Posts Tagged ‘post-mortems’
Ruffini: the failure of the Romney campign “challenges us to think differently about the movement, to junk the leader/follower model for a networked model that elevates real grassroots outside the Beltway over ‘grasstops’ and to find new ways of bringing low-information conservative voters into the fold”
“In fairness to Team Romney, they did more right than not,” writes Patrick Ruffini in a patrickruffini.com blog burst titled The Fall of Romney, Inc.
They rose from single digits in the national polls to receiving 32% of the primary votes cast to date. They became the conservative establishment’s choice.
They leveraged mechanical and resource superiority into solid leads in Iowa and New Hampshire, giving Rudy Giuliani pause about competing in the early states and chasing John McCain from Iowa. They leveraged their candidate’s mastery of pat, 60-second answers into dominance (and rising poll numbers) out of the first debates. They met their goal of winning Ames, and got a bump. They met their goal of 30,000 votes in the Iowa Caucus.
Comment: What is “mechanical superiority?”
Also, “leverage” implies that you get more back in return for what you invested, that you managed to get a lot for a little. But for Tribe Romney the opposite was always the case. Romney’s principle was always to invest superabundantly beyond what the moment demanded for the most meager ROI. But Romney’s consistent willingness to sacrifice all for almost nothing did “giv[e] Rudy Giuliani pause about competing in the early states and chas[ed] John McCain from Iowa.”
Back to Ruffini:
Nearly all of the benchmarks set by Romney, Inc. were met — and often with flying colors. They checked every box they needed to become the nominee. Practically everything the Romney campaign could keep under control, they did. But for a few thousand votes in New Hampshire, the conversation today would be dramatically different.
Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, goals and benchmarks are not the same as real-world outcomes. John McCain missed nearly all of his campaign’s benchmarks and yet will become the nominee.
The X-factor in translating a campaign’s technical mastery into victory is the candidate himself. And here, there was something missing.
Comment: yuh-huh. Here be the primary fixed point of the Romney post-mortems. The man as inauthentic.
I am attending CPAC this week. This is the same CPAC Mitt Romney put a huge effort into last year, paying some 200 students to come vote for him and likely providing his margin of victory over Rudy Giuliani (I know! Rudy once finished second at CPAC. Wild…). His speech last year was packed with every conservative insider’s code word imaginable. McCain-Feingold, McCain-Kennedy — you name it […]
Comment: Another code word from Romney’s ungracious CPAC tirade, or code date, was 1976, a suggestion that Romney believes that Sen. McCain will lose in the general in vindication of the assumptions of the Romney campaign, and that Romney plans to return in triumph in 2012.
[…] What Romney didn’t account for is that it would take more than being a CPAC, or Agenda Conservative to win the nomination. Country Music Conservatives — and frankly, most voters outside the Beltway swamp — don’t listen to your words; they listen to your tone of voice as you’re delivering those words. Do you get angry when you should? What’s your sense of humor like? For social conservatives, are you grounded in faith? And ultimately, are you the real deal?
This has nothing to do with being right on issues. It has everything to do with being authentic […]
The problem for Romney: You cannot separate the issue from the issuer, the message from the messenger. We would argue that an apter term than authenticity would be ethos, i.e. Romney’s problem was not that he was inauthentic; Romney’s problem was that his life and character were inconsistent with the issues he alleged that he wanted to advance. This in itself became an issue, and a decisive one.
[…] Even those of us who are social conservatives rarely live in the rural South. And because of this cocooning, the conservative elite failed to understand how those voters could possibly have more in common with a Baptist minister with a Massachusetts millionaire. We can debate the LDS effect all we want, but even without it, Romney already had two strikes against him: that he was from the land of Kennedy and Kerry and acted like it, and that he was too white collar for a party that most of the bluebloods have left.
The idea that talk radio could paper over this basic demographic divide is almost comical. The leader/follower model of conservative support (get Rush, the talkers, the CPAC people, all the groups on your side, and in so doing win the hearts and minds of a decisive majority of conservatives) has been proven starkly and decisively wrong.
Despite these challenges, it was still a close call. As I said: a few thousand votes the other way in New Hampshire… But still: the ease with which John McCain won states like South Carolina and Florida has taken us all aback. It all boils down to Agenda Conservatives being nowhere near a majority of the party. Yes, John McCain was a weak frontrunner, but Mitt Romney was a weak challenger, and enough conservatives chose character and authenticity over issues to make the difference […]
[…] At a minimum, [the Romney debacle] challenges us to think differently about the movement, to junk the leader/follower model for a networked model that elevates real grassroots outside the Beltway over “grasstops” and to find new ways of bringing low-information conservative voters into the fold […]
Low information conservatives?
