Posts Tagged ‘team romney’
In an ABC News blog burst titled Romney Camp Laments, John Berman Reports: The remnants of the Romney campaign are shaking their heads this morning.
For months they were whispering about a New York Times investigation into John McCain’s ties to a certain lobbyist.
They would poke and prod reporters to see if they had heard anything new about when and if the New York Times would publish the story.
On Thursday, while no one would allow their name to be published, several former advisers lamented the timing of the story, one suggesting, “If this piece had run before New Hampshire, McCain would have lost. If it had run before Florida, he would have lost” [...]
[...] Most of Romney’s staff has dispersed, but when reached they made clear there would be no statement from Romney or the Romney team about the New York Times piece … just a lot of wondering about what might have been [...]
Here is what would have been: You would have still discovered a way to fail. So: Let it go, losers. Just go home. You had lots of second chances and you blew them all. See:
John Ellis: [Romney] “was terribly served by his campaign staff and advisors—I would argue that they win the worst campaign team of 2008—Good riddance to them—They had everything they needed to make a good run and they made a complete hash of it”
Also: the NYT smear will redound to Sen. McCain’s benefit.
[...] “Operating in survival mode, Mr. Romney’s circle of advisers has come up with a detailed road map to try to salvage his campaign,” writes Michael Luo in a NYT article titled Romney Maps a Strategy for Survival
The plan is complete with a new infusion of cash from Mr. Romney, a long-term strategy intended to turn the campaign into a protracted delegate fight and a reframing of the race as a one-on-one battle for the future of the party that seeks to sound the alarm among conservatives about Mr. McCain.
The advisers have drawn up a list of states, dividing and ranking them into those considered relatively easy and inexpensive targets, along with a broader grouping of more costly battlegrounds where the advisers hope that Mr. Romney can be competitive.
Some states like Arizona and Arkansas, the home states of Mr. McCain and Mike Huckabee, respectively, are largely written off.
The question is whether the planning, along with the campaign’s one trump card, the candidate’s vast wealth, can overcome the growing sense of inevitability that has begun to attach itself to Mr. McCain.
Complicating the outlook, Mr. Romney’s campaign has been racked by infighting over advertising strategy between some senior advisers, including some consultants who joined the campaign after leaving Mr. McCain’s [...]
[...] The most serious obstacle in many places is Mr. Huckabee, who continues to pull social conservative voters from Mr. Romney.
“The more the Romney strategy hinges on picking up red states, the bigger a factor Mike Huckabee is going to be,” Mr. Harris said [...]
Only Romney precluded the possibility of ever reaching out to Gov. Huckabee voters when he went viciously negative against the candidate so many, many moons ago.
- Romney’s viciously negative attacks on Gov. Huckabee in Iowa still returning rich dividends for the hapless candidate from Bain Capital
- Cost: Romney’s furiously negative campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire may have already cost Romney the nomination by alienating Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain voters
- Luntz: “Romney made a ‘big mistake’ by going negative against Huckabee”—how a Faustian Romney rages against the laws of physics
But here would be a positive development for Romney. Romney’s anger may have turned on Team Romney itself. Romney may finally be thinking over whether his own organization is the cause of many of his woes.
[...] “The day after Feb. 5, Mr. Romney said he anticipated he would begin reviewing with his campaign team what states to go to next, as well as the budget. Mr. Romney seemed to allude to the possibility of downsizing his staff after Feb. 5,” writes Michael Luo in another NYT article, this time titled Romney Vows to Push on Past Tuesday
Yes. Only Romney may be pushing on past Tuesday with fewer of his hirelings and hangers-on to attend him.
“I mean, we have a very substantial staff, as you know, not what’s here but back in Boston,” he said. “And we had a big staff in Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire. That’s a much larger staff than you have as you go on to these subsequent primaries, so who are the people needed, where are we going to need them, what’s the campaign budget going to look like, all of those things.”
In typical Romney fashion the hapless candidate turned and flatly denied what he had just stated.
But then when pressed about the issue during a news conference in Minneapolis, he said there had been no discussions about downsizing [...]
