Why Romney Will Lose

MItt Romney has spent more money, made more attacks, and has inspired less excitement and enthusiasm than any candidate of recent history

I was re-reading Game Change, a book by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.   Two passages struck me:

“The candidates lined up at the urinals, Guiliani next to McCain next to Huckabee, the rest all in a row.  The debate was soon to start, so they were taking care of business — and laughing merrily at the one guy who wasn’t there.  Poking fun at him, mocking him, agreeing how much they disliked him.  Then Willard Mitt Romney walked into the bathroom and overheard them, bringing on a crashing silence.”  (Pgage 293)


“Unlike Guiliani, Romney had no reticence about slashing at his rivals.  But the perception of him as a man without convictions made him a less than effective delivery system for policy contrasts.  The combination of the vitriol of his attacks and his apparent corelessness explained the antipathy the other candidates had towards him.  McCain routinely called Romney an ‘asshole’ and a ‘fucking phoney.’  Guiliani opined, ‘that guy will say anything.’  Huckabee complained, ‘I don’t think Romney has a soul.’  (Page 294)

Romney was not well liked by Huckabee, Guiliani, and McCain!

Granted, that was in the heat of the 2008 race, but consider that even then Romney had a huge money and organizational advantage and he ended up succumbing quickly to John McCain — a man who had been considered dead a few months earlier due to a backlash in the GOP base against his stance on immigration reform.    McCain had even said “why would I want to lead a party of such assholes” (page 284).   But despite intense attacks from Limbaugh, Hannity and Glenn Beck, McCain emerged on top.

Fast forward to 2012.    Williard Mittington Romney again has a huge advantage, this time having the GOP establishment in his pocket moreso than in 2008.   Yet it seemed as if the Republicans were looking to find anyone else.  If there had been a man with the record and character of John McCain in the running, he’d no doubt have managed to overcome Romney.    But there wasn’t.

First was Bachmann, but she had no substance.   Then came Perry, and he turned out to be embarrassingly unable to hold his own in debates and public grilling — a male Palin, if you will.   Then they turned to Gingrich who, despite his numerous faults, was gaining traction and looked set to take down Romney.   Romney used his money advantage to go hyper-negative on Gingrich and destroyed him.   Gingrich was easy prey, to be sure, but still Romney couldn’t beat him by staying positive.  Then last was Santorum who stuck around despite being an improbable candidate who had even lost his Senate seat in an election that wasn’t close.   The Republicans had nowhere else to turn.   But Santorum was simply too out of touch and weak.   Romney emerged on top.


Simply, Romney hasn’t won by being himself or standing for something, he’s won inspite of the fact he can’t connect with voters and neither inspires nor excites.  Where he did win in the past — the Governship of Massachusetts — he did so by embracing traditional northeast Republican pragmatism.  He was pro-choice, pro-gay rights, and he created a health care program for the state that inspired much of what became Obamacare.   That path is gone.    However competent he may be for the office, he’s simply not a good candidate.  He’s speeches are boring, if he goes off script he sounds out of touch, and as a candidate he seems like a phoney.   Hardly anyone believes he meant all of what he said during the primary season.

Republicans try to console themselves with bouts of wishful thinking:

1.  It’s a referendum on Obama.   Here the thinking is that it doesn’t matter who the GOP candidate is, people are going to vote about the economy and whether or not they’re happy with Obama’s performance.   As long as Romney doesn’t implode, he can simply allow all the negative ads to work against Obama and eek out a victory.

The problem with that argument is first that Obama isn’t that unpopular.  His job approval rating is about 50%, which is on the low side for an incumbent (much like President Bush in 2004), but his personal approval remains high — Americans generally like their President.     While he’s not the rock star he was in 2008, he has a record and has disproven the “he’s a radical left wing extremist” rhetoric the GOP tried to use last time.

Second, the economy is enigmatic.   We’re growing, but growing slowly.   Jobs are returning, but returning slowly.   Obama didn’t fix it yet, but it was the GOP who broke it.   The economy really hurts a President when things look pretty good when he takes over and then fall apart on his watch.   That’s not the case with Obama.    This means that people aren’t simply going to vote one way or another in a knee jerk manner based on the economy, they’re going to consider the candidates.