Note the disconnect Ruffini describes between doctrinaire conservatives—or “agenda” conservatives, as Ruffini puts it—and those who tend to vote conservative but live more rounded lives. It is this, and not authenticity, that predicts the failures of the Romney campaign. We will return to this theme later.
[…] “I have covered a lot of presidential campaigns, and I can’t think of one that so lost its way-so expensively-as that of the former governor of Massachusetts,” writes Howard Fineman in a newsweek.com article titled Burying Mitt; Romney failed because he ran as something he’s not
A board room and business favorite, a man with a Midas managerial touch, he was widely admired and even beloved. But he was a Republican of an old moderate school-that of his own father-and, like George W. Bush, Romney the Younger decided that he had to jettison all that he was to become something that he was not.
And so it was that this square peg spent perhaps $80 million-including at least $30 million of his own money-trying to pound himself into a round hole. It didn’t work. The irony of his failed campaign: if he had just stuck to selling his managerial mettle, he might well have won the nomination, given the way the country’s economic anxieties have become voters’ number one concern.
Even as conservative radio talk-show hosts reluctantly settled on him as their savior, they were uneasy about it and about his previous record of social moderation and fiscal flexibility. They sold him hard in the last few weeks, but to no avail. Romney won his home state and the states in the West where Mormonism was familiar, but not much else.
The quality of being genuine is hard to convey, and deciding who should be president based solely on that basis can lead to disaster; you need brains and an ability to go with the flow as well. But voters know a phony above all and Romney came off as one from the get-go. Over the last decade he had changed his views in a rightward direction on so many issues to suit what he thought he needed to win the GOP nomination that he ended up standing for nothing but his own ambition […]
More on this theme from Janet Hook, Los Angeles Times staff writer, in an LA Times article titled Romney failed the ‘authentic’ test; The GOP establishment had high hopes for the former Massachusetts governor, but among voters he never overcame charges that he had flip-flopped his way through his political career
WASHINGTON — For many Republican insiders, it was love at first sight: Mitt Romney had an exquisite resume, a command of the issues and boatloads of money to finance a presidential campaign. As Romney started wooing support in Washington, some lawyers and lobbyists were so smitten that they endorsed him after meeting him only once or twice.
But the collapse of Romney’s campaign contains an important reminder that what impresses in political backrooms does not always impress voters. A long list of political assets, and the support of party leaders, is not enough to make up for a failure to connect with voters and to deliver a clear, consistent message.
Although much of the Republican establishment called him an authentic conservative, Romney, in his appeals to voters, never overcame charges that he had flip-flopped his way through his political career — on abortion, gay rights and other issues of importance to those he was hoping to win over.
“People fundamentally understand where John McCain and Mike Huckabee are coming from. But in Mitt Romney’s case, that was harder to discern,” said Terry Holt, an advisor to President Bush’s 2004 campaign. “There is too much uncertainty about who Mitt Romney really is” […]
Yet more on this theme from Elizabeth Holmes in an online.wsj.com release titled Romney’s screen test falls flat
WASHINGTON — Throughout his 18-month bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney tried his best to play the part.
He looked the part, with his perfectly coifed hair and crisp blue suits. He sounded the part, shaping his stump speech around cries to reinstate Reagan’s three pillars of the Republican party. And he acted the part, spending nearly a year campaigning heavily in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
But in the end, Mr. Romney didn’t fit the part. Amid cries from critics of changing stances on key issues, the former governor of Massachusetts never connected with voters. He devised a message that alienated party stalwarts. And although he was the first to air negative ads against opponents in Iowa, the millionaire investor proved weak at blocking his rivals’ last-minute punches.
The result: a dismal performance in the coast-to-coast primaries on Tuesday, the moment that Mr. Romney, who lost Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, needed to shine. The passion he lacked on the campaign trail instead came during his concession speech, when he suspended his candidacy. Fighting back emotion, he told the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference here that he was withdrawing “for our party and our country.”
Mitt Romney stepped out of the race Thursday, saying that by staying in the race he “would be aiding a surrender to terror.”
From the beginning, Mr. Romney had much to prove. With little name recognition, he was known as “the Mormon” candidate with a pro-choice past. As a result, Mr. Romney, co-founder of private-equity firm Bain Capital Partners LLC, approached the race as a science, not an art. After Mr. Romney began publicly discussing a bid in late 2006, his advisers drew up a list of benchmarks and went about devising a schedule to reach those goals. In the process, they overlooked the need to ignite passion and fire […]
Please note the contradictions in these accounts. The same man spent nearly US$40 million dollars on his own money on his campaign, went so viciously negative on his rivals that they concerted their efforts against him, and in the end planned to engineer a brokered convention and nullify the expressed views of the primary voters by targeting promised but technically unbound delegates—yet Romney lacked passion or fire?