But note what Romney said: “There had been no discussions”—does Romney mean that no one among his staff had discussed the issue of downsizing?—so was Romney riffing with reporters about plans he is developing independent of the candidate’s spectacularly ineffective personnel? Recall: This is the same lavishly funded and superbly equipped organization that delivered Romney Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, and other humiliating defeats.
[...] “NPR reports that Mitt Romney is shaking up his staff today and taking more control himself,” writes Erick of Redstate.com in a blog burst titled Sources Say
Also, I hear from multiple sources that he has shifted some staff around, pulling people from Florida and sending them to Michigan [...]
Loses learn. This is one of the uses of adversity. Not so Team Romney, we used to argue, because Romney’s vast personal fortune insulates Team Romney from the costs of its failures.
But now there is evidence that the Romney is attempting to rationalize its organization and its operations. This could allow them to, you know, develop a message that connects with voters.
“Mitt Romney hasn’t extended his television presence into next week in South Carolina and Florida, an aide confirms,” writes Jonathan Martin of the politico.com in a blog burst titled Mitt not re-upping his S.C. and Fla. TV time
Romney has been on TV for months in both states, owning the airwaves long before his GOP rivals purchased their first spots.
But his multimillion-dollar investment in the two key states that may ultimately decide the GOP nominee has not paid off as he continues to lag behind rivals there.
Spokesman Kevin Madden declined to say whether their decision was based upon strategy or money [...]
[...] Ten days before South Carolina and 20 before Florida it’s difficult to see why he’d go dark in either crucial state, unless he’s decided to limit how much of his own cash he’s using on what has so far been a disappointing campaign.
UPDATE: Another indication that Romney is easing back on the self-funding — an adviser tells AP’s Glen Johnson that they recognize that their ad campaign wasn’t terribly effective and that now they’re going to focus on earned media. Also known as free media [...]
Martin interprets this move as weakness.
We interpret it as strength, amazing strength, strength combined with a stern resolve. Viz.: Romney has the money. So this is not the voice of grim necessity. Rather: This is a rational choice, a sober choice, and the correct choice.
These corrections suggest a more accurate interpretation of the upcoming contests and the players involved. These corrections also suggest a more accurate assessment of what is achievable and for what cost. Here is the money quote from the Glen Jonhson AP article that Martin links to:
[...] Conceding Romney had been hurt by a backlash against the hard-hitting television commercials the former Massachusetts governor ran against Huckabee and McCain, the adviser said the campaign hoped to “get away from the paid media and get more of the earned media.”
The shift would suggest a greater emphasis on generating newspaper, Internet and television coverage, especially in Michigan, where Romney was born and which is next on the primary calendar on Jan. 15. Romney flies to Grand Rapids, Mich., on Wednesday after a fundraiser in Boston [...]
A targeted, earned-media strategy will allow Team Romney to correctly assess the effectiveness of their messages. The data and experience that accrues from their efforts can help them increase their ROI and develop more effective messages. They will have at last organized themselves into a learning loop more closely coupled to their audiences and sources of support. They will in the very least be be spending less which will improve their image. In other words, they will have caught up with the other campaigns.
However: In the same article, Johnson also reports this:
[...] Nonetheless, Romney chided McCain and Huckabee for cherry-picking contests, with Huckabee having focused on Iowa while McCain focused on New Hampshire. Romney spent more than $7 million on advertising in each state, and held as many, if not more, events in both places than any of his GOP rivals [...]
But reports are that Romney is withdrawing staff from SC and FL to invest in MI. Also: reports indicate that Romney is scaling back his ad buys in SC and FL. In other words, Romney too has learned to cherry-pick. As we have argued elsewhere, what Romney calls “cherry-picking” is the most rational strategy in an election cycle with no clear coalition. Politics specifies itself in space—demography, geography, and ideology all intertwine and pass into one another—to build a coalition from the ground up you need to first establish a regional base.
The other candidates have staked out the parts of the map they want to contest. (The first candidate to recognize and act on the new reality was Mayor Giuliani. His strategy has yet to encounter its first real contest.)
Romney has yet to do that.
But: Evidence indicates that he now moves in that direction.