Obama’s 2012 campaign ‘take off’ rallies were enthusiastic and large

2.   Obama’s lost his luster.   Here the thinking is that reality has bitten the young President, whose hair is now turning grey and who no longer arouses hope and the excitement of 2008.   As such, he’s vulnerable and weak.

The reason this would make a difference is that it could create an enthusiasm gap — Democrats won’t be as inspired and enthused as in 2008, while the Republicans will be focused on removing him from office.   Both look unlikely at this point.

Obama’s speeches are still powerful, and the Republicans have given him some assistance.    The extremist agenda and rhetoric of the tea party and the red meat primary campaign have galvanized Democrats.   Obama can point to achievements and skewer a “do nothing Congress.”     Obama would be in a lot more trouble if the Democrats had kept the House in 2010.

On the other hand, Republican enthusiasm for Romney is weak.  Voting turn out in GOP primaries was meager — sometimes in the single digits.  It’s not clear what the evangelical base will do in response to Romney’s Mormon faith.   At this point the “enthusiasm gap” looks almost certain to favor the President.

It’s early, things can change, but right now Mitt Romney looks to be a very weak candidate.  He’s never shown a capacity to connect with voters or inspire.   He’s relied on attacks and weak opposition.   Obama’s weathered just about every attack one can imagine.   His capacity to come out of nowhere to win in 2008 show that no matter what you think of Obama as President, he certainly is a strong candidate.

  1. #1 by List of X on May 7, 2012 - 05:39

    This will be an election of “anyone-but-Romney” candidate vs. “anyone-but-Obama” candidate.

  2. #2 by lbwoodgate on May 7, 2012 - 11:05

    Your first point Scott is perhaps the strongest one. I have seen more bumper stickers in my neck of the woods here in Texas that read “Anyone but Obama” than I have seen “Romney 2012”. This of course will continue to inspire the fringe elements within the GOP but moderates republicans and independents are not likely to bet their futures on an unknown, or, in Romney’s case, a known flip flopper.

    Still, it is about the economy so if things don’t continue to improve, even slowly, enough apathy may occur with Obama supporters that will give GOP voters the edge.

  3. #3 by Scott Erb on May 7, 2012 - 16:17

    Here in Maine Ron Paul supporters took over the GOP convention and may end up giving Paul a majority of the state’s delegates. There is no way he could have done that if Romney truly had heartfelt support. The GOP saw this coming but couldn’t stymies it. Still, if the economy softens more even a weak candidate like Romney could pull it off.

  4. #4 by Norbrook on May 7, 2012 - 22:57

    What I’ve noted about Romney, which is not going to serve him well in this election, is that he’s been an incredibly inept candidate. The number of missteps, ignoring things that were obviously going to be issues (and could be seen coming a mile away), and the lack of an overall strategy for each part of the election is not something you’d expect from someone who has had almost 4 years to plan along with experience running before. That he continuously seems to lack a spine isn’t getting him a lot of love among the conservatives either. There was an interview with Bryan Fisher of the American Family Association, who stated that he was surprised that Mitt had caved to their demands that he get rid of a gay staffer. Even when he does what he thinks they want him to do, the only thing he gets from it is people realizing he’d not exactly “firm’ when it comes to standing for something.

  5. #5 by George DeMarse on May 15, 2012 - 00:08

    I sure hope Romney loses. The only way he wins, as has been pointed out, would be a “full on” win for the “anybody but Obama” theory. So far I have not seen that. The Obama voters are still out there, because Romney is so inauthentic and pandering. Another reason the Obama voters are fired up is the result of state elections by the takeover Republicans in about 15 states in 2010. Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio come to mind as the most red meat conservative results. Wisconsin has even led to a recall of Walker-if Florida had a recall, Rick Scott would be on it.
    That’s not to say the Democrats are impressive by any stretch of the imagination, either at the federal or state level. The one thing Democrats must do in a consistent and unified manner is to send a strong message that trickle down has failed–and Romney represents that same economic disease. Whether Democrats can even pull this off remains to be seen.

    iI don’t think “anybody but Obama” gets it this time around.

