Posts Tagged ‘narrative’

[…] “The fact of the matter is that Massachusetts officials win in New Hampshire,” writes Holly Robichaud in a blog burst titled Time for a graceful Romney exit

Nota: Robichaud identifies herself as […] The Lone Republican in the Herald’s Monday Morning Briefing, is a successful GOP political strategist who is known for speaking her mind […]

Robichaud continues:

[MA officials, like the former Gov. of MA, Romney] don’t lose [in NH].

When Clinton first ran for President, he was the comeback kid for placing second to Tsongas. It would have been a significant victory if McCain had placed second, but he placed first. For McCain this is a mega victory and a mega loss for Romney.

There was no reason for Romney to lose in New Hampshire. He had the Massachusetts advantage. He owns a second home in the granite state. And he significantly out spent all of his opponents. Therefore, you must conclude that not only did Iowa voters completely reject Romney, but so did New Hampshire voters. There is no excuse for this loss. There is no credible spin for this spanking.

This loss also has ramifications for the General Election in November. If somehow Romney was to be the nominee, Republicans will most likely not be able to hold on to the White House […]

Gary Matthew Miller of Truth vs. the Machine blog makes the same case on narrative grounds in a race42008 post titled It’s the Narrative, Stupid!

[…] Presidential campaigns also have a narrative. While I appreciate the Romney supporters attempt to change that narrative, here is the reality: Romney’s candidacy was predicated on 2 wins in Iowa and New Hampshire to slingshot him to the nomination.

Governor Romney may have a narrow lead in delegates. He may have more total cumulative votes than Senator McCain. But his narrative is broken. Badly.

Now we are told that Romney will prevail in Michigan because his father was governor there 40 years ago. I remember in 1988 the Kemp campaign was using a similar mantra to salvage a highly-touted candidacy that also had a broken narrative. Jack Kemp could stay in the race until California because a quarter-century prior he had quarterbacked the San Diego Chargers. Kemp’s narrative of how the campaign would play out had as much plausibility as Romney’s does in Michigan. Much like Romney is doing today, those of us involved with the Kemp campaign were touting delegate counts that had Jack essentially tied with Bush and Dole. But the narrative was broken with Bush’s triumph over Dole in New Hampshire where Kemp’s pristine anti-tax credentials were supposed to help him win the Granite State’s “Live Free Or Die!” crowd. It didn’t and the narrative passed Kemp by.

Some have valiently tried to draw parallels between 2008 and 1976. The problem is that Reagan, after losing New Hampshire by the narrowest of margins, still had his best states in front of him. Governor Romney has his best states in the rear view mirror […]

Justin Hart issues this rejoinder to G.M. Miller:

[…] Gary – I agree with your sentiment but I disagree with your semantics. The early state approach is a strategy not a narrative. The narrative is “outsider with business prowess and experience on fixing things comes to Washington”.

I have to admit that the Romney camp did wed themselves very close to the early state strategy which makes the 2nd place finishes that much more painful. But I don’t think the narrative is broken […]

We concur with Mr. Hart on this one. Mr. Miller seems to conflate the notion of a campaign narrative with the notion of an electoral scenario.

Here would the sad and despairing counterpoint to the emerging “Romney failed his won test and therefore should withdraw” fixed point, provided by Romney-sycophant and tireless Blogger-for-Mitt, Stanley Kurtz, in an NRO blog burst titled No Mentum

[…] This will probably not be a momentum-based campaign. If all the Republican candidates held roughly similar views (as with this year’s Dems), then a Romney loss in Michigan might be decisive. But in the Republican race, Romney holds a place (fairly mainstream conservative across the board) matched by no other candidate. Given the resistance of some portion of the conservative base to every other candidate, Romney would be foolish to drop out, even after a loss in Michigan. In fact, Romney stands to capitalize on what may well be the next big development in the race, the (relative) rise of Giuliani, at McCain’s expense […]

[…] At that point, if he’s been smart enough to stay in the race, Romney will be in a position to benefit from the raging battle between McCain and Giuliani. That will allow all three candidates to make it to the convention. Huckabee is a bit of a wild card here. He may turn out to be a one hit wonder. But even if Huckabee soldiers on, it won’t change the basic picture. Huckabee’s evangelical support may be enough to keep him alive, but Huck’s unconventional views won’t allow him to gain clear front-runner status.

