any of the candidates. The man who built a fortune as a management consultant and venture capitalist and who turned around the scandal-ridden 2002 Winter Olympics has applied those skills to put himself into the thick of a race against better-known opponents such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Romney’s wake-up call to the rest of the party began Jan. 8, when he staged a national fundraising telethon in Boston that collected more than $6 million in pledges — a stunning accomplishment for someone who had served but one term as governor and had ended the previous year with a 5 percent approval rating in national polls.
He led the GOP field in fundraising in the first quarter of the year — and has shown since then both a capacity to continue raising money and a willingness to dig deep into his personal fortune. He stood out in the early debates — handsome and photogenic on stage and nimble enough to impress party activists who otherwise knew little about him.
And his team took an early gamble, putting Romney ads on television in Iowa and New Hampshire last spring — earlier than any candidate in history — and keeping them running through the year. The costly investment paid off: By summer, he topped polls in those states and forced his better-known opponents onto the defensive.
Yuh-huh. Only here’s the thing: the costly investment never paid off. If the costly investment had paid off Romney would not be in peril right now. And Romney has organized and funded the most spectacularly unsuccessful campaign in the history of the Republican primaries.
(1) Here is one problem with the claim that Romney’s “costly investment paid off”: competitive activity requires a competitor, and Romney was advertising all by himself for months and months. When you compete without a competitor you have no way to register performance, whether good or bad or whatever—i.e. your learning opportunities are null bordering on void. Regard: If you run alone you can run against your best time and try to surpass it. But if you have only ever run alone then “best time” has objective ground only as an index of your own development as a runner, nor do you have any objective ground against which to rate your “development.” Yet the Romney campaign—with no objective grounds whatsoever—incredibly, unbelievably, interpreted their rising numbers as progress, even as their marginal rate of return crashed and kept crashing! (This means that they were paying more and more for less and less.)
(2) Because (1) the Romney campaign—and Dan Balz—incorrectly interpreted their rising numbers in the early primary states as success, Team Romney optimized to exploit their non-success, i.e. they narrowed their focus to what activities seemed to return a yield at the expense of other activities or functions. In business research literature this is called the Icarus Effect (Miller 1993, if memory serves). Since what returned success for Team Romney reduced to spending lots and lots of money, Team 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 continue an endeavor once an investment in money, effort, or time has been made.”
(3) Also: Losers learn—why everyone forgets this primary lesson of any goal-oriented, competitive activity is a mystery to us. The other campaigns observed Romney’s imprudent, borderline irrational antics and developed strategies and lines of argument to compensate—e.g. Mayor Giuliani, in a move worthy of Hannibal or Sun Tzu, simply wrote off Iowa completely to deny Romney the opportunity of an unequivocal victory, a low-cost but low-gain decision that earned Hizzoner lots of ridicule and abuse. But in the paradoxical logic of strategy, the worst possible route from ‘a’ to ‘b’ can be the most effective route. Hizzoner gained nothing, but he didn’t lose a lot either, and he denied Romney a decisive victory despite all the many millions that Romney squandered. Only now is it becoming clear to others the wisdom of Hizzoner’s tactical withdrawal.
(4) Distinct competencies deprecate with every passing moment—every mail room clerk with a BA in business or out-of-work freak with an online MBA knows this—it is a wonder to us that Team Romney doesn’t. Romney’s only distinct competency is his vast personal fortune which he can call upon at any time—otherwise Romney’s has considered it his task to render himself non-distinct by reversing himself on every policy position he has ever had and adopting a crude, caricatured, and unreconstructed conservative line, and by trying to pretend to be an Evangelical (Christ, apparently, is Romney’s personal savior, a formula unfamiliar to the Mormon confession). To negate Romney’s only distinct competency would only require that a high ROI campaign like Gov. Huckabee’s or Mayor Giuliani make an issue of Romney’s self-funding and exceedingly low ROI (as Gov. Huckabee delights in doing).
Note to Balz et al: To combine (1) through (4) returns defeat, disaster, and complete humiliation, not success. Try, Mr. Balz, to look beyond the motorcades, the sparkly-glossy campaign media products, the candidate’s insipid powerpoints, the entourage of hirelings, the sniveling court eunuchs in handsome suits who hover about the imperious person of Romney himself etc. What is Romney’s RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI) should be the decisive question.
Back to Balz:
Despite those successes, Romney’s candidacy has fought head winds from the start. Beyond the issue of his Mormon faith, he has been dogged by the charge that he is a flip-flopper who ran as a pro-choice moderate when he tried to unseat Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) in 1994 and then became an ardent abortion opponent in his presidential campaign.
Well, duh. What idiot told Romney that this would be a winning strategy?
Back to Balz:
The challenge from Huckabee in Iowa has become an unexpected obstacle to Romney’s strategy. He could face equally vigorous opposition from Giuliani and McCain in New Hampshire. And when the Republican field moves South to states with a high numbers of evangelical Christians, the issue of his religion will face its ultimate test.
Yes. We predicted this outcome. Because Romney telegraphed his punches in the early primary states, and because Romney made a great noise about his strategy and “inevitability,” and because of the popular perception that Romney has failed to respect the rules of the game, Romney now faces a divided field united only in their bitter opposition to Romney.
Also: we would argue that Gov. Huckabee’s rise is an artifact of Romney’s frantic spending. Here is our argument.
(1) Consider the concept of the breakout population—say that whale stocks crash and orcas begin consuming sea otters—this is an actual example—what is the result?—kelp forests disappear as sea urchin populations, a prey species of the sea otter, explode—this is an example of a breakout population. Moral: to disturb a critical node—in this case, a keystone predator—can cause breakouts elsewhere in the network.
