Why Romney lost

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.

Tags: Mitt Romney

The 12th Amendment at work. South Dakota’s electors for Republican Mitt Romney, Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Attorney General Marty Jackley, officially cast South Dakota’s three electoral votes for Romney on Monday. Romney won South Dakota but lost the overall presidential election. (This happened yesterday, but I was on vacation, so.) Photo by Kelsey Webb of Daugaard’s office.

The 12th Amendment at work. South Dakota’s electors for Republican Mitt Romney, Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Attorney General Marty Jackley, officially cast South Dakota’s three electoral votes for Romney on Monday. Romney won South Dakota but lost the overall presidential election. (This happened yesterday, but I was on vacation, so.) Photo by Kelsey Webb of Daugaard’s office.

"Obviously we’re disappointed about that. It was a hard-fought campaign. We knew it was going to be close. We had hoped that some of those states that went for Obama tonight would flip to Romney this year. But the American people obviously decided they want to maintain divided government, and they’re going to give President Obama a second chance. We will be there in Congress to meet him halfway, to work with him. But we’ve got some big challenges to face, and I hope he will get serious about meeting them."

— Sen. John Thune, on Gov. Mitt Romney’s defeat in the 2012 presidential election

Gloom from GOP TV-watchers

Republicans are winning statewide in South Dakota, but the same doesn’t look like it’s true for Mitt Romney, who is behind in key eastern swing states.

That’s led to some grumbling from Republican faithful watching the results come in on TV.

One of them, Gary Palmer of Renner, said he was “disappointed — very disappointed” in what he saw in the national returns.

"This is not what people with common sense ever thought would happen," Palmer said.

And Palmer is not a man with divided feelings about Obama, describing him as ”a man who has a lousy record, a man who is a criminal, basically. A man who breaks the law,” he said. “This shouldn’t happen, but look at it. He has all the entitlement people voting for him.”

Palmer said he was not just hoping for, but expecting, different results.

"I thought Romney would win," he said. "Maybe he still might, but it doesn’t look good right now."

Obama-Romney debate discussion

Feel free to share your comments before, during and after tonight’s presidential debate in this thread.

Obama-Romney debate discussion

Feel free to share your comments before, during and after tonight’s presidential debate in this thread.

Is Obama really outspending Romney in SD?

Slate Magazine recently compiled an interactive map of presidential campaign spending, and color-coded the states based on which campaign was spending more money there.

South Dakota, a sure-fire Romney win, is pale blue on their map. Obama has outspent Romney just over two to one here.

Is this true?

Yes, but it doesn’t mean very much.

We’re talking about just under $26,000 in net spending for the two campaigns combined over two years — less than some candidates for the South Dakota Legislature will spend this year.

That’s $17,612 for Obama and $8,180 for Romney.

What’s the spending on? For Obama, one word suffices: rent.

The president’s campaign paid $4,800 through early 2011 to the South Dakota Democratic Party for space in the party’s offices. Early this year it got its own space and has paid $9,672.41 to ADL Properties Inc. since then. That’s $14,472.41, or 82 percent of his total South Dakota spending.

Most of the rest of Obama’s spending was $1,810.40 for “staging, sound (and) lighting” for an event.

Romney’s spending divides into three categories. One involves events Romney held during his October 2011 visit to Sioux Falls. He paid $2,000 to the city of Sioux Falls in that month for “facility rental/catering services.”

The South Dakota Republican Party got $1,000 for “print advertising.”

The third category is “John Thune.” Romney paid $3,347.98 in an in-kind contribution to Thune’s Heartland Values PAC for air travel on Dec. 5, 2011. Several weeks before that, Thune endorsed Romney.

Romney hasn’t rented any office space in South Dakota, thus giving the spending edge to Obama — not that “most money spent in South Dakota” is a race either campaign wants to win.

Still, $25,000 is chump change for these guys. In Iowa they combined for $2.6 million. Other swing states are also in different ballparks. (South Dakota’s not the state with the least spending. I think that “honor” goes to West Virginia, with a combined $7,000.)

Also worth keeping in mind is that the state where spending gets reported isn’t necessarily the state the money gets spent. Slate notes Romney spent an eye-popping $36 million in New Hampshire — but only because that’s where his direct mail company is located. The effects of that $36 million are spread out around the whole country. (South Dakota’s spending seems to be mostly genuine local stuff.)

An old Romney returns

In last night’s debate, Barack Obama wasn’t very good.

He wasn’t terrible. I think people on both sides are exaggerating the gap between his performance and Mitt Romney. (Both liberals and conservatives seem to agree Romney did better, though liberals are arguing this was only due to Romney’s “lies.”) Obama didn’t make any major gaffes, he was just sort of flat, professorial and only intermittently effective.

Romney’s performance, however, was far more interesting.

What stood out most of all to me was how much time Romney spent talking about a part of his past he’s barely mentioned in his career as a national politician: his four years as governor of Massachusetts.

On more than a few occasions, Romney talked about his approach to governing, his work with the Democratic-dominated Massachusetts legislature, even his health care plan.

You almost never heard Romney talk about this time at the convention, or during the primaries.

The latter, at least, makes sense — to be an effective Republican governor of a liberal state, you need to make a lot of compromises, which isn’t the way to endear yourself to the party base in a primary. So Romney talked a lot about his business career. (His opponents, both Republicans and Obama, also spent/spend a lot of time talking about Romney’s business career.)

This doesn’t appear to be an accident. Beyond just repeated mentions of Romney’s elected experience, he was at pains in the debate to emphasize his moderation on a series of issues. 

Talking to Buzzfeed, an anonymous Romney aide makes this explicit:

A third Romney aide, granted anonymity to bluntly discuss strategy, told BuzzFeed that Boston is no longer concerned about conservatives’ support, and wanted instead to use the debate to talk to a segment of the electorate they haven’t reached yet.

This is conventional wisdom — you solidify your base, then pivot to the middle. But a lot of people on the wings of each party argue this is a bad strategy, that firm, uncompromising positions inspire and rally voters. Avoiding those compromises, they argue, leads to massive base turnout and thus victory.

How do conservative readers feel about the new, more moderate tone Romney presented Wednesday night?

Debate time!

Wow. The first presidential debate is tomorrow night. Seems early, and yet late. This campaign has been going on for a year and a half, and now Romney and Obama are going to meet head-to-head for the first time at 8 p.m. CT. 

Here’s some advance reading:

Romney in Iowa

Gov. Mitt Romney’s first campaign event after the Democratic National Convention ended up being a momentous one — especially in light of what followed.

Speaking in Orange City, Iowa, on Friday, Romney hit Obama on an economy-centric message, promising to cut spending, balance the budget and jump-start the economy:

“This president tried, but he doesn’t understand what it takes to make our economy work. I do,” Romney said.

Many people in the crowd at Northwestern College were young, and Romney tailored his message on debt to them.

“We all respect our government, but we don’t want it to get so big it crushes the dreams of the American people,” Romney said. “I will fight for the young people of America by getting us finally on track for a balanced budget.”

Read more here.

After the jump, read more about how Romney followed up his northwest Iowa campaign event, and get links to video and photos of Romney’s rally.

Read More

Tags: Mitt Romney

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