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November 07, 2012
Ten Reasons Why Romney Lost
I'm going to ignore obvious ones like "the media," with one exception. I'll stick to things we had control of, and one big thing no one had control of.
1. Benghazi/Candy Crowely. "Act of terror." The line Obama had prepped for, and probably tipped Candy Crowely off about in advance.
Romney's mistake here was looking as precisely what he wasn't -- unprepared. Romney is a very prepared guy, and it's generally shown throughout his campaign.
In this case, though, I think the guy tasked with prepping him for Benghazi-- and briefing him on it-- overlooked two vague mentions of "acts of terror" by Obama.
Romney got stung -- and it's based on this one exchange, and then his off-his-game-performance for the next ten minutes of the second debate -- that caused his loss in the debate. Had he watched his words more carefully, had he been prepped to say "I know, Mr. President, you're going to claim you made a vague allusion to 'act of terror'"... he would have cleanly won the second debate, too.
Further, it's my theory that Romney laid off Benghazi at this point due to this error. I think he lost confidence in the guy tasked to this issue -- embarrass me in public and I don't want to hear from you for a while -- and also figured that to continue attempting relitigating it would just keep Candy Crowley's ignorant slapdown in the public consciousness. I think he choose, wrongly, to just ignore it from this point out.
And because he was no longer pushing it as an issue, the media decided they had the pretext necessary to drop it entirely as an issue, too.
Think how differently the whole second debate would have gone -- and the third debate, too, as that began with a Benghazi question -- had the ordinarily well-prepped Romney simply known Obama made a vague reference to "act of terror."
2. Hurricane Sandy. For some reason, Hillbuzz seems to think I pulled an "Oh noez! The Hurricane will make us lose!" trip. In fact, I never mentioned the hurricane, except to note the damage it wrought several days later.
At the time, I figured it might help Obama, but I hoped it would not, so I simply refused to address a natural calamity as a "political issue." I saw Politico and all the rest doing so; I didn't.
But Sandy did let Obama look Presidential in his spiffy (brand new, not a crease in it) Air Force One bomber jacket. And Chris Christie essentially endorsed him, vouching for his prowess as a Strong and Decisive Leader of Men.
From this point, Romney swung in the polls from a +1 RCP average to being down about one, and Obama's leadership rating rose.
A Black Swan. No one predicted it. It wasn't on the schedule. But yes, I do think it moved 2% to Obama. Without Sandy, we have another week of Benghazi. We can discuss more fully the unemployment rate rising to 7.9%. No spiffy new bomber jacket.
3. Failing to Accuse Obama of Planning to Raise Taxes on the Middle Class. This one hurt. Because Obama's is running huge deficits and must do something to address this, and because he refuses to give up any socialist spending, and because his tax hikes on the rich raise only $80 billion per year, Obama must tax the middle class to fuel his lavish, gold-plated progressive vision.
But Romney didn't say so. And then Obama accused Romney of wanting to raise taxes on the middle class.
This accomplished two things: 1, now people really think Romney is going to raise their taxes to give the rich a tax cut, and 2, it insulates Obama from the truth of his own plan to raise taxes on the middle class.
And now Romney can't make the charge. He'd just sound like a copycat.
Inexcusable. This was a bad one, man.
And this gets to...
4. Not Rebutting Clinton's Outstanding, Dishonest Convention Speech. I first noticed the "Romney wants to raise taxes on the middle class" charge when it was leveled by Clinton in his soaringly false convention speech.
Romney let the charge go unrebutted. And several other crucial points as well:
1) That the economy is about to take off into a golden age, just like it did in 1996, under Clinton.
2) That Obama didn't cut Medicare; why, he actually strengthened the program!
I hate to pat myself on the back but that speech was devastating. I said Romney had to rebut it vigorously. He didn't. Obama soared after the convention, and certainly not due to his own weak, stuttering effort. It was because of Clinton's pitch.
5. Because Romney's Rich. One of my biggest problems with candidate Romney -- before I got on board -- is that I didn't trust the American people to judge a rich, successful Winner on his merits.
That they would naturally fall to the normal human state of envy.
I'm not sure what Romney could have done to avoid this. Perhaps pushed those soft-focus Story of Mitt commercials very early.
6. Going to Perry's Right on Immigration. When Perry threatened to upset Romney's applecart, Romney shook the etch-a-sketch, and committed himself to a fairly strong-form anti-accomodation policy on illegal immigrants.
"Self deportation" was the plan for the nation's illegals.
Now, understand this: I'm not against that at all. I do not want more illegal immigrants coming here and becoming citizens, not because I'm anti-brown, but because I'm anti-red. Illegal immigrants from socialist countries tend to be poor and desiring of socialist cures for their relative poverty. The other thing they seem to want is more immigrants from poor socialist Latin America countries coming here to be citizens.