The man nearly tried to pull a Guy Fawkes on the GOP and he lacked fire?
“OMAHA, NE — Barack Obama called Mitt Romney’s candidacy ‘ineffective’ on the day that the former MA governor exited the presidential race,” writes Aswini Anburajan in a National Journal Hotline.blog blog burst titled Obama On Romney: An “Ineffective Candidate”
Romney, who dropped out of the race for president today in Washington, said in his exit speech that the GOP must unify and not allow Democrats to allow the country to “surrender to terror.”
“Well my reaction to Mitt Romney’s comment that’s the kind of poorly thought out comment that lead him to drop out,” Obama said during a press avail on his campaign plane. “It’s a classic attempt to appeal to people’s fears that will not work in this campaign. I think that’s part of the reason he was such an ineffective candidate” […]
The Romney campaign emits noise that sounds like someone who has a plan, a detailed plan. Only when you—you e.g. voters and participators—behave in ways that Team Romney’s plan would not predict, Team Romney responds not by reviewing and perhaps revising The Plan; rather, they respond by lecturing you about why you should respect and follow The Plan. In other words, the Romneys consistently confuse their map (their plan) for the terrain (which is you and the judgments you make about the candidates and their messages).
For example, their 2-man race theme that we vary and elaborate on here:
- Romney’s 2-man race theme; an alibi for collapsing poll numbers?
- Romney: we can broaden our appeal by narrowing it—when you listen carefully to Romney, he makes no sense
- Romney: Giuliani is distinct and enjoys the support of a coherent base
The Romneys decided early on that they could win against Giuliani by occupying ground to the right of him—hence, the 2-man Race theme. But they encountered 2 problems.
1. Romney never completed the task of consolidating his right flank—despite surging ever further to the right, Romney could never make the case that he (a) deserves the votes of conservatives, or (b) that he is a conservative at all. Conservatives, whether Evangelicals, security firsters, fair-trade nativists, fiscal conservatives etc., etc. remain divided and dispersed among the candidates. See:
2. The other candidates—principally Sen. McCain and Gov. Huckabee—stubbornly refuse to allow to Romney to position himself as the only alternative to former Mayor Giuliani. They persist; they continue to pursue their own agendas. And Gov. Huckabee has driven Romney to last place in the national polls.
Rather than adapting their map to the new and evolving terrain, the Romneys would rather you, the terrain, pay better attention to their map. This explains why Team Romney and their noisy surrogates bellow at us about a “2-man race” when the facts on the ground support other interpretations. Another attempt by Team Romney to account for their map-terrian disconnect is the “Romney is a victim of religious prejudice” theme, which we will refer to as (R).
Our editorial policy is this: we have nothing but respect for the Mormon tradition. We happen to be Jews. We wear a kippah, tzitzit, and we believe that separating milk and meat draws us closer to Hashem. In the morning we wrap our left arm in a leather strap, wear a box on our head, and enfold ourselves in a four-cornered bedouin garment that we use when we pray—this gives our daughter great delight, BTW. In a few weeks when our son enters this world (Baruch Hashem), a Rabbi is going to cut him where no man wants to be cut and then we will all eat and celebrate. So whatever our Mormon brothers and sisters believe—we really don’t know, nor do we really care—it could not possibly be as strange to the wider world as that which we hold to. Hence: We are interested in (R) only to the degree that it has become a theme—an argument, an alibi, a rationale—for the Romney campaign’s non-performance.
Here is (R) as articulated by Martin Frost in a FoxNews opinion piece titled Romney Falling Victim to Voters’ Religious Discrimination
I thought that the concept of a religious test for public office in our country was put to bed once and for all when John Kennedy, a Catholic, was elected president in 1960 and Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, was nominated for vice president in 2000.
Now we have a candidate with a record of accomplishment, Mitt Romney, who is consistently lagging in the polls with the most credible reason being that significant numbers of Republican primary voters will not support him because of his Mormon religion.
When voters, particularly in the South, are asked to identify candidates that they would not support for president under any circumstances, Romney leads the list. Romney is rejected as a potential presidential candidate in this type polling more often than other polarizing figures such as Rudy Giuliani. It has become increasingly clear that many conservative voters will not support an otherwise qualified candidate who happens to be a Mormon … etc., etc.
