Posts Tagged ‘Madden Doctrine’

“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.

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

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:

how Romney’s spending has distorted perceptions in Iowa and New Hampshire

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.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.


“Mitt Romney entered the presidential race with a lot less name recognition than the likes of Rudy Giuliani and John McCain — so in order to get to the top, he’s had to spend a lot of money, including much of his own,” explains Eric Kleefeld in a TPM ElectionCentral post titled High Burn Rate Puts Romney Behind Rudy In Cash On Hand:

So despite out-raising the rest of the GOP field, Romney no longer leads the race in cash on hand.

Romney now has less cash on hand than Giuliani — $9.2 million to Rudy’s $12 million — and has spent a stunning $52 million up through the third quarter compared to only $30 million spent by Rudy … etc., etc.

Another problem for Romney—although his apologists spin it as a strength—is his frighteningly small donor base. In a post titled who will win, Jason Bonham explains:

How is it that Romney can raise more over all -and only 500K less in the last quarter- than Rudy when he has less than half of the supporter base as evidenced by RCP National Averages?

… A hallmark of effective campaign organization surely is how much money you can extract from your base. If you don’t have the organization in a Republican primary, how will you do it in a general where opinion of the GOP is at a low? etc., etc.

How much you can extract from your base?!—Romney doesn’t have a base—what Romney has is too narrow to be called a “base”—an index of Romney’s donor fatigue is Romney’s own self-financing. At any rate, we have harped upon this string—the string of Romney’s ridiculously low ROI for his every campaign dollar—for weeks drawing into months. The always on-point John Xavier of Elephant Biz in a post titled Snapshot of the Race arrives at the same conclusion based on the same data—the emphasis is ours, all ours:

“Giuliani is in a commanding position leading both the money game and the polls, not to mention he doesn’t have significant debt. Romney’s campaign, on the other hand, would be bankrupt if he wasn’t using his vast personal wealth to keep it afloat. Could this be a sign that potential donors are passing because he can’t gain traction in the polls?”etc., etc.

Here is the point: Romney’s ROI is falling, not rising.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Another week, another big ad buy for Mitt Romney,” writes Graniteprof in a Granitprof blog post titled Watch Mitt spend: Another $100K ad buy in New Hampshire

For 134 spots during the week of Oct. 10-16, his campaign spent almost $134,000 at WMUR-TV. All told, Romney has handed over more than a quarter-million dollars to WMUR in October alone. At this rate, Romney will spend $1.5 million on New Hampshire television before the year’s out — and that, of course, is not including the much pricier Boston market.The only other Republican currently up on WMUR is John McCain, who spent another $77,000 this week, for a total of $155,000 in October.

And Rudy stays dark … more

The Romneys know that their leads in the polls—leads that only obtain in the specific media markets where the Romneys are spending their personal fortune—are as fragile and ephemeral as Nielsen Ratings after a sweeps week. Their leads in the polls are—and are only—a point-for-point index of their massive and unsustainable media buys. They do not reflect actual commitment or political support, as the Romneys themselves admit:

Question: Will Romney’s lead hold when Giuliani decides to suddenly, and powerfully, illuminate?—the Romneys themselves despair of the answer. Hence: their frantic spending.

What of the Romney advertisements themselves?—on this web log delight in mocking and deriding the Romney illiterati (latest example here). We also delight in pointing out Romney’s own coherence and consistency issues (example here). Others, however, delight in pointing out the non-sensical and “strikingly ignorant” character of Romney’s absurd advertising.

“One of my favorite moments from the six Republican debates thus far came in May, when Mitt Romney tried to explain how he perceives threats to the U.S. from the Middle East: ‘This is about Shi’a and Sunni. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate. They also probably want to bring down the United States of America,'” writes the estimable Steve Benin quoting an intemperate Willard Milton Romney in a Carpetbagger Report post titled When bad focus groups generate worse ads

It seemed to impress the Republican faithful — and The Note touted how remarkable the answer was — but it didn’t make a lot of sense. Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda, for example, have nothing to do with one another. The latter is a terrorist organization; the prior has renounced violent jihad and, in some countries, participated in elections. Romney was articulating a national security strategy that conflates groups, sects, and agendas that have nothing to do with one another — but he was saying it in such a way as to make it sound like he was informed.It’s exactly this kind of thinking that led to this ad, which may very well be the single dumbest commercial of the year, at least so far …

… It’s a bit like the debate — Romney tries to come across as knowledgeable, but ends up not making any sense at all.

I don’t doubt that the ad tested well, particularly with a conservative audience. Romney hit all the hot buttons, the ad shows him shaking hands with a soldier, and if your only outlet to the world is Fox News, the ad probably sounded quite persuasive.

But that’s exactly the problem. It’s strikingly ignorantmore

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Multimillionaire Steve Forbes was the subject of quite a bit of scorn among GOP political circles for the multimillion-dollar loans he gave his quixotic campaigns for the presidency in 1996 and 2000. Less discussed in the 2008 presidential contest is the fact that multimillionaire former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is now outpacing Forbes in self-loans,” writes the estimable Jake Tapper in an transmission titled  Romney Surpasses Steve Forbes’ Self-Funding Pace

By the end of the third quarter of this year, according to Federal Election Commission reports, Romney had loaned his own campaign $17.4 million in personal funds — not including a donation of a $61,435 Winnebago.

That exceeds the $16.5 million Forbes donated to his campaign in all of 1995, and the $12.7 million Forbes had loaned himself at this point in 1999.

The campaign of one of Forbes’ opponents, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said, “Steve Forbes seems intent on buying the election, and according to the FEC law, there’s nothing to prevent him from doing it” … more

Yet further evidence of what we refer to as Team Romney’s Madden Doctrine, i.e. the deliberate and programmatic blurring of the distinction between (a) the attention that money can buy with (b) actual political support.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“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.