Posts Tagged ‘law of diminishing marginal returns’

“Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister riding a wave of support from fundamentalist Christians, tops Mitt Romney for first place in a new Des Moines Register poll of Iowans planning to attend Thursday’s Republican caucuses,” writes Jonathan Roos in a DeMoines Register article titled GOP poll: Huckabee maintains lead over Romney

In a battle of former governors from Arkansas and Massachusetts, Huckabee leads Romney, 32 percent to 26 percent.

This despite months of massive spending, organizing, and near media saturation by Romney:

This despite Romney’s relentless attacks on the person and character of Gov. Huckabee for weeks now, combined with the GOP establishment’s infantile freakout over Gov. Huckabee’s rise:

Back to Roos:

“I really like it that he is a religious man and social conservative. That is pretty important to me, especially the right to life,” said Huckabee supporter Alyssa Stealey, 20, of Charter Oak, who is also drawn to his call for tax reform.

Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister riding a wave of support from fundamentalist Christians, tops Mitt Romney for first place in a new Des Moines Register poll of Iowans planning to attend Thursday’s Republican caucuses.

In a battle of former governors from Arkansas and Massachusetts, Huckabee leads Romney, 32 percent to 26 percent.

“I really like it that he is a religious man and social conservative. That is pretty important to me, especially the right to life,” said Huckabee supporter Alyssa Stealey, 20, of Charter Oak, who is also drawn to his call for tax reform … etc.

The DeMoines Register poll is consistent with other polling:

“Well, there’s a new Iowa poll out: the Reuters-Zogby, which shows Mike Huckabee with a two point lead over Mitt Romney,” writes the writer of the watersblogged blog in a post titled Romneybust!

Since the most recent poll has Huckabee leading- and since Romney’s newly-minted RCP average lead (owing to at a poll with yet another pro-Romney result so out of step with the others to be suspect) has shrunken overnight to .04%- I guess we must be witnessing a Romney implosion.

Or at least that’s the conclusion one reaches if one uses the the logic pro-Romney folks have been using over and over and over during the past two weeks to demonstrate that a “Huckabust” was underway (“Yes! Huckabee is imploding!…uh, ok, NOW. Now Huckabee is imploding… well, OK. Now. Now for sure….”)

Have to congratulate them on one thing, though. Just before this most recent poll- the one that shows Huckabee in the lead- the Romney folks finally managed, after two weeks of proclaiming that their candidate had recovered and that Mike Huckabee was history- for the first time since early December have actually been able to cite two consecutive Iowa polls showing Romney in the lead!

With tne latest poll, of course, the streak is over. Worse, the Huckabee lead is one point bigger than that shown by the Reuters-Zogby poll of the day before.

That poll was, for some reason, not included in the RCP average- and seems, however tentatively, to suggest a trend toward Huck … etc.

Conclusion: Even if Romney ekes out a victory—or: even if Romney scores a double-digit blow-out—Romney’s fantastically low ROI, i.e. how much he has expended for how little he got in return and against under-funded and un-organized rivals, will be the real story coming out of the Iowa. MarkG of race42008.com makes the case tongue-in-cheek:

My gut feeling tells me Mitt will now swap places with Huck for the actual caucus figure. The headlines will say Mitt spent his estimated 9 million bucks wisely to get circa 30,000 votes. The press will speak long and verbosely about how wise Mitt was to finance his campaign by as much as a third, and speculation will run wild for days about how much of Mitt’s finances were from his own pockets … etc.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Mitt Romney, who a month ago believed his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire were bought and paid for, is now scrambling to remain competitive in both states, continuing to outspend his adversaries by a wide margin, saturating the Iowa and New Hampshire airwaves with anti-Huckabee and anti-McCain commercials,” writes Thomas B. Edsall in an article for Huffpo titled Mitt Romney Down for the Count?

From a purely business point of view the past four weeks have marked an extraordinary setback for the Romney campaign.

Since January 1, 2007, the former Massachusetts governor has spent well in excess of $80 million, including at least $17.4 million of his own money, paying media fees in excess of $30 million, salaries of roughly $16 million, and consulting payments of more than $15 million.

This is a string upon which we have harped for months. Most recently here and here:

Back to Edsall:

Among Romney’s costly innovations this year has been putting more than 80 local conservative leaders in key states on his campaign payroll, in what amounts to a 21st Century revival of “walk-around money.”

Interesting. We would like to know who?—which “conservative leaders? What “conservative” leaders sold themselves to the Romneys? We already know a few of their names.

Back to Edsall:

For a long time – through the summer and well into November — the Romney “early state” strategy aimed at winning Iowa and New Hampshire looked as if it had paid off in spades.