P.S. Hypothetical questions: What if Romney were to campaign on who he is instead of an invented Romney? What if Romney were to organize a rational and ethical campaign? What if Romney were to cease his grimly negative campaigning?
Answer: the governing assumptions of this web log would be all, and in an instant, overturned. And we would be forced to admit that this was the case or risk being accused of being irrational ourselves. At that moment we truly would become a Blog for Mitt as we would no longer have a case against a Romney presidency.
Question: Is such an outcome even possible?
Go Mitt!—i.e. stop lying, stop shape-shifting, stop sliming other candidates, and stop spending money that you did not raise through your own hard efforts, and go and be our President.
[...] In fact, even when Mike Huckabee began his ascendance in Iowa, one that culminated in his convincing victory in Thursday’s caucuses, New Hampshire was still viewed as a firewall for the Romney campaign,” writes CBSNews.com political reporter David Miller in an article titled Mitt Romney’s Rebound Plan; Stung By Iowa Loss, Republican Takes Up Banner Of Change While Going After McCain
Polls there showed him with a solid lead – but that collapsed in the two weeks preceding the caucuses, when John McCain, once beleagured, quickly caught up to Romney, and in some surveys, even passed him.
Winning in Iowa would have been the best way to reverse that situation – and since that did not come to pass, the Romney campaign is now shifting gears by borrowing a page from the book of an unlikely candidate: Barack Obama, whose message of change helped him win Iowa’s Democratic contest.
At an event in Manchester on Friday, Romney seemed to work the “c-word” in at every possible opportunity.
“If you really want to have change, you don’t just want to have a gadfly or somebody fighting for this or fighting for that,” Romney said. “You want to have somebody who will bring change, who will sell the company America has – it’s going to have to be somebody from outside Washington, not a Washington insider [...]
We’re sorry, but what?—what does Romney mean by “sell the company America has?”
Romney has spent a year insisting he was Ronald Reagan. Now he wants to be Barack Obama. Has this man ever tried being Willard Milton Romney?
[...] But for all the talk of change, some aspects of Romney’s campaign haven’t. Take his advertising. In New Hampshire, the target is different – it’s McCain instead of Huckabee – but in terms of look and structure, his spots in the two states are identical. In both cases, there’s an initial nicety, describing Romney and, most recently, McCain as “two good men.”
After that comes harsh criticism of McCain’s views on immigration and tax cuts – a method McCain has said didn’t work in Iowa and wouldn’t work in New Hampshire.
But the Romney campaign believes the ads weren’t why Romney lost in Iowa, and the results there should not be seen as proof of their ineffectiveness.
“I don’t agree that we lost to Huckabee because we ran ads,” said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden. “I think Huckabee won because he identified with a lot of the core voters out there, such as evangelicals, on a lot of social conservative issues. He had a lot of voters he identified with, with what is a traditional, conservative part of that base out there. He did a good job doing that. We competed with Mike Huckabee on those votes, and we met our vote goals pretty much.” [...]
We met our goals? Did we? We met our goals and lost Iowa decisively? Boy, we must be geniuses! Perhaps—and this is just a suggestion, Mr. Madden—we need to review our current goals and performance standards before we get our heads handed to us on a platter in New Hampshire too.
This is more evidence of Romney’s predict-and-control operational method.
About Romney’s ugly “contrast” ads and their effectiveness, opinions differ:
Opinions differed at the posh waterfront headquarters of a besieged Team Romney too.
[...] Internally, the Romney campaign began to debate and disagree, a sharp contrast to the campaign’s usual organized and by-the-books culture,” writes Monica Langley in an Online.wsj article titled owa Touches Off a Free-for-All; Romney’s Best-Laid Plans Mugged by Political Realities
Two speechwriters were let go. Although the master plan had anticipated that negative ads might be necessary, the campaign was hit with internal dissension about whether to continue the “branding” plan or “go negative” in campaign commercials and direct mail.
Campaign operatives fought over when and how to “draw contrasts” between Mr. Romney and his chief rivals. Mr. Castellanos, Mr. Romney’s chief media adviser, pushed to shift message as needed to focus on changing rivals and issues. Others argued the merits of keeping the focus on a single overarching message. [...]
