Be sure to give this long Boston Globe postmortem on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign a read. Interviews with a number of senior Romney advisers, including his son Tagg and his campaign manager Stuart Stevens, as well as Obama campaign brass like David Axelrod, paint a picture of a candidate who achieved all his tactical goals and still lost.
Among the decisions that were deliberate choices by the Romney campaign:
- Prepare relentlessly for debates, betting on them changing the campaign
- Save money for a late-election, October ad blitz
- Focus the campaign’s message on Romney’s policies, not his biography or personality
- Concentrate resources on ads, rather than paid staff
Obama, of course, did the opposite. Obama’s lackadaisical approach to debate prep was nearly fatal, but his summer wave of anti-Romney advertising permanently defined the Republican for many voters. The 2008 Obama campaign was based much more on his story and personal traits than on specific policy, and in 2012 Obama convinced voters Romney’s personality was wrong for the country. And Obama had a huge advantage in paid staff and the ground game, with workers having responsibility for around 50 key voters rather than the hundreds or thousands Romney staff worked with.
“They had more staff in Florida than we had in the country, and for longer,” said Romney adviser Ron Kaufman.
None of this was secret — the Obama campaign had talked publicly about their emphasis on the ground game, their goal of driving up turnout among young people and minorities — but the Romney campaign thought it was just bluster.
Obama’s field organization was too strong. In Florida, 266,000 more Hispanics voted than four years earlier. “They altered the face of the election by driving up the Latino turnout,” Romney political director Rich Beeson said. “They told us they would do it. I didn’t think they would do it, and they did.”
The biggest takeaway going forward seems to be a new focus from Republican elites on the ground game. Tagg Romney reports his father is going to push for the Republican Party to create a nationwide network of paid staff well before a 2016 nominee is chosen, trying to replicate Obama’s 2012 strategy (which was of course inspired by George W. Bush’s 2004 strategy).
Read the whole thing here.