From August 26 to November 27, Romney led in 26 straight polls in Iowa, sometimes by as much as 23 points. In New Hampshire, Romney saw his advantage grow to 15 points in mid-December.

Since those halcyon days, however, Romney has fallen into second place in Iowa, running roughly four points behind former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. In New Hampshire, Romney’s double digit lead has steadily eroded, while John McCain, who was trailing by 11 to 18 points at the start of December, has surged to within 3.5 percentage points.

Romney, in the assessment of most political analysts, can still pull it out. But even after accommodating social issue conservatives by abandoning his formerly moderate stance on such cultural/moral matters as gay rights and abortion, Romney finds himself struggling to convince voters that he is a legitimate conservative while simultaneously ripping into the ideological credentials of his competitors …

Romney is still losing ground on this front:

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”

Edsall recounts Romney’s non-endorsements: No newspaper has endorsed him while the more liberal Concord Monitor and the conservative NH Union Leader have un-endorsed the hapless candidate.

Back to Edsall:

… Strategically, the problem for the relatively bland Romney created by both editorials is that they feed into one of his key weaknesses, a sense among voters that they do not know what he stands for.

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times asked Republican voters, “Regardless of your choice for president, who do you think has been best at saying what they believe, rather than saying what they think the voters want to hear: Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Mitt Romney or Fred Thompson?” Romney, at 8 percent, trailed the field, with Huckabee leading at 20 percent, Giuliani at 18, Thompson at 15 and McCain at 13.

Desperate to regain his advantage, Romney has sent out a mass emailing of a news story from a marginal, conservative web site that described McCain as having “a vicious, out-of-control temper;” Thompson as “sour looking” and as burdened by “a lazy streak;” Mike Huckabee as a politician known for “nastiness…bigotry…serial ethics violations and misuse of funds;” and Giuliani as the man who appointed a police commissioner later “indicted for dealings involving figures with ties to the Mafia.”

On television, Romney is sending two different messages to Iowa and New Hampshire …

… Today, however, in a sign of the dangers Romney faces, he put up a sharply negative ad …

The emphases are ours, all ours.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“The return on investment probably would not have impressed Mitt Romney in his former life as a cold-eyed venture capitalist,” writes the able and precise Mike Dorning for the chicagotribune.com in an article titled Romney’s big ad buys don’t pre-empt foes; So far, he’s getting little bang for buck [link, alas, requires a tedious and invasive registration, but it's worth it], a theme on which we have elaborated for months.

As of Dec. 16, the Romney campaign had spent $16 million on television advertising — more than the two leading Democratic candidates combined, according to data compiled by TNS Media Intelligence Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Yet the former Massachusetts governor is struggling in national polls against Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani, who had spent $600,000 and $2.3 million respectively, according to the same data.

What does that money get you? As of mid-November, with nearly two months to go before the first votes are cast, Romney had aired nearly 17,000 TV commercials, according to the Nielsen Co. More than 7,400 of them aired in Iowa alone.

Conventional wisdom counts a well-funded television advertising offensive among the most potent weapons in a campaign. TV commercials, after all, are where most of the money goes in major political campaigns.

But particularly in the GOP primary campaign, the big spender’s ads aren’t yet showing much bang for the buck.

Yes. Further: the “Huckabee boomlet” in Iowa moved Gov. Huckabee’s numbers in other states, e.g. SC, FL, MI, and nationally. This, according to Newport of Gallup, predicts what a win for Gov. Huckabee in Iowa would achieve—other wins.

Yet when Romney’s poll numbers drifted aloft like the clouds above Iowa, Romney’s poll numbers nationally and in every state except where he advertised heavily failed to move in the least. What does this mean? More on that here:

What the Huckabee “boomlet” reveals about Romney

Back to Dorning:

Part of the explanation is the highly fluid GOP presidential contest and the unusually varied strategies the candidates have pursued to adapt their campaigns to the highly compressed primary calendar, said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNS Media Intelligence.

And Romney’s big early advertising buys and willingness to dip into his personal fortune to fund his campaign probably made his opponents especially wary of releasing money for TV ads early, for fear that they would be unable to answer if Romney opened his wallet for a last-minute blitz, Tracey said.

“To some extent, it froze the other well-funded candidates on the Republican side,” Tracey said. “You don’t want to run out of money at the end, when the ads are perceived to be the most important.”

Yuh-huh. We predicted how the other campaigns would adapt themselves to Romney’s von Schliefflin plan.

We also predicted how Romney’s over-spending would compel other candidates to conserve and withhold:

how Romney’s early state strategy is creating conditions that resemble a general election

Back to Dorning:

The Internet also is emerging as an important component of campaign media strategies, though still not as significant as TV advertising. In many cases, campaigns are producing video ads for the Internet or seeking broader audiences for their television ads by e-mailing them to supporters or posting them on sites like YouTube.