History has proven those two lowly speech writers right. Kevin Madden—the maddeningly inarticulate Kevin Madden, Romney’s least effective helper-monkey—should immediately telephone those two speechwriters, apologize profusely, and offer them their jobs back at twice what they were paid before.
Everyone else should go to the wall, starting with Madden.
Back to Miller:
[...]“You’ve only got one guy running for president who’s signed the front of an employment check,” Romney said Friday.
Compare that with a line delivered by Huckabee only hours earlier: “One of the reasons I did well in Iowa, and I’ll do well here, is that people realized that they want a president who reminds them of the guy they worked with, not the guy who laid them off.”
The disparate messages may be emblematic of a growing divide in the Republican Party, which is seeing the coalition built by Ronald Reagan – between blue-collar workers, the business community and Christian conservatives – put under severe distress, said GOP consultant Mike Collins.
“I think it’s more of a universal problem than a Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee or Fred Thompson solution. We’re battling for the soul of the Republican Party,” he said. “You have very discrete elements of this party that are coming apart at the seams.”
Yet Romney’s campaign maintains that they, alone among the GOP field, have support that is deep and broad enough to keep Republicans unified – an essential for winning in November. [...]
Here is the problem: Romney insists that he has “support broad and deep enough to keep Republicans unified.” But he has yet to demonstrate that support in any way or form. Precisely the opposite is the case: Romney has thus far unified no one constituency behind him; he has only managed to unify the other candidates against him. In fact, Team Romney has failed at every task it has set for itself, Iowa was only the latest. Besides: Who is Romney’s base? Who is his natural constituency? Who has he even convinced that he is a conservative?—oh, wait, now he wants to be the agent of change candidate.
How can this primped, powdered, and pampered non-entity pretend to unify our party when he has yet to unify himself?
[...] “A lot of the other candidates seem to be working on a slingshot effect – do well in one state and hope it builds momentum for other states,” Madden said. “We have a greater ability to motivate our organization as well as deploy the resources across several states in order to compete.”
But ironically, Romney may now be reliant on the same slingshot effect, even as they maintain they could survive a second-place finish – one that most observers agree would be a devastating loss, given the high expectations driven by campaign’s large organization and vast financial resources [...]
Madden is projecting. To “slingshot” early victories into performance gains in other states was always the organizing principle of Romney’s now inoperative early-states von Schlieffen plan. Now Romney has now been beaten back to a regional stronghold strategy. Only Romney keeps withdrawing from his strongholds. Team Romney’s stronghold used to New Hampshire until Sen. McCain deprived them of their lead there. Now they say it’s Michigan.
We predict that their last redoubt will be the floor of a brokered convention. This would be where targeted donations may actually produce an effective return. To try to buy off an angry and fragmented coalition—undoable. To try to buy off the elites of a corrupt party organzation—easily achievable; in fact, the groundwork is already laid in.
To simply stay in the game now becomes the object of the Romney Tribe.
“WASHINGTON (CNN) — Two negative ads recently launched by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has spent more on advertising than any other candidate, either misrepresent his rival’s records or include distortions, according to a CNN analysis of the commercials,” writes Howard Kurtz in a CNN.com release titled Analysis: Romney attack ad misrepresents facts
The ads come as the Republican air war has erupted into a series of attacks ads, just days before the Iowa caucuses on January 3, Wyoming caucuses on January 5, and the New Hampshire primary on January 8.
In one Romney television ad running in New Hampshire, the announcer calls rival Sen. John McCain “an honorable man” then goes on to ask “but is he the right Republican for the future?”
“McCain pushed to let every illegal immigrant stay here permanently…” the announcer charges. “Even voted to allow illegals to collect Social Security.”
But the ad distorts the position of the Arizona Republican, who has narrowed Romney’s lead in New Hampshire. McCain’s compromise legislation introduced last summer, which was backed by President Bush, would have required illegal immigrants to return to their home countries and pay a fine for breaking the law before applying for legal status … more, so much more
Would an honorable man like Romney distort the records and positions of his rivals!?
