Mitt Romney is probably going to lose this election. If he does lose, he will receive the lion's share of the blame, which he richly deserves.
After surviving the GOP's Primary gauntlet, Romney emerged as the most electable candidate to represent the Republican Party. He wasn't close to being the conservative standard bearer that many on the right had hoped would win, but the conventional wisdom was, "which guy gives us the best chance to beat President Obama?" There were Right Wing ideologues in Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum, polished politicians like Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Ron Paul and "off the beaten path" candidates in Herman Cain and Jon Huntsman. In the end, the Romney campaign - which had a major head start on all the other's campaigns, prevailed. No one else could match the organisation and financial resources of the Romney team. Santorum was the last one standing, but in the end he could'nt level the playing field, let alone overtake Mr. Romney.
The Romney team prevailed for two main reasons:
1) A certain deftness during the debates in which no one really landed a direct hit. There where a few glancing blows but Romney stayed on his feet, and looked more Presidential than any of the others...
2) Money matters. Newt Gingrich complained publicly about the Romney machine (and friends) were just too powerful to stop. The sheer amount of ads that were directed at Gingrich in the primary states revealed rather quickly what a mismatch it was in the battle of resources. (Make no mistake, Mr. Gingrich ran a terrible campaign and didn't deserve to win.)
In other words, that portion of the campaign was effectively managed. Romney avoided trouble for the most part and kept his unforced errors to a minimum. Which is what you expect from someone who's experience is essentially as a manager. His career has featured several accomplishments based on his management abilities including his work (love it or hate it) at Bain Capital, his work as Massachusetts's Governor during which time he implemented "Romneycare" and his involvement with the Salt Lake City Olympics. Romney succeeded in all of these endeavors, to one degree or another. You can not like what he did at Bain, you can not like Romneycare, etc. but you can't say he hasn't been able to get things done. On the other hand, the skill set it takes to be an effective business manager and the results achieved don't necessarily match up exactly for the skill set to be an effective President of the United States.
Or, even elected President in the first place.
As we entered the post primary part of this cycle's presidential campaign, current President Obama was sitting on a lingering and seemingly immovable unemployment rate, a gridlocked Congress frustrating him more often than not, and a pretty unhealthy opinion from the citizenry regarding his effectiveness in office and the direction his administration is taking the Country. We heard talk of President Obama being the worst POTUS of all time and surely a one term proposition. There's no way he wouldn't be defeated in the next election. Social media was awash in predictions from many who guaranteed an Obama loss in November. To quote one Obama hater, "Looks like a losing proposition for OBAMA come November.....he shouldn't have a prayer based solely on the sad state of our Economy, let alone everything else that is wrong in this country due to his lack of leadership....the grand ship is sinking and you all best jump off now or go down with it..."
So, basically, Mitt Romney just had to run a safe campaign and stroll into the White House next January, right?
Mr. Romney was sitting in a virtual tie with President Obama just prior to the Republican National Convention. Technically behind, but right with his opponent. The RNC, thought to be a celebration of sorts for Conservatives as they gathered in Tampa, FL to hail Romney as the soon to be POTUS and a time to gaze upon admiringly the next class of GOP leaders. Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, etc. Everything was going according to plan until Gov. Christie spoke on the second night. His speech was more about re-introducing himself to the Country rather than any sort of a supportive statement for Mitt Romney. People were a bit surprised but moved on to the final night when the candidate would address the delegates in person.
The last night of the RNC was one of those weird quirky plot lines you usually only see in the movies. As we moved into the final few speakers of the convention, the campaign brought out actor Clint Eastwood as a secret weapon to speak to the audience. With no script and nothing but wits and an empty chair, Mr. Eastwood proceeded to talk to an empty chair for ten minutes. Some loved it, some hated it, most didn't really know what to think. Oh, by the way, Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney both spoke after Mr. Eastwood did, but nobody really remembers much of what they had to say. Which is a shame because Mr. Rubio did a very nice job, while Mr. Romney did an acceptable job. One big flaw in Romney's speech that bears mentioning. He failed to mention our nation's military in any meaningful way whatsoever. His claim that he covered the military base the day prior with a speech for the VFW fell mostly flat. While there were a few notable speeches including those from Rubio, VP candidate Paul Ryan and Ann Romney, the affair didn't do much to inspire or convert people. The much anticipated post-convention "bounce" never really materialized.