With so many Republican candidates distancing themselves from some key part of the base, no candidate will find it easy to consolidate the support of seemingly defeated rivals. With a field holding so many candidates who speak for competing wings of the party, and excluding others, the logic is for candidates to stay in the race as the last best hope of their base, and to prevent the “horror scenarios” represented by the alternatives.

Momentum is out and substance is in […]

Momentum is out and substance is in. You don’t say. We have argued the same point—harped on that same string, as we like to say—since July of last year. On the 2nd of November we argued that the primary map was a “low mobility environment,” and that Romney had optimized himself for movement and momentum that simply wasn’t possible for him to ever achieve (see the “early state strategy” links below). We have argued these points ad nauseum:

Question: What do Romney’s frantic and out-of-control efforts to implement his von Schlieffen fantasy reveal about Romney, Romney the man, Romney the leader? Note how the troubled candidate could not let go of Iowa when a better, abler, or wiser man would have walked away. Note the bewilderment of his own top staff.

Romney’s Kevin Madden “flabbergasted” at Team Romney’s helplessness against under-funded and un-organized Gov. Huckabee—Romney loses control of his spending says Carr—more on Romney’s fantastically low ROI for his every campaign dollar

Romney lesson #1: You do not spend credibility that you do not have on a game that you cannot win, especially when you know that you cannot win it. Or: Pursue that which buys you the most gain for the lowest cost, not the other way around. And if something costs you wildly more than it costs anyone else in the game, STOP and investigate, because something is wrong.

Our own assessment: Romney’s von Schlieffen plan was a ruse. Grim and slogging attrition leading up to a brokered convention was always Romney’s plan, and always his only hope. Expect the bitterest and most negative campaigning ever to begin about … now.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.


“Two women contacted the Mitt Romney campaign this week, offering their memories of seeing Romney’s father march with Martin Luther King Jr., in Grosse Point Michigan in 1963. Campaign officials were well aware that the women were mistaken,” writes the intrepid, articulate David S. Bernstein in a post titled When A Claim Becomes Offensive available in The Phoenix’s Talking Politics blog.

Yet, they directed those women to tell their stories to a Politico reporter. The motives and memories of the two women are unknown and irrelevant; the motives of the campaign, however, were obvious — to spread information they knew to be untrue, for the good of the candidate.

By getting this story out late on Friday afternoon, heading into the holiday weekend — good luck getting a King historian on the phone before Wednesday — the campaign was pretty well assured that it could keep alive through Christmas their claim that Mitt Romney was mistaken only about “seeing” it, not about it taking place.

Then-governor George Romney did indeed march in Grosse Pointe, on Saturday, June 29, 1963, but Martin Luther King Jr. was not there; he was in New Brunswick, New Jersey, addressing the closing session of the annual New Jersey AFL-CIO labor institute at Rutgers University.

Those facts are indisputable, and quite frankly, the campaign must have known the women’s story would eventually be debunked — few people’s every daily movement has been as closely tracked and documented as King’s. As I write this, I am looking at an article from page E8 of the June 30, 1963 Chicago Tribune, which discusses both events (among other civil-rights actions of the previous day), clearly placing the two men hundreds of miles apart. I also have here the June 30, 1963 San Antonio News, which carries a photo and article about Romney at the Grosse Pointe march; and an AP story about King’s speech in New Jersey …

Note the subtlety, the elegance, and yet the force of Bernstein’s argument:

… Believe me, [the Romneys] know the two men never marched together. This is an attempt to rewrite history. And even if it is a small rewriting, it is offensive.

[The claim that they did march together] is offensive because of people like Russell Peebles.

Peebles is an 88-year-old man, a former resident of Grosse Pointe for 48 years, who was present at both the Grosse Pointe march in 1963, and the MLK speech in Grosse point in 1968 — the event at which the Romney campaign initially insisted Romney and King marched together.

I tried to contact Peebles earlier this week, prior to writing the original article, but we missed each other back-and-forth. Peebles sent me an email today, attesting to the fact that George Romney was at the 1963 march, but not the 1968 speech; and that King was at the 1968 speech, but not the 1963 march.

Peebles, and many others like him, deserve to have the history of what they did told honestly. Changing that history by mistake — which is quite possibly how this began — is unfortunate. Changing that history intentionally — which is what the campaign is doing now — is offensive … etc.

