I recently received, through a connection, an email sent by a bigshot Romney contributor reporting on a post-election meeting with Republican strategist Charlie Black.
I reprint some excerpts here, along with my can't-help-myself comments, because I think they provide some interesting, if unintended, insights into the Republicans' failings and whether the "shellshocked" storyline is true, as well as some interesting inside baseball.
Here is a brief analysis of the election day disaster after meeting with Charlie Black for several hours yesterday (along with some personal commentary):Damn right. Having worked on the successful campaign of Sean Patrick Maloney for Congress, I saw how this data made our phonebanking more efficient, especially as the election came closer.
All polling data is based on turnout models/projections. The Romney model was wrong. The Obama model was right.
Turnout can be affected by the campaigns, the "ground game". (Here's my commentary, although Charlie agreed with me) The Obama campaign has been working on their "ground game" for four years; the Republicans worked on theirs about 8 weeks, less than that in many areas.
The Republicans think a sophisticated phone bank with some door knocking is a ground game; the Obama campaign knows that in this day and age, a ground game is targeted, micro, technologically driven, well funded with many people and data resources, and made a priority in terms of campaign strategy -- both in recruiting new voters and turning out existing voters.
An example -- take a neighborhood, let's say in Ohio or Florida -- the Obama campaign had a person(s) in each targeted key neighborhood that literally knew everything there was to know about every person in that neighborhood. Who was for them, against them, registered, not registered, voted early or didn't, needed a ride to the polls or didn't; and if by a certain time of day, hadn't voted, were literally found and taken to the polls personally to cast their vote. It happened over and over again.
Let’s put it this way. I spent all day Tuesday in a firehouse working the polls as an election inspector. When I took that position two years ago, I chose the district of our town that I was then representing on the town Democratic committee (it’s not the one I live in). It’s rural, heavily Republican and thus it was no surprise that, at the end of the day, Romney carried it.
But, I saw almost every Democrat who lives in the district come in at some point and vote. These are all people I know personally, because I’ve been to their houses almost every June (and at other times of year when we needed it) to get nominating petitions signed. In past years I’ve called them on election eve and reminded them to get out and vote.
This year, however, I wasn’t even able to do that. So if I didn’t, someone else must have called them up. Since the Obama campaign pretty much didn’t need to work New York much, it might have been them ... but instead it was probably the Maloney campaign, using similar technology. In the end the ratio was about 3-2 for Romney and incumbent Congresswoman Nan Hayworth ... pretty good for a district that usually votes about 2-1 Republican. As I left for what would ultimately turn out to be the Maloney campaign victory party, I felt good about our chances. And Obama’s. And I was right.
Mitt Romney got fewer votes in 2012, while losing by less than 2%, than John McCain got in 2008 while losing by 7%. In other words, our voters did not turn out - some 3 million, many seniors, whites, etc. I blame that on "ground game" deficiencies primarily.And who should Republicans blame for this? Anthony Kennedy! Yup, an overlooked aspect of Citizens United is that it freed unions to do political advocacy to everybody, not just their own members.
More black Americans voted for Obama in 2012 than 2008 - a stunning statistic in my view. No one (including me) expected this.Which speaks volumes about how far the people managing Republican campaigns have yet to go to really understand black voters. You think it’s all about the economy? You think that people wouldn’t turn out because they were disappointed? Well, that might have happened ... but you were completely blind to how much it meant to African Americans to not only elect a black man president but re-elect him as well. And you completely didn’t factor in the idea that they wouldn’t take all that birther crap lying down. Nor all the voter-ID crap, either.
If I were this guy and were granted a chance to go back in time and change one thing in the runup to this election, I would have gone back about a year or so, found everybody who even remotely believed that Obama wasn’t born in the USA and put miles and miles of barbed wire between them and the rest of the country until at least after the election. Your guy might or might not have won, but you’d have done the country and your party a huge favor.
More Hispanics, by a huge margin, voted for Obama in 2012 than 2008. My view is this was due primarily to Romney being too vitriolic on the immigration issue during the primary, and the general mis-information on our positions in this area that were never adequately addressed by us. If Romney would have achieved the same % of the Hispanic vote that Bush got in 2008 (40%; Romney got 27%), that would have made up 1.9 million of the 2.0 million loss.You wanna know why you lost the Latin vote? Read this by Cuban-American Slate blogger Matthew Yglesias. His larger point is about how it actually goes beyond ethnicity specifically, but he includes this interesting bit:
Consider the GOP’s deeply racialized campaign against Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. What was so surprising about this—and I know I’m not the only fair-skinned English-dominant person with a Spanish surname who was genuinely shocked—was that conservatives could have easily opposed her purely on policy grounds. Sotamayor is a fairly conventional Democrat on constitutional issues, and that would have been ample reason for conservatives to criticize her. Indeed, Justice Elena Kagan was attacked on precisely those grounds. But rather than tempering opposition with at least some recognition that Sotomayor’s life story might be a great example for immigrant parents trying to raise children in difficult circumstances, the country was treated to a mass racial panic in which Anglo America was about to be stomped by the boot of Sotomayor’s ethnic prejudice. The graduate of Princeton and Yale Law, former prosecutor, and longtime federal judge was somehow not just too liberal for conservatives’ taste but a “lightweight” who’d been coasting her whole life on the enormous privilege of growing up poor in the South Bronx.
To that, another Slate blogger recalled this telling anecdote from the convention:
There was a moment during the GOP convention that encapsulated everything Hispanics ran from on Election Day. A Republican delegate from Puerto Rico was introduced and approached the podium, and the imbeciles in the GOP mob harangued her with chants of “USA, USA, USA!” Here’s how Fox News reported, in case you think I’m making this shit up:
A visibly upset Zoraida Fonalledas, Chairwomen of the [GOP Convention’s] Committee on Permanent Organization, was greeted by chants of "USA, USA, USA" when RNC Chairman Reince Priebus introduced her to the convention crowd. The chants kept coming until Priebus stepped back up to the podium and told the delegates to let Fonalledas take care of her business. Just a little bit awkward.
Solo un poco?
The polls were probably right, but that doesn't count on election day.
And the dog ate your homework, too.
Other factors:And if you have to, make sure your campaign produces good ads
When Bush ran, he had 25 people in the media buying staff. Romney had two -- all controlled by Stu Stevens. Charlie says they wasted millions of dollars on poor media buying -- when you wait until the last minute to buy certain media, as they often did, the price escalates dramatically. And, they ran out of money at key times when they should have been on the air.
American Crossroads -- Karl Rove's group -- spent over $300 million as a super pac. The primary criticism of Rove over the years is the fact that he really, down deep, doesn't believe in the necessity of a significant ground game. He would spend all his money -- and did -- on television ads. In the last 10 days, in my view, most of that is wasted.
The hurricane and Christie's unnecessary and totally inappropriate embrace of Obama did have an impact of stopping momentum.Maybe it would have helped if your candidate had let Christie know much earlier (like, when Romney had actually made that decision) that he was out of the running for VP.
According to Charlie, Romney and his family and closest friends were devastated - they truly thought they had won. He only had an acceptance speech written.And yet losing didn’t devastate him so much that he forgot to cancel the campaign’s credit cards.