Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Did Romney's Campaign Fail to Anticipate the Scope of Santorum's Wins?

 President Obama, firing a marshmallow gun at a science fair in the State Dining Room of the White House yesterday.   Today he presumably feels as happy as he looks here.

Yesterday morning Mitt Romney's Political Director, Rich Beeson, sent out a memo to "Interested Parties" trying to tamp down the expectations for the Romney campaign in yesterday's three contests.  The memo can be read in PDF format here, or at the NY Times' The Caucus Blog here.   I previously posted about the setback suffered by the Romney campaign as a result of the clean sweep of yesterday's contests by Rick Santorum, and with Romney falling dismally below where he had polled in 2008.  What is interesting is that the Romney campaign seemingly did not have a good handle on how bad the day would end for their guy.  Here is the relevant part of Beeson's memo:
The Reality of February
It is difficult to see what Governor Romney’s opponents can do to change the dynamics of the race in February. No delegates will be awarded on February 7 — Colorado and Minnesota hold caucuses with nonbinding preference polls, and the Missouri primary is purely a beauty contest. Except for the Maine and Wyoming nonbinding caucuses running through February, the next contests are on February 28 in states where Governor Romney is strong. Arizona’s 29 delegates will be bound in a winner-take-all contest. Michigan, the state where Governor Romney grew up, binds 30 delegates.
What is really "difficult to see" is why Beeson would chose to make the statement that Romney's opponents  have no way "to change the dynamics of the race in February," if the Romney campaign really knew how awful yesterday was going to turn out for Romney.  The wins by Santorum will fuel the concern by base GOP voters that Romney is too far to the center, and too well heeled, to excite big GOP turnout in November.

All three of the states that voted yesterday should be seen as potential swing states this year.  Obama lost Missouri to McCain by one tenth of one percent (0.1%).  Colorado was an easier pickup for Obama with 54% of the vote, but that state had been reliably red since 1964, except when Bill Clinton won over George H.W. Bush in 2002, with the critical assistance of Ross Perot carving off 23 % of the vote as a third party protest candidate.  Minnesota has been reliably blue in the past, but in 2010, the Democratic party (Democratic Farm Labor (DFL) Party) got completely crushed in the election for the state's House of Representatives and Senate.  In the Minnesota Senate the Democrats went from a 46 to 21 advantage to a Senate where Republicans outnumbered Democrats 37 to 30.  The blood-letting in the House was almost as bad.

So today Romney looks basically unwanted and unloved in three states that can be seen as potentially crucial in November.  It seems like that reality could, in fact, "change the dynamics of the race."  While it is great to have lots of money and a well-oiled machine of political apparatchiks flowing from state to state, you still have to have a candidate that people like and relate to, and after yesterday, Romney really does not seem like that candidate.

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