Here is Bernstein’s larger point: The Romneys are undermining the integrity of an historical account—and historical accounts derive from personal accounts, from personal experience, from people, from real, flesh and blood people acting and pursuing their interests in the world. And the integrity of those experiences should matter not just to the Romneys, but to everyone, as we all have a stake in knowing, learning about, and understanding the past.

But wait: Didn’t Romney himself claim that he was speaking “figuratively” when he said that he saw his father march with Martin Luther King Jr.?—how is this exercise anything other than a cynical and pointless act of outrageous vanity on Romney’s part?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“GOFFSTOWN, N.H. — Mitt Romney was recounting to his audience here a political fable of sorts, about how he had never expected to get into politics after spending his life in business. The moral is one he has been telling again and again in his final sprint before the first votes of the 2008 presidential campaign are cast,” writes the estimable Michael Luo in an NYT release titled As Voting Nears, Romney Shifts Political Narrative

“The skills you have and that you develop in the private sector, whether it be small business or big business, they’re desperately needed in government,” Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor seeking the Republican presidential nomination, told a crowd here Monday.

The theme has essentially become Mr. Romney’s closing argument to voters before the nominating contests, marking a subtle but significant shift from the far more ideological frame that has often been at the forefront of the campaign. The change speaks to the campaign’s broader strategy in its final push to slice away supporters from Mike Huckabee in Iowa and bolster Mr. Romney’s lead in New Hampshire.


(1) Romney has retailed his private sector business experience theme for months. Only it never won him an inch of ground. So he would abandon it only to take it up again later. A few examples from our archives:

(2) What Luo describes as Romney’s “ideological frame” is—or was—Romney’s attempt to outflank his rivals on the right. Again, from our archives:

(3) Here is the problem for Romney. The oft-touted Romney von Schlieffen plan (a lightening strike on 2 fronts to secure the center) consisted in

(a) securing the social conservative, Evangelical base


(b) developing commanding leads in the early state primaries to create a bandwagoning effect

Only Team Romney never accomplished (a). The social conservative, Evangelical base remains divided and dispersed. The Huckabee surge and Romney’s failed “speech” is evidence of that.

And Team Romney pursued (b) so primitively and naively—activity that reduced to spending enormous sums of money—that it has set up expectations such that even the most positive outcome for Romney in the early state primary contests is prejudiced in advance. Now no one but the political primitives of Team Romney argues that Iowa or New Hampshire will decide the nomination. Instead the speculation rests on either a contested convention, Michigan, or Super-Duper Apocalypse Tuesday.

(4) Every campaign attempts to develop a base, an issues coalition, and then pivot back toward the broad center. This is how you win elections. Romney’s von Schlieffen plan was Romney’s attempt to develop a base.

Because Team Romney failed at every task it set for itself—because it could never develop, consolidate, and mobilize a base of support—because its claims of conservative commitment were consistently greeted with incredulity and disbelief—it could never move toward the center.

So the Romney address to the center—the business experience, business methodology line—never got brought to the center. Oh, the Romneys tried to retail it, however sporadically, however inconsistently, and however much it undermined their larger, more ideological claims. But they would always get distracted or someone would scare them off.

(5) The Romneys tested and abandoned lots of other lines too. Does anyone remember their risibly inconsistent “change” line?

Romney’s inflection point—the strange rhetoric of a troubled campaign

Back to Luo:

“I do believe that by virtue of my work in the private sector and at the Olympics and as a governor that I’m able to tackle the big problems that America faces,” Mr. Romney said in a recent interview. “I think in the final analysis when people go to the voting booths, they’re going to ask themselves, given the scale of challenges we have, ‘Who can solve the problems in America today?’”

The focus on Mr. Romney’s business acumen — he is the founder of Bain Capital, a prominent private equity firm — is in keeping with how almost all the leading Republican candidates have been running to varying degrees on their competence as a way to distinguish themselves from the Bush administration, without distancing themselves from President Bush ideologically.

Nevertheless, Mr. Romney spent much of the spring and summer focusing more on bolstering his credentials as a conservative champion as he fended off vigorous criticism for his more moderate past. Romney advisers believe they have succeeded in establishing his conservative bona fides, even though lingering questions about his authenticity persist, and are able now to move on to focusing on the next layer of voters.

“If you look now and you ask, ‘Is Mitt Romney a conservative?’ People would say, ‘Yes,’” said Russ Schriefer, one of the campaign’s media strategists.

