Where did the campaign of Mitt Romney go wrong? With a whole month left and 3 more debates I should be talking about why Obama is the better candidate, not why his opponent is dead on arrival. So what happened? Why did the effort against Obama fail so miserably in what should have been a very competitive race? Besides the recycled ideas, the Romney campaign has the structural soundness of a rotting log.
A horrible problem the Romney campaign faced was messaging. It assumed that an economic message about Obama’s failed policies would swing in their favor with the unemployment rate above 8%. Any campaigning done up until a few months ago was focused on that, and vague on the most crucial specifics. They are now being punished for that. Their lack of specifics and solid foundation of a campaign platform has led to huge stumbles from Romney, courtesy of the campaign staff. On numerous occasions Romney has said something only to be retracted or corrected later in a press release. Some examples are Romney saying he supported abortion in the case of danger to the life of the mother. Romney said he would not repeal all of Obamacare. Romney credited himself for the auto industry’s recovery. All retracted by the campaign. Their strategy seems to be let him say anything on camera and then correct it quietly later. But it’s hard to argue that’s an effective way to do anything. It’s difficult to throw yourself behind someone who can’t get their own ideas straight. Just ask Fox.
An equal problem was Romney’s notorious flip-flopping. You can name any issue in this campaign, and in the past 20 years Romney has held completely varying views on that issue. He was pro-choice before he was pro-life. He was against the auto bailout before he was for it. He was for an individual mandate in healthcare but then decided it couldn’t be applied at the national level. It’s a problem that he has hoped to avoid by sticking to his guns and pretending that recording technology doesn’t exist. But what his flip-flopping shows is that he lacks the conviction to make decisions. He’s a puppet rather than a policy maker in the same way Bush was. Ironically much of his policy team is from the Bush administration. He was willing to adopt all the necessary positions to get him through the Republican primary, and last Wednesday’s debate shows he’s willing to go back on all of that for the sake of winning. It’s easy to pick the worst of his inconsistencies and start shining a bright television light on them.
Romney isn’t exactly a man of the people. He has had a number of weird moments highlighting his wealth in a way that makes him seem out of touch. He told an unemployed woman with a chuckle that he too was unemployed as he runs for president. He told CNN he isn’t worried about the very poor. He said on ABC that the middle class are incomes between $200,000 and $250,000. More recently he said that 47% of Americans are lazy dependents who won’t vote for him because they aren’t responsible for their lives. These are moments like when McCain couldn’t remember how many houses he owned, or G.H.W Bush didn’t understand what a bar code was. It’s out of touch. He pays an income tax of 14 percent, which is lower than what the vast majority of working Americans pay. That rate is so low because of wealthy accounting tricks and offshore accounts in the Caymans and Switzerland. He also won’t release his tax returns beyond 2 years, despite people from both sides of the spectrum urging him to. It looks bad, suspicious, and dishonest. Romney lied about his tax returns when running for governor. He amended it after the fact to make himself a resident of Massachusetts and able to run. It is totally reasonable to ask to make sure he isn’t doing it again. He made Paul Ryan release 10 years of tax returns to the campaign to vet him, but the American people apparently do not deserve the same from him. To appear sympathetic with middle and working class families, you have to show you understand their needs and lives. You have to not act and talk like Mr. Burns if you are trying to represent the entire electorate in your policy making and not just your rich buddies.
The most frustrating thing about Mitt Romney is his unrelenting attacks on anything Obama has his hands on. It was a theme started during the Republican primaries, where if Obama liked grass, Republicans hated it. Real leaders do not define their positions on a counter to everything their opponent stands on. Romney’s worst tell was when Ambassador Stevens was killed in Libya. Before the smoke even cleared in Benghazi, Romney went to the media to criticize Obama’s handling of the situation which he had little to do with. It was cheap, it was gross, and it was rejected by both the right and the left. But Romney’s spokespeople still had the nerve to go on TV and say if Romney was president, the attacks and protests on embassies wouldn’t be happening because the world would “respect America” because of the values that would supposedly be instilled on the world from a Romney administration. He displays a lack of basic knowledge on all foreign policy issues and beats the drums of war so frequently that he might be Dick Cheney.
Despite Romney’s enormous advantage in fundraising, a large portion of the money comes from outside groups like super PACs. By law, television stations have to give their cheapest rate on ads to campaigns. Super PACs don’t have that advantage, and have fewer bangs for the buck as a result. A campaign could pay 140 dollars for an ad at one station, and a super PAC at the same station might pay almost 900 dollars. This levels the playing field enough where Obama won’t be outspent on advertising by a 2:1 margin. The Romney campaign also has half as many people working for it on the ground as Obama does, yet the cost of managing their staffs is roughly the same. Romney pays his campaign heads more in salary and bonuses. The difference is that Romney is buying his followers to help him, while Obama is inspiring his support, and at a much greater effectiveness, with more field offices in every battleground state doing more work.
The recklessness and inconsistency of Romney makes it sad that he was the GOP’s best offer. If the field hadn’t been beaten down to extremists and flip-flop Romney, they surely would have settled on a less flawed nominee. The problem with Romney is he is not the inspirational cause Obama is to many. He is desperate to be in the oval office like a child scrambling for candy. Wednesday’s debate shows he will say anything in a frenzied attempt to win. He and the Republican Party have done a complete disservice to the nation by voiding real debate. We need a party that provides meaningful counter debate and ideas so that we can come to the best means of improving the country. Right now it’s just Democrats talking to a brick wall that blocks everything. The inaccuracies and lies that pour out of Romney’s mouth rival that of any modern presidential campaign, and it is a nothing short of a miracle that there is anyone excited to support for him. You can support Romney on the basis of being against Obama. I get that. But if you think he or Ryan have been providing new ideas or fruitful discussion, you are delusional on a level rivaling drug addicts, and in need of a serious reality check. Any candidate trying to win on limited logic or non-specific proposals is betting on the winds of the times, and Obama has had no problem seizing on that. On the merits of this election, anyone could have seen this match-up coming and sense how it was going to play out. Romney never rose to the status of a serious contender for the responsibility he is clearly unfit for. He became the product of a fractured fringe of desperate Republicans. He’s the Frankenstein of American politics, built with the scraps and bolts of post-Bush conservatism, left with too little juice to put up an honest fight.
Posted in the Flipside