This creates an impossible situation: To attract them as voters, we have to agree to permit widescale immigration from Latin America into the country. And when they become citizens, they will vote against us, because they want socialism and we despise it. The more we chase them, the further we fall behind from our actual goal of restoring a limited-government capitalist-oriented Constitutional Republic.
I don't know what can be done about this. This strikes me as the most impossible hurdle for us, and I don't mean in this election; I mean in every election to come, and each four years the problem becomes worse for us.
One tactical error Romney made, however, was committing himself so strongly to a position without any wiggle room.
In fact, Mark Krikorian, a fairly hardline guy on illegal immigration, thought that Romney could propose a "mini-DREAM act" with E-Verify and other immigration-enforcement measures which would "make sense."
But Romney never really mentioned that. He never really offered any sort of fudge or sop to Hispanics on the issue.
Hispanics made up 10% of the electorate, according to exit polls (which maybe be skewed, but it's a rough estimate). They voted against Romney 70-30; they voted against McCain 60-40. 10% of 10% is of course 1%, so it is possible that if Romney had felt more room to make a pitch for some kind of compromise, he would have added 1% to his vote tally. Which just might have won things for him.
Now, that would have brought him problems-- he might have lost some white voters over this.
But he also did not then punish Obama with white voters for talking up amnesty.
In effect, Romney was in a No Man's Land, stuck with a position that Hispanics didn't like, but also not being willing to hit Obama on his position and thus turn white voters off to him.
He may have flinched from making the sort of tough, but fair, attack on Obama needed to win, as Obama's opponents tend to do.
After all, the media will call you racist.
7. Romney Refrained From Other Tough Attacks, Too. Romney was a little too gentlemanly to make several tough attacks that Lee Atwater, for example, would have insisted on.
He never called Obama a liberal. Ever. This is a bread-and-butter Republican attack, framing an opponent, defining him. It works especially well when your opponent is, in fact, a hard-left liberal.
Never mind calling him a socialist. How about a liberal?
He also never asked Obama, even in a commercial, if he vowed he would never send the Blind Sheikh back to Egypt.
There are rumors the Administration has been in "talks" about this -- and a State Department spokesman offered a non-denial (stating we had no "plans" to do so-- plans change).
He also never pressed Obama on closing Guantanamo, and his likely plan to relocate terrorists to a state prison facility in Illinois the federal government is purchasing.
He also stopped making an issue out of Obama's gutting of the work-for-welfare requirement, even though he was 100% correct.
Liberals would call these cheap attacks. I don't, and why do liberals get to make the rules? I thought the cancer attacks were cheap. What's wrong with these?
8. Rape Abortion. It was one thing for One Lone Nut to say he'd pass a law forbidding a raped woman from taking Plan B immediately after an attack (which is a standard current treatment). It was another thing when Richard Mourdock turned this from One Guy Popping Off to a Widely Held Republican Position.
Obama had already prepared a War on Women narrative, and now we've got Senate candidates saying that God planned for women to get raped?
Let me offer this observation: If there's something you believe, but have no chance whatsoever of passing into actual law, then it's really not a political belief. Politics is not philosophy. It's about passing (or repealing) actual laws with actual real-world coercive effect.
Since not even babies which are one hour from birth are currently protected from the abortionist -- the easiest case of all to make with the public -- why the focus on the toughest of all cases? One that horrifies women -- and men, to boot?
The hardest case for pro-choicers to defend is a baby just hours away from natural birth.
The hardest case for pro-lifers to defend is the administration of Plan B to a woman who was just raped hours ago, who, if pregnant at all, is pregnant with a single-celled embryo.
Since we have not prevailed on the easy case yet, why this suicidal determination to talk about the hardest case?
Not only is unlikely abortion will be outlawed at all (especially now, with the President and Senate in Democratic hands, and new liberal justices coming in the next four years to add to the 5-vote Roe majority), but it almost unfathomable that if it gets banned 15 years from now that there will not be an exception for emergency contraception immediately following a rape.
Since there is practically no chance whatsoever of this particular policy prevailing -- probably ever -- what is the point of injecting it into politics?
Why not just say you'd support such an exception? Since you would, given that no conceivable law would fail to contain it, so it would be that way or the highway?
Again, I think there is some confusion about the need to state one's personal governing philosophy -- which has no chance of becoming actual policy -- as if it's your policy.
It may be your preferred policy; but you have no hope of obtaining it -- it's far too unpopular -- so what is the point of saying so?
Every Republican presidential candidate has allowed the three exceptions. George W. Bush -- widely thought to be a good social conservative -- actually fudged on abortion entirely, stating he was pro-life himself, but understood the nation wasn't there yet and not ready for a ban of abortion until we embraced a "culture of life."
Indiana is a bright red state. It went easily for Romney.
Missouri is now a dark red state. It also went easily for Romney.
