Posts Tagged ‘Michael D. Shear’

[...] “The new message about change, which aides said tested well in focus groups conducted during Sunday night’s debate on the Fox News Channel, was a last-ditch attempt to salvage what was left of Romney’s original strategy that envisioned vaulting himself to the nomination by winning Iowa and New Hampshire,” write Wapo’s Michael D. Shear and Chris Cillizza in an article titled Romney Homes In on a Message That Will Stick

Note that the title suggests that Romney has yet to arrive. He is still “homing in.”

Although it did not propel him to victory in New Hampshire — he came in second behind McCain — Romney is sticking with it.

During a 3 1/2 -hour “message meeting” on Tuesday night to discuss the next steps of the campaign, there was agreement that the change theme is one that resonates with Republican voters, according to a participant.

“He is finding his voice,” said Peter Barhydt, a top donor from Connecticut who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting [...]

Only there is some confusion about whether this is a new message or an old message that got lost in the noise, the campaign’s own noise. Whose fault was it that the message got lost? The media, argues his imperious aloofness, Romney himself.

“If and when Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign dies, our former governor has his excuse picked out: the media did it,” writes Adam Reilly in a phoenix.com blog burst titled cruelly but aptly, Chump ‘Change’

In a pre–New Hampshire-primary interview with Politico earlier this week, Romney said his newfound focus on political “change” wasn’t newfound at all; the problem, according to Mitt, was that reporters in Iowa kept obsessing over his conservative credentials. “I go on TV and it’s, like: ‘Tell me about your church, tell me where you stand on abortion,’ ” Romney complained. “There is no question the focus of my campaign has been on changing Washington” [...]

Comment: The reporters kept obsessing? Romney spends US$80 million dollars—and US$20 million or more of his own money on top of that, only no one knows how much because the Romneys aren’t telling—on IA and NH and the reporters are obsessive? To hold on to his tenuous and illusory leads in IA and NH Romney goes so viciously negative that it provokes a backlash so intense that Romney’s own numbers collapse and the reporters are obsessive?

[...] So, is it the press’s fault that Romney isn’t currently known as the change candidate? Not really. Blame, instead, the candidate himself — who astutely sensed the electorate’s desire for change, but lacked the gumption to follow his instincts.

Here’s a telling Romney quote from CBS’s Early Show, on the morning of January 4, one day after he lost to upstart Mike Huckabee in the Iowa caucuses: “Well, you know, I think the race in Iowa was really a very clear call that people want change in Washington. Not in the White House; in Washington.”

That’s nonsensical, obviously, since the White House is in Washington. But it’s also vintage Romney: calculating, inoffensive, and ultimately ineffectual. Candidate, heal thyself [...]

Yuh-huh. Romney’s inability to stay on message has become a fixed point for friend and foe alike. For us it is evidence of the candidate’s non-fitness, lack of competence, and inexperience. For the Romneys it is an excuse, a rationale for the candidate’s non-performance, which for anyone else would be evidence of the candidate’s non-fitness, lack of competence, and inexperience.

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”

A message that has not gotten lost is Romney’s draconian-hardline position on immigration. This was another attempt by the hapless candidate to outflank his rivals on the right. It failed. And it may continue to return its dividend of failure as the campaign moves to other contests.

“The New Hampshire primary represented a victory for candidates with across-the-board political appeal, such as McCain, Clinton and in a way Obama, and a crushing defeat for real or campaign-season demagogues, including Romney and Edwards,” writes the estimable Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald in an Oppenheimer Report titled Anti-immigration strategy fails

Hopefully, as the race moves on from nearly all-white states to the more diverse South and West, candidates who embraced the anti-Hispanic immigration cause will realize that it may cause them more harm than good.

So far, the anti-immigration constituency has made a lot of noise but has not delivered the vote [...]

Noise. Yes, Romney has made a great noise in this world. This is brute fact.

The question: Now, can Romney develop, amidst all that noise, or perhaps carve out from within all that noise, a message, a clear, compelling message that Romney can sustain and follow through with, a message consonant with Romney’s life and character, a message that is internally consistent and contradicts neither empirical fact nor the candidate’s earlier claims, assertions, arguments, or record of governance, a message that is positive, substantive, relevant, principled, and appropriate, and a message that does not suddenly turn and boomerang on Romney himself?

Romney has never developed nor delivered such a message before.

But we shall see.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“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.

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.

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:

Romney campaign a victim of the “sunk cost effect”—also: how Gov. Huckabee’s sudden ascendancy is an artifact of the Romney campaign’s misguided activities

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:

David S. Broder describes the fuhrerbunker-like gloom that hangs over the waterfront headquarters of a besieged Team Romney

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?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





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