“Now as we get closer to the election,” Mr. Schriefer said, “I think we need to be focusing more on his experience. What is it about Mitt Romney that makes him unique? What is it that makes him uniquely qualified? He has the experience. He has the experience to manage big things. He’s done it before.”


Note Schriefer’s precise language. To the question whether is Romney a conservative, most would answer yes. Well, Romney is now, anyway. (Or, wait—is he a pragmatic business person?) But will Romney be a conservative tomorrow?

All that Schriefer and Romney’s other hirelings have accomplished is a degree of ideological recognition. They failed to develop an issues coalition that could serve as a base. Yet with time having run out—and after months and months of arguing that Romney is the same as the other candidates on ideological grounds with only limited success—Romney’s flaks face the urgent problem of how to differentiate their candidate. (Or so they think.)

Memo to Schriefer: Keep up the good work, dude! 

Back to 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.


His campaign advisers argue that the themes are complementary, but Mr. Romney’s critics say that the businessman theme comes much more naturally to him and that he seized on the staunch conservative message only for political purposes.

We concur with the critics.

“These two messages don’t necessarily fit under the same strategic umbrella,” said John Weaver, who ran Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign until the summer. “They’re completely different. I think the governor has struggled to carry those two messages” …

… In Iowa, Mr. Romney’s advisers said it would be difficult for him, at this late stage, to peel off staunch Christian conservatives from Mr. Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, but they said they thought Mr. Romney could win over others who placed more importance on fiscal issues, the economy and immigration. It is one reason Mr. Romney last week unveiled a spiffy new PowerPoint presentation designed more to showcase his corporate competence than to help anyone in the audience follow his points.

Translation: Romney failed—despite tremendous effort—to reach out to Christian conservatives. A few examples: Gov. Huckabee’s breakout rise, “the speech,” and the Value Voters Summmit:

But Mr. Weaver argued that the dual images the Romney campaign had tried to establish were one reason it had struggled to produce a consistent message. In contrast, Mr. McCain’s candidacy immediately evokes the Iraq war and his foreign policy credentials; Rudolph W. Giuliani’s, his handling of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and his theme of staying on offense against Islamic terrorism.

“They’re having a hard time having both feet planted on either side of the seesaw,” Mr. Weaver said of the Romney campaign.

Mr. Romney’s aides conceded they had struggled at times to inculcate their broader message in voters, in part because they were so busy parrying attacks early on from their opponents, including Mr. McCain’s campaign and, later, Senator Sam Brownback’s campaign in Iowa.

“It took us a while to get other things put to bed so we could stick to a theme,” said Tom Rath, a former New Hampshire attorney general and senior adviser.

To combat attacks from the right, Mr. Romney introduced a message in May centered on what he called the “three legs of the conservative stool” — meant to unite social, fiscal and foreign policy conservatives behind him — and spent much of the summer leading into the Iowa Straw Poll expounding on the idea, bringing up his private sector experience only in passing. He also presented a much harder line on immigration as the issue leapt to the forefront of the Republican race and swooped on the issue of same-sex marriage in August when a judge in Iowa ruled unconstitutional the state’s ban on the practice.

The question at this point is whether Mr. Romney jerked the wheel too hard to the right as he now tries to pick up a broader cross-section of voters. In September, the Romney campaign rolled out a new theme of Mr. Romney as a leader capable of bringing change to Washington. But it is a message that the Romney camp has found difficult to stick to amid the daily fluctuations of the campaign.

“It has been hard to get to the essential, the core,” said Alex Gage, the campaign’s strategy director.

Now Mr. Romney is trying to get down to it before he runs out of time.

The emphases are ours, all ours.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“GREENVILLE, S.C. — Mitt Romney stumped Tuesday on the importance of adoption, traditional marriage and faith, aiming to coax South Carolina Republican voters to his side in a state where the support of Christian values voters once seemed out of reach for the only Mormon presidential candidate,” report FOX News’ Carl Cameron and Shushannah Walshe in an uncritical puff-piece titled Romney Stresses Family Values in Bid to Win Over South Carolina


“Republican Mitt Romney today announced he’s been endorsed by Paul Weyrich, a leading social conservative who co-founded the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the Free Congress Foundation. At least one blogger sees this as a turning point for Romney,” write Mark Memmott and Jill Lawrence in USAToday OnPolitics post titled Are social conservatives about to fall in line behind Romney?

