The Republicans suffered from two bubbles that kept them from dealing with bad news. One was the candidate bubble. Karl Rove, as noted earlier, says that the Crossroads groups got no signal from the Romney campaign that they should keep pushing back against the Democrats' summer Bain offensive. At Bloomberg, Lisa Lerer says that while Democrats were defining Romney as the Villain Bain, Romney was focusing on his trip to the Olympics.
Romney’s campaign was dominated by an insular team that rarely tried to overrule the candidate. The captains of his effort, reclusive campaign manager Matt Rhoades and eccentric, message man Stuart Stevens, were survivors from the 2008 primary run. Others, such as senior aides Beth Myers, Eric Fehrnstrom, Peter Flaherty and Spencer Zwick, had been with Romney for much of their careers.There is also a conservative media bubble, as Jonathan Martin writes at Politico. "Entertainment-based conservatives" want to boost ratings, not win elections.
Still, it was Romney, chief executive officer of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, who insisted on going to London. Rather than pushing back on the proposal, aides added Poland to the itinerary to make the trip seem like more of a foreign tour.
It was Romney who refused to release his tax returns or talk about his personal experiences as a Mormon bishop, and invited actor Clint Eastwood to give an unvetted, prime-time convention address that quickly became a national punch-line.
The egghead-hack coalition believes that the entertainment-based conservatives create an atmosphere that enables flawed down-ballot candidates, creates a cartoonish presidential primary and blocks needed policy reforms, and generally leave an odor on the party that turns off swing voters.
The tension between entertainers and operatives-thinkers may have come into sharpest relief in the prolonged, and for many Republicans, painful 2012 GOP primary. The thinkers and the operatives cringed at the umpteen debates and carnival-like procession of candidates with little chance of landing in the Oval Office.
“Look at Newt Inc., [Herman] Cain and [Michele] Bachmann,” sighed Haynes. “What’s the purpose of entering a presidential primary anymore?”
Suggesting the incentives for getting in the race now owe as much to fame as to winning the job, Haynes added: “If that market didn’t exist, what would our primary look like?”
The sexual harassment scandal around Cain offered a vivid example of the different goals of the two groups. To the entertainment-based right, it was a great opportunity to rally the faithful against a purportedly liberal media targeting a black conservative. It touched almost every erogenous zone for the likes of Rush Limbaugh. But for the operatives and thinkers, the story threatened to tarnish the GOP with a sex scandal and make a martyr out of a marginal figure they were already cringing over before POLITICO reported the harassment charges.