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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Romney's Strategy: 2008 and 2012

At The Washington Post, Dan Balz tells how Romney's strategy changed between 2008 and 2012:

Romney’s 2008 strategy, built on the assumption that someone not nationally known could take the nomination only by winning early and often, was based on some sound assumptions. What he didn’t anticipate was how the campaign would unfold against him.

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First, with both McCain and Rudy Giuliani on the sidelines in Iowa, Mike Huckabee capitalized on his second-place finish in the Iowa straw poll to become the darling of social conservatives in Iowa and quickly rose to the top of the polls there. Romney’s campaign concluded that they had no choice but to engage in what became a nasty battle in the state.

Second, McCain rose from the ashes in New Hampshire, as unlikely a political resurrection as Newt Gingrich’s rise has been this year. Romney’s only hope of gaining the nomination was to win New Hampshire, and he had no choice but to engage in what became an even nastier fight there.

Third, Giuliani cut and ran from New Hampshire in early December 2007. That left an opening to tens of thousands of moderate Republicans and independents for McCain to mine — and a mountain of a problem for Romney to scale.

Romney’s strategy suddenly became a trap from which he couldn’t easily escape. He was like a single wrestler facing tag-team opponents. Whenever Romney was locked down in Iowa against Huckabee, McCain had a free hand in New Hampshire. When Romney tried to turn his attention to New Hampshire, Huckabee would keep marching through the caucuses.

When Romney lost both Iowa and New Hampshire, his campaign was essentially over. He went on to win elsewhere, but he no longer controlled his own fate. Weakened in South Carolina, he was dependent on Huckabee to block McCain’s strengthening campaign, and Huckabee failed. Flummoxed in Florida, Romney saw all hope for the nomination dissipate with McCain’s victory in the Sunshine State.

Fast-forward to this year and see the differences. Romney’s campaign advisers say their strategy is based on two major assumptions: No state will determine Romney’s fate, and delegates matter.