Fri04252014

Last updateTue, 04 Nov 2014 9pm

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A Requiem for Mitt Romney

No, no one died, and life, for the candidate, will go on.  He fought well, he fought hard, and he lost.  That happens.  

He is also a decent and honorable man.  But, election night was probably the last chapter in Mitt Romney’s political biography.  Though I didn’t vote for him, almost exclusively for reasons of political philosophy, Mitt Romney isn’t someone I dislike.  In fact, I like him.  He is affable, good natured, highly intelligent, and a leader.  His political credentials are impeccable.  

So, what happened?

The answer is probably that a lot of things happened.  One argument that I think has some weight in this analysis has to do with timing.  Polls during this campaign seemed to shift on a daily basis and the same was true with the momentum.  All that had to happen was for there to be a few good news cycles and one candidate seemed to gain the lead over the other.  

That’s at least part of what helped the President.  He got a tremendous bounce from his role in the preparation and clean-up during Hurricane Sandy.  He looked Presidential at just the right time.  Also, add to that the unexpected enthusiasm for Obama from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, once the President’s nemesis, and all at once, the President had that edge going into Election Day he was hoping for. The Hurricane and Governor Christie probably weren’t enough to change the outcome.   Though I don’t think Christie is going to be as popular on the GOP rubber chicken circuit as he once was.  

Another factor that needs to be included in assessing the outcome is the GOP candidate selection process itself.  Mitt Romney, through doggedness, and trying his best to please the far right, got the nomination.  There was no other path to becoming the Republican candidate.  And with that nod he should have won.  
After all, no President in the past 80 years has ever been re-elected with economic statistics as sad as those we have now.  Surely, an accomplished businessman and former Governor was the ideal candidate.  Unfortunately, on the way to the nomination, the normally middle of the road Mitt Romney picked up some heavy right wing baggage.  Various comments he made during the primaries trying to out right-wing his primary opponents came back to haunt him.

His comment about self deportation, when he was trying to fend off Rick Perry’s attack on Romney’s supposed softness on immigration, hurt him badly with Hispanic voters.  His 47% remark, a fumbling, off hand comment, caught in a true “gotcha” moment, was exploited with merciless effect. His unflinching commitment to not raise taxes, a possibility he wouldn’t consider, at least not until late in the campaign, was an ideal foil for President Obama’s attacks.  

Also, not helping the GOP label were the comments of Todd Akin, GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, who referred to something he termed legitimate rape and Richard Mourdock who was seeking the same office in Indiana who came out with some even more outrageous comments.  

The bottom line was that if he wanted to win, he needed to get unstuck from the Republican right.  But, as the results show, this wasn’t easy.  In the first debate, and he did well in all three, he started to move to the center.  He talked about reaching out to the other party, moderating his fiscal stance, and promised that he would not introduce any legislation on abortion.  

Unfortunately, the Obama campaign, which ran a masterful negative campaign against the former Governor, had already labeled him.  The die was cast early.  Romney, might, if he had another week, or had more aggressively touted his moderate credentials, have pulled this election out.  That is, if he could have continued to distance himself a little further from his party.  He was trying, but there just wasn’t enough time.
Much has been made of the advantage President Obama had in his ground game.  Let no one kid themselves, it made a big difference.   President Obama’s campaign was able to leverage its 2008 voter data, build on year after year, and then go into overdrive in 2012.  His campaign identified new voters, often by telephone or door-to-door visits, applied modern data mining technology, and created a political database that has no equal.  His get out the vote effort was targeted and highly effective.  In those states where the vote margins were razor thin, the Obama data base and get out the voter effort game him the edge.

There were a lot of other variables in this campaign as well.  There was the disaster in Benghazi.  There was the clear bias amongst the major networks and media outlets in favor of the President.  Just watch NBC and tell me I’m wrong.  

There was also, in of the most unseemly aspects of this campaign, a tremendous number of TV ads, most blisteringly negative, paid for by PACs.  No side’s hands are clean on that one. And then, there are the changing demographics of our country.  But that’s another column.

But, perhaps the only thing to say is that in this campaign the Republicans fielded one of their best candidates in a long time.  There will be a tendency, particularly in the ranks of the GOP, to blame him for the defeat.  Don’t.  There are other lessons to be learned, but Romney did his best in a tough situation.  Circumstances may not have favored his candidacy, but Romney deserves a well done for standing up, hanging tough, and mounting a formidable campaign.
You may reach David Kerr at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . 

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