January 31st, 2008 by Rightsideup

A strategy memo from the Romney campaign citing figures from Florida exit polls has made its way into the blogosphere and shares a lot of my own thoughts about how Romney wins – some key points:

  • McCain has won around a third of the vote even in states where he won overall. This means two thirds of the vote is up for grabs by Romney (at least theoretically)
  • Romney leads McCain in several important categories and if he can reinforce these and switch some voters to his cause in certain others this will be enough to be at least competitive on Super Tuesday
  • If you take away the effect of McCain’s misleading comments about withdrawal timetables in Florida, that race would have been even closer.

In short, there’s still everything to fight for. Good to see that the Romney campaign thinks so too.

January 31st, 2008 by Rightsideup

I’ve been increasingly frustrated over the last several weeks by the media’s insistence that McCain, not Romney, has been the front runner. It happened despite Mitt’s wins in Michigan and Nevada and his strong second place showing in two more states. He was leading by a wide margin in delegates until Florida, and had he captured just a few percentage points more there would now be streaking ahead instead of lying in a close second.

The usual story is that, since Romney has outspent and out-campaigned (horror of horrors) the others in some key states, that his results don’t really count. To which you have to counter, “have you seen who he is running against?” and “have you seen the stories they write on Mitt?”

First, who he’s running against. McCain and Giuliani have been the only serious candidates in this thing from the start. Ron Paul certainly has his small but vocal fan base, and Huckabee and Thompson likewise had their niches, but the front runners in national polls all along have been McCain and Giuliani. McCain has run previously and as such has high name recognition and a following built up over the last eight years. Giuliani was the high profile mayor of the first mainland American city to be attacked in living memory. These guys don’t need the advertising because if anyone doesn’t know who they are at this point, it’s not because they haven’t seen enough ads but because they are completely disengaged from the political process.

Then you look at the stories which have been written about each of the candidates from the beginning of the campaign. Paul has lots of articles about his plucky Internet supporters, Huckabee benefited from stories about his (brief) “surge” in the polls just before and after Iowa (and perhaps the occasional piece about weight loss and the Fair Tax). But all the pieces about Romney are in one of four camps: “he is outspending all the others with his vast personal fortune”, “can a Mormon really be elected?”, “Romney is a flip-flopper” and “isn’t he too perfect?” All the other candidates have at least merited a serious evaluation of their policies and achievements, but not Mitt.

So what’s he supposed to do but go on the attack, advertise like crazy to get awareness of his candidacy but more importantly awareness of his positions and achievements out there? And when through this well thought out strategy he takes, as he puts it, two golds and two silvers and leads the early running, who do the media call the front runner? McCain. Which is ultimately a self-fulfilling prophecy, since people like to vote for winners.

All of this goes back to the fact that these primary campaigns have always been about momentum, and the media has always enjoyed the opportunity to call the election by anointing front runners. Their frustration this year has been that simply calling one candidate a front runner and writing off others hasn’t been enough because it’s been such a tight race with at least two real contenders on each side. But they keep reverting to type by attempting again and again to call the election prematurely for their favoured candidate. It hasn’t worked so far (except perhaps by pushing McCain over the top in Florida) but we certainly have to hope that the electorate is smart enough to recognise that there are two front runners on both sides and vote their consciences and not what the media tells them to.