(2) Romney by virtue of his vast personal fortune has suppressed the activities of the top tier candidates, the keystone predators who regulate the system. So Gov. Huckabee despite—or almost because of—his second tier status and lack of funds or organization suddenly, and powerfully, breaks out, which is the best possible outcome for Mayor Giuliani and Sen. McCain, both of whom can now sit quietly by and allow Romney to destroy himself as he tries to dislodge Gov. Huckabee.
(3) Elsewhere we discussed how Romney’s activities have distorted perceptions of the primary race in the same sense that subsidies or bailouts undermine the efficiency of a market to return prices that are an index of value:
Back to Balz:
Having bet on doing well in the early states, he will now live or die by the results … etc., etc.
Yes, we too used to agree that Romney would live or die according to the tests of Iowa and New Hampshire. But now we would argue otherwise. We predict that Romney will fight right up to, and on the floor of, a bitterly contested GOP convention. Romney has simply spent too much money—recall the “sunk cost effect“—besides: anything less than the GOP nomination would be too great a humiliation for him to bear. Besides: Romney honestly believes that he deserves the nomination and he is willing to defend his claim.
“Like a kid who always does his homework and always raises his hand in class, Mitt Romney’s ambition and organization have both an upside and a downside,” writes the estimable Matt Lewis in a townhall.com post titled Is Romney Losing the Iowa Expectations Game?
At least that’s what I gleaned from my conversation today with Ed Failor, a top Iowa Republican activist.
Failor believes that when the post-Iowa stories are written, reporters and pundits will take into consideration the massive amount of money Romney has spent in building an organization that — for the first time ever — goes all the way down to the county level.
“If he is the Republican nominee, I support Mitt Romney. But I just think he is the guy most at risk to take the biggest hit on Prom night, because he has spent so much more money than everyone else,” says Failor.
Failor believes people could be surprised by Mike Huckabee — or possibly even Rudy Giuliani.
But even if one of these men comes in second to Mitt Romney, the expectations are now set that Romney has spent so much time and energy in Iowa that the second-place finisher should still be far behind Romney. In short, it’s not enough for Romney to win; he has to devastate his opponents. That’s setting the bar pretty high.
By working so hard in Iowa, Romney may have inadvertently created a situation in which there is little upside to winning, and where finishing second would be devastating.
Conversely, let’s suppose Mike Huckabee spends a fraction of what Mitt Romney does in Iowa, yet finishes close behind Romney, in second place. Huckabee’s team might then spin the results and argue they actually won Iowa. Of course, if this were effective, it might also diminish the bump Romney gets coming out of the state … etc., etc.
Willard Milton Romney has set himself up to fail!?—we’re shocked, we tell you. Shocked. Seriously, dear readers, for months and months we’ve snarfed and guffawed derisively as Romney worked assiduously to sabotage his own campaign. Here’s a blast from the past to prove our point:
“None of this happens by accident,” writes young Justin of the Heart Land in a preening and self-congratulatory MyManMitt post titled The Ability to Execute.
The plan is laid, the efforts set and the execution is nearly flawless. Classic Team Romney.
The plan is laid?—who talks like this? This sounds too much like the trap is set.
Young Justin refers to the value voters summit:
Take this last week for example. Think of it in terms of a business case study, outlining the “challenge”, proposing a “solution”, targeting specific “benefits” and measuring “results”.
CHALLENGE: Disolve concerns about Mitt’s Mormonism among Conservative Evangelicals.
SOLUTION: Highlight the Governor as the only leading candidate meeting 100% of the SoCon values and win endorsements from leading Evangelicals leading up to the seminal pre-primary “Values Voters” conference.
BENEFITS: Develop day after day endorsements followed by a good showing at the straw poll giving serious momentum to the campaign among Evangelicals and building qualified talking points to address the Mormon question.
EXECUTION PLAN … etc., etc.
Only here is the problem. The “plan” backfired painfully. The endorsers backed away in horror when they realized that their activists and donor base had refused to follow their lead. See:
- out-of-touch Evangelical “leaders” stunned by Huckabee upset at the value voters summit—prepared to sigh, shrug, and coronate Romney as their Lord, G_d, and King—oh, the irony!
- Pat Robertson: value voters summit represents “a narrow slice of Evangelical thought”
What the Romneys need is less of a Justin Hart let-us-delight-in-our-superior-organization approach, and more of an outcomes based approach that focuses on what we in the working world call results.
Hey, Justin?—just as an aside—do you think Evangelicals like being touted—shown off like war-trophies—in your blog-post? Do you think they appreciate you depicting them as the passive objects of your misguided communications campaign? (How can Boy Perkins deny the charge of being a sell-out, or, worse, a patsy, now?) Don’t you think they would rather be depicted as thinking, reasoning beings who arrived at a decision for Romney based on their own estimation of the candidates, their values, and their goals? Just a thought, dude. But, hey, you’re doing a great job!—for former Mayor Giuliani.
Back to young Justin:
Regardless of what you think about “Romney the candidate”… “Romney the campaign” is unmatched in its ability to execute …
Here is what impressed us the most about Justin’s strange epistle: Justin, by his own admission, really doesn’t care what you think about “Romney the candidate.” Rather, he wants you to marvel at how the campaign plans and executes. What sort of message does this send? What sort of campaign is this? What sort of candidate is this? Is there anyone in charge over at Team Romney? Any adults, we mean? Is anyone thinking any of this through? We would really like to know.