- Palmetto Scoop: “Top Romney advisor tied to anonymous attacks of previous presidential primary”
- Associated Press: Romney has candor issues
- Kilmer: “[Huckabee] on [Russert’s Meet the Press], Republican Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee covered a list of what he said were Romney mischaracterizations of him and his records—[Huckabee] was effective here, and he did not slip when defending his foreign policy or his faith.”
- Romney’s bitter and personal attacks on other candidates tearing the GOP apart
- Romney’s negative campaigning: is Romney willing to take the party down with him?
Edsall: “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”—more on Romney’s ridiculously low ROI for his every campaign dollar (iii)
“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:
- More on Romney’s ridiculously low ROI (ii): “So far, [Romney’s] getting little bang for his buck,” argues Mike Dorning of the Chicago Tribune
- 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
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”
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.
“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.
- Chris Cillizza provides further evidence against the success of the Romney von Schieffln plan
- Romney’s early state strategy; an investigation
- Romney’s early state strategy—an addendum
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.
- Romney poised to fail in Iowa no matter what the outcome (iii)—Romney’s massive spending using his own money has denied Romney the perception of a clean win on fair and equal terms
- Sargent: “[Grrrr-Romney] was spending $100,000 a week through October, and he’s now upped the ante to $200,000 a week [in NH]” (The same applies to Iowa)
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:
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:
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?
“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.
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:
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.
”’It is particularly offensive that a Mike Huckabee advocacy group would resort to a shadow effort using large sums of unregulated soft money to attack candidates by name with these reprehensible calls,’ Romney spokesman Matt Rhoades said,” as reported by Mark Halperin in a The Page post titled Romney Camp on Huckabee Advocacy Group
”Governor Huckabee cannot just stand by and feign outrage as these coordinated attacks are made in his name and for his benefit.”
Well, Matt, yes he can.
Does anyone remember how in ’04 Sen. Kerry dispatched former Sen. Max Cleland to Texas to crawl and scrape the dust at Pres. Bush’s feet, so that the President, shamed by the grim spectacle, might call upon the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth to relent in their truth-telling? We only barely remember the event ourselves. Question: Did Sen. Kerry’s carping and caviling at Pres. Bush help Sen. Kerry appear courageous, decisive, or powerful? Per contra, Sen. Kerry’s whining, Sen. Kerry’s language of blame, and, especially, Sen. Kerry casting himself as a petitioner to Pres. Bush—all of these things combined made Sen. Kerry appear limp and helpless.
Note to Team Romney: pick yourselves up off the ground, dry your collective eyes, blow your collective noses, fire Matt Rhoades, and carry on about your business like adults.
“The facts are well-known, but worth repeating,” writes Jonathan Martin of the Politico in a post titled Huckmania running wild in Hawkeye Country
Mitt Romney has been on TV almost non-stop for nine months in Iowa. He’s been to the state dozens of times over the last three years. His 99-county organization is viewed as the most formidable of any Republican in the state.
And now he’s lost the lead he’s enjoyed for the past six months to somebody who just in the past few weeks has gone up on TV, has been to the state less (almost not at all in the past month) and whose campaign team, by their own admission, does not have what Romney does on the ground.
The cross-tabs are not available on the Register website now, but apparently voters sampled see Romney as more presidential and Giuliani as more electable. So why are they moving to Huckabee? Beyond his social conservative credentials, he also wins points for being the most civil and principled in the field. In short, they just like him.
Romney’s challenge now is to change that dynamic by providing them new information (i.e. oppo) that will lessen this ardor. But it won’t be easy. As I’ve said before, Romney risks a serious backlash by going negative. He’s started to do contrast in the mail and in campaign appearances, but it’s a bigger and riskier step to do so on TV … etc., etc.
(1) We predicted this:
- Sargent: “[Grrrr-Romney] was spending $100,000 a week through October, and he’s now upped the ante to $200,000 a week [in NH]”—in which post we discuss how Romney grossly overshot the mark—overshot the culminating point of his gains—in the early primary states.