Immediately following the RNC, the Democrats had their own convention in Charlotte, NC. The event had a little more spunk to it than did the Republican's meeting. First Lady Michelle Obama, Former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama did the heavy lifting and all scored high marks-President Clinton especially.
The Romney campaign made a decision to pull most of its television ads during the RNC. This move basically ceded national media over to the Democrats with no offsetting message for Americans to digest. Obama was handed an early Christmas present. Pollsters are still trying to figure out how big of a bounce the DNC got and most have pegged it between 3-5% in the polls.
As the days passed after the RNC, reports surfaced that all was not well within the Romney camp. As reported in Politico, many insiders were displeased with head strategist Stuart Stevens. There were questions about the Eastwood thing. Who approved no script? Romney's end of convention speech was rewritten more than once and has been assessed as having too many chefs and not enough cooks involved.
Then came a flare-up in the Middle East with four dead Americans in Libya and anti-American protests all around the Islamic world. Traditionally, all parties unite under the age-old adage that "politics ends at the water's edge." Not this campaign it didn't. With events still unfolding halfway around the world, team Romney released early a previously embargoed statement criticizing the President for apologizing to radical Islamic terrorists and failing to stand up for American values. The Romney camp didn't bother to get the facts straight before releasing the political attack and when the dust settled, looked amateurish, unorganized and borderline offensive to many for launching the unfounded attack on President Obama. A classic example of over-playing one's hand. Instead of helping, it hurt the Romney campaign with several Conservatives publicly finding fault.
Yesterday, the main goal was for the Romney campaign to "reboot" if you will. Start a fresh set of downs if you will. A morning press conference promised to clarify the message, provide more specifics, etc. But by day's end, the Mother Jones publication released a videotape that sent an already shaken campaign into disaster mode...
Whoops, time for the second press conference of the day. Cue video...
While these remarks make for good talk radio and social media bluster, I don't see it as anything close to fatal error. While Romney's getting spanked pretty hard by voices all across the political spectrum, he really didn't say anything that outrageous. Clumsy, inarticulate, perhaps even stupid? Sure, but not outrageous.
CNN was the first media outlet to poll voters on the effect of this video on their preferences, and found that among independents, 15% said they were more likely to vote for Romney while almost double that, 29% said they were less likely to vote for the former Massachusetts Governor. Couple that with a poll in Michigan, Romney's home State and where his father served as Governor, that shows President Obama leading Romney by 8 points.
As the political world shakes its collective head at the Romney campaign, I have one question:
Is Mitt Romney the manager who can't manage?
There is plenty...PLENTY...of time to turn his campaign around and win this thing. All Romney needs is a videotape of Barack Obama with either A) a dead girl or B) a live boy in it and that will be that. Since that's probably not going to happen, the Romney fans have a good reason to be concerned. Right now, Mr. Business/Manager doesn't seem to be able to get out of his own way, while President Obama mostly just keeps having pretty good days.
The debates will be Romney's last/best chance to gain the upper hand on his opponent before election day. The good news is that Romney has been drilling on the debates since July and given that he performed fairly well in the Primary debates, one can hope that he regains his composure and can effectively present himself during the three one on one's with President Obama. The bad news, the history of presidential debates suggests strongly that they don't usually alter the outcome.
Mitt Romney is not managing himself very well these days and quite possibly nor is his campaign. Romney has pissed away most of the last two weeks by making unforced errors. The mistakes need to stop. Today, reports of cash issues appeared in the press, which is bad news as the Obama team throws (seems to throw) up new ads every day. If Romney is going to turn this around, we need to see a very different candidate and campaign over the next 48 days.