Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How Romney Lost

There are all kinds of reasons for Romney's defeat, and I'm sure most folks have their own theories (I don't think Romney ran an effective campaign, personally), but this report's fascinating, at WSJ, "How Race Slipped Away From Romney":
BOSTON—Mitt Romney is one of the wealthiest men ever to run for president. And yet the lack of money earlier this year stalled his campaign, and he never really recovered.

The GOP nominee emerged late last spring from a long and bruising Republican primary season more damaged than commonly realized. His image with voters had eroded as he endured heavy attacks from Republicans over his business record. He also felt compelled to take a hard line on immigration—one that was the subject of debate among his advisers—that hurt his standing with Hispanic voters.

More than that, Mr. Romney had spent so much money winning the nomination that he was low on cash; aides, seeing the problem taking shape, had once considered accepting federal financing for the campaign rather than rely on private donations.

The campaign's fate led on Wednesday to second-guessing and recriminations among Republicans chagrined that a seemingly winnable race slipped away. Some Republicans wondered whether the Romney campaign had misjudged the power of President Barack Obama's coalition, while others were questioning Mr. Romney's and the party's approach to immigration.

Back in spring, the Romney campaign's biggest worry was money. So the campaign's finance chair, Spencer Zwick, huddled with political director Rich Beeson to craft a complex schedule that took Mr. Romney to the cities that were prime real estate for fundraising.

It meant visits to places like California, Texas and New York—none of which were important political battlegrounds—while only allowing for quick side trips to swing states that Mr. Romney would need to win to become president.

On one level the strategy worked: Mr. Romney ultimately garnered some $800 million or more, putting him in close competition with Mr. Obama's robust fundraising effort.

But Mr. Romney paid a deep political price. The fundraising marathon reduced his ability to deliver his own message to voters just as the Obama campaign was stepping in to define the Republican candidate on its terms. Mr. Romney's heavy wooing of conservative donors limited his ability to move his campaign positions to the center, to appeal to moderate and independent donors.

The search for cash led him to a Florida mansion for a private fundraiser where Mr. Romney would make the deeply damaging, secretly recorded remarks where he disparaged and dismissed the 47% of Americans who don't pay taxes.

In the end, Mr. Romney lost nearly every swing state. Other factors contributed to his defeat, of course, including difficulty making voters warm to him and a dearth of support among Hispanics.

But in the eyes of top aides in both campaigns, that early summer period when Mr. Romney was busy fundraising was perhaps the biggest single reason he lost the election.

The Obama campaign spent heavily while Mr. Romney couldn't, launched a range of effective attacks on the Republican nominee and drove up voters' negative perceptions of Mr. Romney.

The problem: Mr. Romney had burned through much of his money raised for the primaries, and by law, he couldn't begin spending his general-election funds until he accepted the GOP nomination late in the summer.

The money crunch didn't totally take the Romney camp by surprise. Long before Mr. Romney secured the nomination, his closest advisers began plotting what it would cost to wage an effective campaign against Mr. Obama in the general election. Mr. Zwick, his finance chief, assumed the best way to handle cash needs would be to raise money from private donors, rather than accept the public financing the government offers presidential candidates, advisers said.

Mr. Zwick looked at fundraising markets in every state and sketched out a schedule for Mr. Romney, his wife Ann, and his yet-to-be-named running mate. He decided the payoff from fundraising was worth the investment of the candidate's time. Analytical decisions like that one were the campaign's mantra. In interviews, staffers called it the "Bain way."

In August, when Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan was announced as Mr. Romney's vice presidential pick, Mr. Ryan's fundraising schedule was released the same day: 10 events by the end of the month.

Mr. Romney's finance team was vigilant in its efforts to ensure fundraising jaunts would be worth his time. Every other month the campaign's state finance chairmen met for a roughly four-hour meeting with Romney staffers. During the meeting, fundraisers had to stand in front of their peers and report whether they had hit their fundraising target.
Keep in mind, while Romney was struggling, the Democrats were simultaneously running ads in those very swing states, hammering the GOP nominee as a greedy, rapacious capitalist downsizing jobs and destroying middle class prosperity. Places like Ohio were inundated with these attacks. The progressives lied ruthlessly. It was unrelenting, merciless, and literally evil in its single-minded focus on character assassination. Romney wasn't ready for it. I wrote about some of Romney's problems in September, but I had no idea about the money deficits.