Frost evaluates the problem in absolute terms: Romney is a Mormon. Southern Christians will not support even a richly qualified Mormon. Hence, Romney is a victim of religious prejudice. Nichols and Stern, however, in an article titled Romney Shouldn’t Equate Mormons, Christians, Evangelicals Say offer a more nuanced account:
Oct. 30 (Bloomberg) — As Mitt Romney scours the South for endorsements from evangelical leaders, he is getting some unusual advice on how to explain his Mormon faith: Don’t try to be one of us.
“I told him, you cannot equate Mormonism with Christianity; you cannot say, `I am a Christian just like you,”’ said Representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina, which is scheduled to hold the first primary among the Southern states. “If he does that, every Baptist preacher in the South is going to have to go to the pulpit on Sunday and explain the differences” …
Rep. Inglis is a wise counselor.
Related case: We have no problem with Christians. We will happily vote for Christians, Hindus, or even, hypothetically, Muslims, depending on their views, opinions, positions, policies etc. But: When e.g. so-called Jews for Jesus claim that they are Jews, or that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, or when Christians lecture us about how Jesus is the fulfillment of our law and our prophets, or when millennialists (or pre- or post-millennialists) lecture us about how Jews must return to Israel for Jesus to return, then we take exception—then we insist on drawing distinctions, explaining the differences etc.
Omnis determinatio est negatio—all determination is negation—is a fact of social life—we define ourselves not so much by what we are as by what we are not, and we guard our sense of identity jealously. You do not threaten us to the degree that you are different from us, or that you tell us that we are different from you—we are respecters of difference and appreciators of diversity; rather: you threaten us to the degree that you tell us that we are the same.
This has been our problem with Romney all along. He not only wants to tell us that he is now a conservative; he wants to lecture us on what it means to be a conservative. “This is a habit of Romney’s,” writes Ryan Lizza for The New Yorker’s column, The Political Scene, titled The Mission; Mitt Romney’s strategies for success
… Politicians tend to pander, especially during the primary season. Romney’s chief opponent, Rudy Giuliani, also has a history as a pro-gun-control, pro-gay-rights Republican. But while Giuliani simply downplays his record on those issues, Romney sells himself as a true convert. He not only shifts positions; he often claims to be the most passionate advocate of his new stances. It’s one of the reasons that his metamorphosis from liberal Republican to committed right-winger seems so jarring. In 1994, in his race for the Senate, he didn’t simply argue that he was a defender of gay rights; he claimed to be a stronger advocate than his opponent, Edward Kennedy.
Today, he’s not just a faithful conservative but the only Republican candidate who represents “the Republican wing of the Republican Party.” He brings a salesman’s bravado and certainty to issues. At a debate in May, when asked how he would respond to a hypothetical situation involving the interrogation of a terrorist at Guantánamo Bay, he said, “Some people have said we ought to close Guantánamo. My view is that we ought to double Guantánamo. Elected as a pro-choice governor in 2002—YouTube is flooded with his passionate advocacy of abortion rights—he now presents himself as the most resolute anti-abortion candidate in the Republican field. A Mormon, he sometimes adopts the religious language of Evangelicals when he is addressing conservative Christian groups. To economic conservatives, he pitches himself as the candidate most strongly committed to slashing spending and taxes. (He’s the only major G.O.P. candidate to have signed a formal anti-tax pledge, the sort of move that his spokesman dismissed as “government by gimmickry” in Romney’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign.) … etc., etc.
Hence: we would argue that Romney’s (R) problem—to the degree that he has one—is consistent with Romney’s larger problem. Romney’s larger problem is his patent lack of respect for the intelligence of those whose support he covets. You cannot put on blackface and tell our African-American brothers and sisters that you are blacker than they are. You cannot prance about in fishnet stockings and stiletto heels and tell women that you are more of a woman then they are. Likewise: you cannot suddenly issue fifty meaningless policy proposals of an allegedly conservative character and proudly announce to Republicans that you represent the “Republican wing of the Republican Party”—riffing on Howard Dean, no less—when you have spent over a decade campaigning and governing from the left. Yet the Romneys overlook this simple explanation; instead: they would rather issue one more insult to the very people they need to help them win our highest office. Team Romney wants to argue that voters—Republican voters—are a dangerous mob of slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging, rube-bastard hick-bigots.
In other words, rather than review the accuracy of their map, Team Romney would rather rail at the terrain for its narrow mindedness.
What interests us is this: the primaries have yet to begin and the Romneys and their entourage of grovelers are already assigning blame for their many failures. What are their internal polls telling them, we wonder?