Giuliani, whose campaign comes closest to Romney’s in funding strength, has been husbanding his resources for a strategy that concentrates on later, delegate-rich states such as Florida and then New York, California and Illinois — all dominated by media markets with high advertising costs. Those are the states where Giuliani believes Republicans are most open to a social moderate like himself.

Still, the former New York mayor’s slow start in television advertising could be contributing to his recent slip in polls.

Huckabee light on TV exposure

Huckabee went most of 2007 with few financial resources and concentrated on gaining a boost from the Iowa caucuses by cultivating support among Christian evangelicals, a constituency not as easily reached by television advertising.

“Huckabee is really a phenomenon as Republicans search for a real Republican and the religious voters search for a candidate who is supportive of their social values and consistently so. You add in the fact that he’s a rock musician and very articulate and witty,” said Bill Carrick, a Democratic media strategist.

Romney has built his campaign around a conventional strategy of building national momentum through strong showings in the three early Republican contests — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

He started his campaign with the disadvantage of a minimal national profile while facing such well-recognized rivals as Giuliani, famous nationwide for leading New York City during the Sept. 11 attacks; Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a prominent politician with a compelling life story already known to voters in early-voting states through his 2000 presidential campaign; and Fred Thompson, a former senator and actor who was a regular on the network TV show “Law & Order.”

Though Romney already had some following in New Hampshire from his tenure as governor of neighboring Massachusetts, he rose in the polls there and particularly in Iowa and South Carolina after he launched an early and robust ad campaign ahead of his opponents.

“He was an asterisk at the start of the campaign, and now he’s a front-runner. So you can’t quarrel too much with what they’ve done with advertising,” Carrick said.

Arguably, the most effective use of TV advertising in presidential primary campaigns is for just such an introductory role, allowing candidates to present themselves to voters on their own terms, with a message unfettered by the news media’s independent analysis … etc., etc.

Our question: Why has Romney’s advertising failed—why when Romney has achieved nearly complete saturation on the airwaves of Iowa does he trail the under-funded and relatively un-organized Gov. Mike Huckabee? See:

More on Romney’s ridiculously low ROI: Romney reaches total saturation in Iowa—for example, he purchased 2,000 GRPs in Cedar Rapids alone—yet he still trails perilously behind the under-funded and under-organized Gov. Mike Huckabee

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Mitt Romney is up with well over 1,000 gross ratings points in every major Iowa television market this week, a footprint that that is significantly larger than that of his nearest competitor,” writes Jonathan Martin for the politico.com in a post titled Romney saturating Iowa airwaves

Romney has purchased over 2,000 points on Cedar Rapids TV, just over 1,700 in Des Moines and just shy of 1,500 in Davenport. The three markets comprise the vast swath of central and eastern Iowa and are the largest in terms of Iowans reached in the state. The records were provided by a Democratic source who tracks media buys.Roughly speaking, 1,000 points means that the typical viewer will be exposed to an ad 10 times in a given week. Ad buys larger than 1,000 points are generally considered as having reached “saturation.”

Beyond these three markets, Romney also has ads up in the four cities that serve Iowa viewers (including 1,900 points in the heavily GOP Sioux City market) … etc.

Further, while Romney hemorrhages money in Iowa for continuously diminishing marginal returns, he hemorrhages credibility in New Hampshire as

(a) No newspaper has endorsed him while the more liberal Concord Monitor and the conservative NH Union Leader have un-endorsed the hapless candidate

and

(b) Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain have formed an Iowa-New Hamphshire axis, as reported by Michael Levenson of the Boston Globe in a story titled McCain, Huckabee form unusual alliance against Romney

John McCain and Mike Huckabee have become unusual allies, united by their desire to stop Mitt Romney from winning the early presidential nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

While Huckabee and McCain have repeatedly criticized Romney, they have showered each other with affection. McCain has lauded Huckabee as “a man of integrity, honesty, and decency.” And Huckabee has praised McCain as “a true, honest-to-God American hero.”

The warmth between them may be heartfelt, but both men recognize that they need each other over the next two weeks. McCain needs Huckabee to beat Romney in Iowa’s Republican caucuses on Jan. 3, so that Romney is weakened for the New Hampshire primary five days later. And Huckabee needs McCain to draw votes from Romney in Iowa. Polls indicate McCain and Romney are in a statistical tie in New Hampshire, and Huckabee is leading Romney In Iowa … etc.

We predicted long ago that other campaigns would react by acting in concert to Romney’s ill-advised attempts to shut them out of the early states:

Romney bravely—or unwittingly—faces the gathering storm, er, we mean swarm

By concerting their activities, Sen. McCain and Gov. Huckabee significantly lower the costs of engaging Romney while forcing Romney to divide and disperse his efforts to resist them.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





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