- how Romney’s early state strategy is creating conditions that resemble a general election—in which post we discuss how Romney mis-timed his media blitz and thereby conceded every advantage to his underfunded, and un- or under-organized rivals.
(2) Another string on which we harp here is Romney’s fantastically low ROI for his every campaign dollar, i.e. the ultra-low efficiency of Romney’s organization.
- Romney has spent upwards of US$10 million in Iowa and all he got was this lousy t-shirt—Romney suddenly aware of his painfully exposed position in the early-state primaries—yet more evidence of Romney’s appallingly low ROI for his every campaign dollar
- Romney spending US$85,000.00.00 per day in Iowa, yet Huckabee has suddenly risen to within 7 points of Romney while spending nothing—zero—goose-egg—yet more evidence of Romney’s appallingly low ROI on his every campaign dollar—yet another blow to the Romney von Schlieffen plan
- Is it “mittmentum,” or is it the US$85,000 a day—$US600,000.00 last week alone—for a total so far of US$10.2 million that Romney is spending on television advertising that has resulted in Romney’s unstable, unreliable early primary-state leads—yet more evidence of Romney’s frighteningly low ROI for his every campaign dollar
We have also harped on the string of Romney’s self-financing:
- Romney with a straight face: “it’s the height of irony that the father of McCain-Feingold now has his supporters raising vast sums of money, more than regular citizens can donate, to support his campaign”—also: will someone at Team Romney please explain to the candidate what “irony” means?
- Tapper: Romney Surpasses Steve Forbes’ Self-Funding Pace
(3) Follow us for a moment: the point we want to make is a subtle one.
Say that someone buys a home in your neighborhood and what they pay is significantly below market value. What does this do to the price of your home? It drives it down. Say that some agent or agency dumps a commodity on the market at below market prices, even selling at a loss. What happens? Chaos. Dislocation. A crash in the value of the commodity, the ruin of competitors etc. Moral: free money or huge subsidies can cause distortions that correct themselves in chaos and collapse—generally, you want to pay for a good or a service what that good or service is worth (and no more), and you want others to pay for a good or a service what that service is worth. Otherwise, price become meaningless as an index of value.
Now, consider the Romney campaign, awash in free cash from Romney’s own pockets.
Political fund-raising is costly, especially for Republicans at this precise historical moment. But Team Romney is largely insulated from these costs—as well as from the learning these costs exact upon their payers. Campaigns organized on a more rational basis—i.e. campaigns whose spending is constrained by the success of their operations, campaigns more closely coupled to a broader base of funding sources and support—must adjust and adapt to develop their coalitions. Not so Team Romney, which behaves with the arrogance and sense of entitlement of a spoiled rich kid.
Further: the millions that Team Romney has squandered in Iowa and New Hampshire has so distorted perceptions that no one—not pundits, not pollsters, not analysts—can resolve a clear signal—no one really knows what is happening on the ground. The market realized as a price system—to continue our metaphor—will not support accurate comparisons. For example, when Gov. Huckabee gains on Romney in Iowa it is considered huge news for no other reason than what Romney has spent in Iowa, when the real and un-remarkable story is that Romney is a weak candidate with no clear message.
In other words, were Romney a real candidate and not an artifact of Republican decline combined with our absurd campaign finance laws—i.e. if what Romney could spend were a reliable indicator of his political fitness—then there would be no story, as there would probably be no Romney.
Our point: confusion is what results from what we call Romneyism. Romneyism is what happens when a corrupt political establishment sells off a national party for a pittance.
All of the operational questions that confront Team Romney reduce to one: How much of the patrimony of Romney’s beloved sons is Romney willing to squander? Does Boy Romney have the will and the nerve to sustain his current burn-rate?—or: does he lack to the good sense to cut his losses and pull out now? Here is the problem for the political primitives of Team Romney: the distortions caused by all that free-floating low-cost Romney-money will reach their limit in the form of a massive market correction, i.e. a big crash. We wish we could predict with confidence that it will be Team Romney that gets corrected, but we cannot. What is more likely is that Romney will take the party down with him.
“The system that you have is the system that you deserve,” our systems-administrator is fond of saying. The same could be said about leadership.