Saturday, February 09, 2008

Why Romney Failed

John Ellis at ReadClearPolitics cites what he says were Romney's "5 big mistakes:”

1. Romney had to address the Mormon issue early and often in the first half of 2007. It wasn't a one-speech issue with the Republican base. It was a huge issue. And the de-fusing of it required a concerted effort on Romney's part to explain his faith to those who didn't understand its tenets. ...

2. Packaging Romney as a 700 Club Republican was a non-starter from day one. This point has been made time and time again, but it bears repeating. It's important to remember that former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee spent very little money in Iowa, relatively speaking. Romney may have outspent him there by as much as 15-to-1. But Huckabee won Iowa decisively, despite a stumbling finish. The speed with which Romney 1.0 was jettisoned after Iowa confirms the abject failure of the positioning. It failed because it was nonsense.

3. Romney never addressed the War with anything but boilerplate. It is the job of the new candidate, fresh to the national stage, to address, in detail and across diplomatic, military, financial and law enforcement portfolios, the most important threat to the national security interests of the United States of America. The Romney campaign seemed determined to avoid the issue, as if it could only do their candidate political harm. ... This was inexcusable and the most unattractive aspect of the Romney campaign.

4. The Romney campaign never made the pivot to the core economic issue. By October, it was clear to almost every sentient person in the financial community that the sub-prime meltdown would soon mushroom into a solvency crisis at key American financial institutions. And indeed it did. …

Senator McCain couldn't talk about it. He didn't and doesn't understand it. Gov. Huckabee couldn't talk about it. He had and has no idea what it implies.

All Romney had to do was declare a "crisis" (which it surely is) and then address the crisis with ideas about how it might be resolved. In a crisis, people (voters) naturally gravitate to the smartest guy (or woman) in the room.

But the Romney campaign steadfastly refused to raise the issue, despite countless pleas from Romney supporters in the financial community and elsewhere.

5. They sold silly spin all the way to the end. Having mismanaged their candidate to political defeat, the Romney team added insult to injury by spinning his departure as reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's defeat in 1976. …

Reagan left the stage as a force because he was a force. Romney leaves the stage having carried Michigan and Massachusetts and a number of caucus states. And he leaves having given it his very best effort. But he does not leave as a force, because he is not yet a significant force in the Republican Party.

The sad thing about the Romney campaign's demise is that Mitt Romney is an exceptional person; highly intelligent, enormously hard-working, a man of great integrity and grit and executive ability. Given the dearth of talent in both parties -- the seemingly endless parade of mediocrity and venality -- we're lucky to have people like Mitt Romney who are willing to get in the game.

But he 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.
I agree with Ellis on all points except number 5. While in some important ways Romney’s “departure” wasn’t reminisant of Raegan’s in 1976, in some important respects it was.

It’s mostly being ignored by MSM but people who were at the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting say he received 5 standing ovations with the last the loudest and longest. Mort Kondrake said just that last night on Fox News.

Romney’s most important accomplishment of the primary campaign may be that he’s established himself with conservatives to such an extent that while he’s no Reagan, =most of them won’t reject him out-of-hand if there's a next time.

If there is, it's very likely Romney will start out with a large core, perhaps even the majority, of conservative leaders and rank –and –file supporting him.

Ellis’ entire column is here.