Romney had no vision. The campaign ignored segments of the population. There was no Hispanic strategy. Romney had an insufficient commitment on social issues. As the rats jumped ship, political ingrates who were all over Romney when they thought he would win, turned 180 degrees when he lost and took pot shots at the entire Romney campaign.
Romney foreign policy adviser Dan Senor put it this way. "It's stunning, the Friday night before the election, we were in Cincinnati for this huge rally ... tens of thousands of people, you could feel the energy, a hundred top-tier Romney surrogates were at the event. I’m backstage with some of them, I won’t mention their names, but they’re talking about Romney like he’s Reagan. ‘His debate performances were the best performances of any Republican nominee in presidential history. He’s iconic.’ ”
Senor felt some of these high profile GOP supporters were talking about Romney because they believed he was going to win in four or five days. “In fact, some of them were already talking to our transition (team) to position themselves for a Romney cabinet," Senor said on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" “I won't say who they are. They know who they are. They were on television, it was unbelievable, it was five, six days later, absolutely eviscerating him.”
So just how bad a candidate was Mitt Romney? Probably as good or better than the GOP has been able to produce since Ronald Reagan. He was a highly successful businessman, a capable Governor of Massachusetts, had performed significant volunteer work for his church and for the country running the Winter Olympics, and he was supported by an appealing family.
Romney went through a grueling primary season being challenged by a number of bizarre, off the wall candidates who were all over the map on social issues. But he survived, and then took on the daunting task of challenging a sitting president, who had amassed a huge campaign war chest and was rested for the general election fight.
As the head of his party, Romney had to project a vision that gave voters hope for a significantly improved economic climate. As was to be expected opposition to this vision came from the Democrats, but surprisingly, equal opposition came from within his own party. Rather than talking about jobs, and economic growth, Romney was continually broadsided by Republicans over what adults could, or could not do in their bedrooms, and why it was good politics to demonize Hispanic immigrants. Members of his own party kept shooting him in the foot.
Despite having to pull the weight of elements in his own party that were in disarray, he still stayed competitive going into the first debate. His strong performance allowed him to coast above squabbling party factions, challenge the voters to look at just the two candidates, side by side, and judge each on his own words. The Romney campaign soared, and the candidate’s poll numbers took a major jump. Romney had the momentum, and the Democrats were worried. At this point, it appeared that Romney could win this thing.
Obama campaign manager David Axelrod acknowledged after the election that the campaign had continuing worries about the issue of the President’s failure to work across the aisle with Republicans. Certainly it was true that the GOP were being obstructionists to any joint party cooperation. But Obama, by all accounts, had failed to make any concerted effort to reach out, himself. Many Democrats were puzzled that it was a year and a half after he had taken office before Obama met one on one with either House Speaker Boehner or Senate Minority Leader McConnell. Romney racked up points by talking about working across party lines to solve problems. Many undecided voters were impressed by this.
Then Sandy came along and struck with even greater force than had been predicted. And just as the Romney campaign was on the rise, both campaigns called a halt in deference to those whose lives were devastated by the Hurricane. What an opening for the President. A godsend. He quit being a partisan campaigner on the defensive, and asserted the mantle of Commander in Chief. Overnight, Obama was able to look and act presidential as he called out the federal hurricane response team and toured the damaged communities along the east coast. As one Romney operative told me, “It just sucked all the air out of our momentum. We could only stand by as Obama became more presidential in taking on the recovery effort.”
Many undecided voters, who were concerned about Obama’s ability to work with Republicans were moved by photos and press reports of New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Cristie both embracing and heaping praise on the President. In the eyes of many undecided voters, Obama had become the guy in charge who could work with the other side. Romney could only stand by and watch.
Pollsters tell us that voters who profess to be undecided in the waning weeks of the campaign will generally end up supporting the challenger. Such voters have watched the incumbent for four years, and if such voters are still undecided just prior to the election, all they want is an affirmation that the new guy is competent and able to do the job. As a general rule, 70% of undecideds go for the challenger. But not this time. Obama’s strong presence in the hurricane recovery effort changed the equation. This time around, more than 70% of those who were late making up their minds voted for Obama.
So it was not just voters along the east coast who appreciated the President’s efforts. Undecideds coast to coast watched and were influenced by Obama’s response. And they rewarded him for it.
Mitt Romney was a good candidate for the GOP from the beginning and ran an excellent campaign. He just got done in by Sandy and certainly wasn’t helped by Republican dissidents. There are a number of competent candidates for the GOP in 2016. A Ryan-Rubio ticket will get the base stirring early. Jeb Bush is a possibility. The list is long. But Republican opportunists do a disservice to their own party by throwing rocks at a guy who gave it his best shot and came within a hair of being the new president.
“You don’t have to fool all of the people all of the time; you just have to fool enough to get elected.”
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.
Jim Brown and Bayoubuzz Note: For full disclosure purposes, Jim Brown is the son-in-law of Dan Senor, mentioned above.
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