  6. #6 by Alan Scott on May 15, 2012 - 00:33

    George ,

    The Wisconsin recall election is a desperation action taken by the public sector unions , They brought in outside the state money because if they lose there will be disastrous consequences for them . There is no groundswell of grass roots voter anger in Wisconsin or the other states you listed .

    It’s going to be difficult for President Obama to sell his anti capitalist message this time around . As far as Romney, I agree that his chief qualification is that he is not Obama, but that will take him pretty far .

    To get back to the state level, there is a competition among the states who are run by Democrats and those run by Republicans . It is difficult in this recession for everybody . The Republican run states are making or have made the hard choices . Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana look much better than California, which is the greatest practitioner of Obamanomics in the entire 57 states .

  7. #7 by sheokhanda on May 18, 2012 - 01:52

    I think Romney’s Mormon faith has caused a lot of jitters in Republican camp who take pride in their traditional christian faith (possibly roman Catholics).

    I wanted to ask about Ron Paul, why do you think he was not able to win the race of Republican presidential candidate. He was 3rd after Romney and Gingrich.

  8. #8 by George DeMarse on May 26, 2012 - 23:43


    If there is no “groundswell” support to throw out Walker in Wisconsin, then it sure seems strange to go to the political length to endorse and get a recall implemented. The only state until Wisconsin to do that, if I recall, was California on a regular basis. The incumbent Governor, as we all remember, lost that one. So the Walker recall should not be taken lightly.

    The public sector unions are right here–the right to organize and bargain collectively is a human right, and as such should be recognized (as endorsed by the ILO) by the United States at all governmental levels.
    If we allow public sector unions to go belly up, then attacks on the existence of private sector unions will be next. You might say, “who cares?” We all should–it’s the loss of a right that society cannot afford to lose.

    George DeMarse

  9. #9 by Alan Scott on May 27, 2012 - 20:13

    George ,

    Unions have shifted their focus to the public sector . In Illinois, in spite of raising taxes, that state is cutting government jobs and cutting money for programs to the poor . In Wisconsin they have mostly avoided raising taxes, cutting government worker jobs, or cutting State programs for the poor . They have also almost fully funded their state pension liabilities, something Illinois is in trouble with . So you have two states, Illinois run the way you want a state to run, and Wisconsin which I favor . If Governor Walker loses, Wisconsin will go back to loser status with Illinois, California, and New York .

    I do not take the threat to Walker lightly . The special interests in Wisconsin are entrenched and well funded . You have framed this as the rich against the poor . I see it as special interests against the taxpayer . The taxpayer is management .

    • #10 by classicliberal2 on May 29, 2012 - 05:47

      “I do not take the threat to Walker lightly . The special interests in Wisconsin are entrenched and well funded . You have framed this as the rich against the poor . I see it as special interests against the taxpayer.”

      The problem into which your analysis runs rather violently is the fact that the special interests, when it comes to the Wisconsin recall, are overwhelmingly on Walker’s side. He’s raised $25 million for this campaign. $13 million of it came in the first three months of this year alone, and 2/3rds of that came from entirely outside the state. Walker’s Democratic opponent, by contrast, has only raised about $1 million (12% of that from out of state). Groups from outside the official campaigns have poured a fortune into the race, but, again, the pro-Walker special interests have a massive edge, spending $25 million on tv ads, compared to only $10 million spent by pro-Democratic groups.

  10. #11 by Alan Scott on May 29, 2012 - 16:01

    classicliberal2 ,

    ” Walker’s Democratic opponent, by contrast, has only raised about $1 million (12% of that from out of state) ”

    Does that include all of the money the unions brought in from out of state in the last year to incite ” grass roots ” protests to get the recall ball rolling ? Does that include all of the out of state money to support the Democrats who fled the state to sabotage the vote in the legislature ?

    There have been stories about Wisconsin Democrat volunteers approaching burnout .
    A day or two ago the LA Times ran an article that the national Democrats were saying that the recall does not reflect on the Presidential election in November . If they believed that Governor Walker would lose they would not be saying that . I think Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz is playing it smart and cutting her losses to conserve cash .

    In the end it is still only about getting President Obama reelected .

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