Mourdock and Akin both lost in these layup-win states.
I hope people in the insurgent wing of the party begin to understand the difference between policy -- which the public needs to be concerned with, as it's your actual intention to pass into positive law -- and personal belief -- which the public doesn't need to care about, as you don't anticipate making it into public law.
People might think this is about the Overton Window. Weill, that sound was the Overton Window slamming hard on Akin's and Mourdock's fingers.
Leaders lead when they are just far enough in front of public opinion that the public can and will follow them.
When they are too far ahead of public opinion, so far off the public cannot even see them any longer, the public wanders off and follows someone else. At that point, he's not the leader he intended, but the aimless lone wanderer in the wilderness.
Overall, I think this Republican Own Goal cost Romney-Ryan 1% or more. Maybe as much as 3%.
The first step to reducing abortion is stopping the easier cases-- the late-term abortions. Only when the public is comfortable with that will they even consider the harder cases.
Pushing the most difficult case of all -- no abortion even in the case of forcible rape! -- pretty much guarantees abortion will be the law of the land, forever.
It's like asking for anal before a girl has even agreed to date you. Good luck getting that date.
I'm pro-choice. I've said that. So you can take this advice as advice from an "enemy" (and generally, I concede you should ignore advice from an enemy).
But I'm telling you, honestly, I cannot conceive of a political strategy better guaranteed to keep abortion on demand legal for perpetuity than spokesmen for the pro-life cause talking up forbidding even the morning-after pill immediately after a rape. Rather than talking up the easier case to make, they go right for the most difficult imaginable one.
And scare the shit out of any woman who doesn't fancy the idea of carrying a rapist's baby to term, coerced by the power of the state.
This is one of those cases where people will talk about "Principle." Principle is a personal thing. And it's intangible. It's about one's self conception and self regard. It affects nothing in the real world.
Action does. Actual tangible legislative directives.
If only principle is sought, then I suppose this is the right approach.
But in that case, pro-lifers should probably then get used to the idea of the action of keeping abortion legal in all circumstances.
But he didn't start that way. For most of the campaign, he was a so-so candidate with little human warmth. He often seemed like he was calculating his responses based on what he thought was in his best interests to say (probably because he probably was calculating his responses based on what he thought was in his best interests to say).
Had October's Romney been on the trail in January, we might have seen an entirely different race.
On that point, Romney made a great case against Obama -- but was only tentatively grasping at a strong positive case for conservatism. At the end of his campaign, he was groping at linking aspirations and freedom to conservative principle.
He was just getting there. He was beginning to do it.
Only near the end did he begin linking up the deadening of the spirit and the crushing of ambition inevitable in an all-powerful Father State. Only near the end did he begin to link striving to wealth, and freedom to succeed with freedom to fail.
This was always the knock on Romney -- he had a good sense of the practical, and his instincts were usually conservative, but had not yet formed a larger ideological theory to explain his beliefs.
There was a knock on John McCain -- there is no such thing as "McCainism," except for McCain's belief in his own integrity and rightness for rule. There was, then, no Idea behind McCain; just the idea that McCain, the person, was the best man for the job. (Just ask John McCain -- he'll tell you.)
Romney was similar in that "Romneyism" was really some underwarmed conservative impulses mixed with the idea that Romney is a very smart, very capable man and would be personally able to run things better. But not really a greater idea -- a capital I-Idea like Reaganism was -- beyond Romney's personal capabilities.
"Competency" has usually failed as a rationale for a would-be president. Michael Dukakis ran on it, and failed, badly. In almost all winning campaigns, there is something beyond the person to recommend him.
Romney, for all his personal attributes (which are many), really did not offer anything beyond his person. I think he's one of the most truly competent guys to run on the Competency platform. But it rarely works.
At the end of the day, the Presidency isn't just a job, and isn't just an office. It's bigger than that. It's bigger than a man. It's an idea, and it exists partly in the imagination. The imagination has to fill the gap between the man and what the office demands. Romney really didn't offer anything like that.
10. Romney Never Linked Obama To The Financial Crisis. This is also unforgivable.
Obama kept claiming, over and over, that Romney would take us back to the policies that caused this depression.
In fact, what caused the depression was the federal government pressuring banks to give loans to lightly qualified borrowers. Which inflated a bubble, and then blew up the economy.
And one of the motivators behind this policy was Barack H. Obama, both as a community organizer and then as a US Senator.
As with the middle class taxes issue, this is a double fault: Not only do you not get the advantage of the attack -- blaming your opponent for the depression -- but then he blames you instead.
This would have been a complicated case to make. But it would have been so, so helpful.
Why didn't Romney make it? I don't know.
I think there were a lot of attacks Romney avoided because he wanted to avoid scorn and derision by the press. He wanted to be gentelmanly.
He walked into the same trap McCain did, and suffered the same result.
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