“It’s Official: Romney is the Social Conservative Alternative,” Matt Lewis writes at He says the endorsement signals social conservatives have given up looking for the perfect candidate and predicts more major figures will line up behind Romney. He also notes Fred Thompson’s refusal to support a federal abortion ban.

Some religious conservatives have been wary of Romney because he is Mormon and has opposed abortion rights only since 2004. Lewis is among several conservative bloggers who view the Weyrich move as a big deal, including Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, who broke the story … etc., etc.

So now we understand the timing of the Paul Weyrich endorsement. Various responsa follow, rendered in the terms and concepts of narrative:

1. Note that the Romney strategy of pursing elite social conservative leaders and as opposed to developing a larger narrative, has not changed. See:

Hart: Romney campaign unmatched in its ability to execute

This leaves Romney vulnerable to discomfiture from below: “[Huckabee’s] authenticity and Romney’s phoniness seems to have stopped Romney’s forward momentum”

2. Note also that Romney has yet to pass his qualifying test. In Greimas’ account of narrative a subject typically faces 3 tests, a qualifying test (e.g. demonstrates better character than stepsisters), a decisive test (plays at being princess, gets exposed), and a glorifying test (recovers glass slipper, becomes princess). Romney has to even prove that he qualifies. Ken Silverstein, in a Harper’s release titled Mitt Romney: How to Fabricate a Conservative, describes the problem this way:

… The problems holding him back were all identified in the campaign’s PowerPoint presentation: the Massachusetts background, the image of slickness, the fears about his religion, and, above all, mistrust of his ideological transformation. Romney and his handlers portray him as having undergone a political conversion, but they can’t point to any convincing catalyst. There was no religious epiphany (as, for example, with George W. Bush) or political awakening (as with Ronald Reagan, a New Deal Democrat who joined the Republican Party in 1962 and backed Barry Goldwater for president two years later, which at the time was hardly a politically savvy move). With Romney, there’s merely been the recent espousal of positions diametrically opposed to his earlier ones, feeding the suspicion that his political shifts are more reflective of his ambition than of his convictions … etc.

3. Translation: the facts of the Romney story do not objectively correlate with what Romney claims is now his stance, his line, his attitude, his attachments. If there was a conversion, then there must have been a crisis to precipitate it—otherwise, the narrative doesn’t make sense—otherwise, one is perceived to have surrendered his or her first position too cheaply or with motives ulterior. Listen to the so-called testimonies of Evangelicals or 12-steppers—or the stories of any converts, e.g. Saul of Tarsus, Augustine of Hippo—and what you will discover is crisis passing into critical reflection, what Silverstein refers to as a “catalyst”.

This is what Romney cannot provide and remain consistent with his own line—his own self-portrayal—of the bloodless, gutless, emotion-free problem solver.

Besides, Romney’s life has been strangely crisis-free.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Mitt Romney is running an awful campaign,” writes Matthew E. in a post titled A Candidate without a Tale

Now, before I’m massacred for saying this, let me clarify. Romney is running a fantastic technical campaign. This is practically the only reason he’s still in the race. In terms of courting activists, setting up organizations, and executing strategy. In these areas, Mitt Romney has no equal …

But, in a more pivotal respect, he has failed on virtually every level. I’ll call this the narrative aspect of the campaign. Let me briefly expand on this idea. To paraphrase David McCullough,  “all of history can be understood in terms of people, and only in this context is the subject truly fascinating to the average American”. People like people. When we read something, when we read anything, we’re attempting to relate to something which is comprehensible within the range of our experiences. We’re attempting to relate to something. But, we’re humans. Which means, ultimately, we’re attempting to relate to someone.

Running for president isn’t simply about presenting an agenda of loosely related policy positions. It’s about presenting yourself. And Romney has failed to present any compelling narrative for Romney the man …

… That’s not to say Romney hasn’t tried any of this. But, his campaign ventures into these arenas so haphazardly, without any sort of greater coherency behind the forays, that it comes across as sheer pandering. I know I’ve been harsh here, but I’m absolutely positive Romney will lose to Hillary Clinton in a general election, unless he begins to address these difficulties. And that’s an absolute shame. Because, he’d make a wonderful President …etc., etc.

The emphases are ours.

Romney cannot articulate a single coherent idea—let alone a vision or a sense of purpose—but he would make a wonderful president?—how does that follow?

It can’t be good news for Romney’s campaign when the the burning question of the moment is “why is Romney such a failure?” See also:

yours &c.
dr. g.d.