The numbers say Romney was a terrible candidate

By Rob Roper

Sun Tzu said that every battle is won or lost before it’s ever fought. Looking at the numbers, it appears Republicans lost this election when they chose Mitt Romney to be their nominee.

Like almost every active Republican in America, I have been spending the day trying to figure out what the hell happened on Tuesday. Did we really misjudge America’s dissatisfaction with Obama? Did Obama’s vaunted ground game really come through? Was this a demographic wave destined to drown Republicans? Looking at 2012 v. 2008 v. 2004 vote totals, the answers are no, no, and no. The problem appears to have been the Republican candidate, his message and his strategy.

Consider this: In 2008, John McCain – an uninspiring candidate dealing with a crashing economy, two unpopular wars, and the legacy of George W. Bush hanging around his neck — got 59,934,814 votes against Barack Obama at the apex of his popularity. They’re still counting the stragglers, but as of now Mitt Romney has 57,401,992 votes. It appears that Romney will receive fewer total votes than did John McCain. Given the current economic situation, the state of the Middle East, the unemployment numbers, etc., that’s astonishing. It is beyond comprehension, which is probably why so many people failed to comprehend it was happening.

If Romney had been able to inspire the 62,040,610 people who came out to vote for George Bush – a man with a 48% approval rating at the time — in 2004, he’d be president now. He couldn’t do that. At the same time, Romney was not done in by wave of undetected affirmation for Obama. He was not overrun by a well-oiled, Democratic, ground-game machine (though it was apparently better than the Republicans’). The president received nearly 10,000,000 fewer votes in 2012 than he did in 2008, 60,085,524 vs. 69,456,897. That’s a 15% drop in support for Obama over four years, and still Romney could not capitalize.

Why? Romney’s early supporters banked on the notion that the “safe,” “moderate” candidate who didn’t rock the boat or scare away folks in the middle would walk into the Oval office by default. No president, after all, has been re-elected with unemployment over 7.2%. His campaign then spent the primary torching movement conservatives.

In 2010, the Tea Party defined the election. Led by people such as Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, Jim DeMint, and Alan West, Republicans won historic gains at every level of government from the U.S. Senate to governorships to state house seats. In 2012, the “establishment”, for lack of a better word, seized the reins. We saw the results on November 6th.

I like Mitt Romney. I think after the October 3rd debate he did win the hearts and minds of many political junkies who hang on every news story of a long election cycle, even those of us who didn’t consider him our first pick in the primary. I know I truly believed he would win right up until about 9:30 Tuesday night. I think he would have made a good, maybe even an exceptional, president. But Republicans would be foolish to ever run a candidate like him with a strategy like his again. Republicans need to make a passionate, positive, persuasive case for why they deserve to run the government. Someone told me a truism early in my advertising career, “’Safe’ advertising isn’t.” The same is true of candidates.

The campaign for 2014 begins today. What would Sun Tzu do?


3 thoughts on “The numbers say Romney was a terrible candidate

  1. Thank you, Rob, for your typically insightful analysis. Considerable food for thought as we prepare for what’s to come.

  2. Q: Passionate, Positive, Persuasive?
    A: Ron Paul

    We tried to tell you!

    We need to go back to the days of having dialogue and discussion at the RNC and state conventions about the future of the part, and who is the best candidate, and most strategic for the win. Mitt Romney was the worst candidate. His campaign effectively nullified all the gains that we saw in 2010, which were inspired as a reaction to government’s overreach of Obamacare. Romney’s history with government mandate took this popular, winning issue off the table, and not only cause a loss of the presidency, but also several down-ticket races.

    Today, at the beginning of another 4 years of Obama, are we happy that the RNC “went smoothly” and that we displayed a facade of unity in Tampa? How valuable is that now?

    We need to value TRUE unity, and cooperation. This is gained only by hashing things out, sometimes in a way that may look ugly because it requires people who disagree to get honest about their positions, and discuss the strengths and weakness of each other’s opinions, and then making a decision that incorporates as many of those things as possible.

    For the strength and survival of the party we needed to have a brokered convention in 2012. It’s the only thing that would have united us, and perhaps the only thing that would have given us a candidate that we could unify around. When everyone is at the table, and gets to be heard, they are more likely to go along with the pack, then when they are told to sit down, shut up, and get in line.

    That strategy only works for Democrats. Republicans are independent individuals who chart their own destiny – you can’t simply TELL them what to do an expect results – you must convince them with a passionate, positive, persuasive argument – not a dictate. If you can win over these independently minded Republicans with such an argument, the rest of the population will be convinced as well.

  3. A good analysis, and a good shot over the bow for the Republicans as we go forward, ……….. if there is any forward to go after Obama “has more freedom after his (final) election. ” Dangerous times for an economic suicide, with the Fed wrecking the greenback Dollars.

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