How Romney Sabotaged His Own Campaign


By Marc Pitzke in Boston

Photo Gallery: The Republicans Strike Out


Mitt Romney’s defeat is a bitter one. In the end, his campaign was torpedoed by his extremist running mate and the constant flip-flopping that left voters clueless about who the “real” Romney was. His concession speech has only left his supporters feeling empty and confused.


It was still early, but defeat already hung in the air. Mitt Romney had hoped to celebrate his victory here in the ballroom of the Boston Convention Center, but the atmosphere never seemed quite right. Guests were standing around looking somewhat lost, clenching their beer bottles with eyes locked on their smartphones. Some had left their winter coats on as if they were only planning to stay briefly.



“Psst,” a woman in a blindingly bright-red outfit whispered in a conspiratorial tone. “I voted for Obama. Just don’t tell anybody.” 

No, that’s not something that the people convened in Boston want to hear. They’ve come to celebrate their triumph and the return of Republican rule. Some have even brought babies along. A festive buffet has been set up out in the foyer, offering chicken, pork roast and exotic salads. Still, the fact that each person is limited to two alcoholic beverages makes one wonder whether they were expecting from the very start that this wouldn’t exactly be an evening of boozy merrymaking.


It would eventually be a long time before Romney took the stage before his fans and conceded his bitter defeat. Perhaps he didn’t want to face up to it. Perhaps he couldn’t find the right words. He had composed a victory speech of 1,118 words on Tuesday morning. But he deliberately declined to pen a concession speech. 

When he finally did take to the stage, it was already almost 1 a.m. local time. One could see how much the defeat weighed on him. His usual swagger had noticeably vanished. His voice was hollow. His robot-like smile has been reduced to a thin line.

Hurt by Ryan’s Extremism

Romney thanked his aides, his supporters and Paul Ryan, his running mate, saying: “Besides my wife Ann, Paul is the best choice I’ve ever made.” But there’s plenty of reason to doubt it seeing that Ryan and his extremism unquestionably contributed to Romney’s defeat.

On Tuesday, Romney wore a blue sports coat bearing a small elephant, the symbol of the Republican Party. For his speech, he changed into a dark-black business suit and a patriotic tie with red, white and blue stripes. “The election is over,” he said, “but our principles endure.” He congratulated President Obama and called for bipartisanship — although he didn’t provide any other hints as to what the future might hold in store.

The crowd was waiting for an uplifting speech that would numb their pain. It wanted to hear a grand address like the one that John McCain, the highly respected senator and Republican nominee of the last election, gave after losing to Obama in 2008. But Romney didn’t deliver. He stuck to flowery words, merely encouraging the audience to give Obama amiable support. “The nation chose another leader,” he said. “And so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.” Then it was a lot of waving, pained celebration, a family photo — and goodbye.

Now Romney and the Republicans are left facing the ruins of their arrogance. There’s no denying that victory seemed within reach. But, in the end, it was a defeat — and a rather unambiguous one at that.

After such a long journey, this is a bitter end. Romney has been hacking his way through the political jungle for almost two decades as he follows the trail blazed by his father George, who withdrew from the fight to win the Republican presidential nomination in 1968.

It’s also bitter because it fits a pattern of first-time defeats: Romney was defeated in 1994 during his first attempt to become a senator. He was defeated in 2008 during his first attempt to become the Republican presidential nominee. And now he has been defeated in his first — and surely final — attempt to win a ticket to the White House.

The quotation that will remain freshest in the minds of many will be the title that theNew York Times put on a contribution he submitted in November 2008, at the height of the auto-industry crisis: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” Detroit would eventually avenge the insult by throwing its weight behind Obama.

And, lastly, it’s a particurly bitter loss for Romney after all the encouraging scenes of recent days. There were the massive crowds of thousands and tens of thousands of supporters hailing Romney wherever he went. It was the enthusiasm of a grassroots movement. The stages he stood on even looked presidential, with their huge, star-studded banners, big-sky backdrops and a sea of American flags stretching to the horizon.

The Chameleon Candidate

So, what caused the defeat? Was it the multiple slip-ups and gaffes that Romney stoically shrugged off? Was it the millions that Obama’s strategists pumped into TV ads depicting Romney as a coldhearted capitalist? Was it the threat to Big Bird, the “binders full of women” or his consistently wooden appearances?

When all is said and done, there is only one person who deserves the lion’s share of the blame: Mitt Romney. For months, Romney continued to change his stances to the point that voters ultimately had no idea who the “real” Romney was. It wasn’t until the very end that Romney dared to be his putative self again. But it was too late. Even Massachusetts, the state that Romney served as governor for four years, would ultimately turn its back on him.

Things had looked different for a while. Romney thought he had pulled things off back during the first TV debate in Denver. At the time, he completed a calculated backwards flip-flop, transforming himself for the last time — from the “strictly conservative” Mitt that he had presented himself as during the primaries to a decidedly more centrist Mitt. It was a bold but transparent maneuver.

On election night, the first exit polls still kept Romney feeling confident. For the majority of voters, the economy had been the most important issue — and it was, after all, Romney who came across as being the numbers guy, the executive who would lead the nation back to health. In the end, though, they said “no thanks”.

The evening ultimately proved to be a nail-biter. Guests in Boston were forced to look on as their hero’s fortunes melted away on two large screens. At some point, the jazz group playing next to the stage put down their instruments.

Romney Loses One State After the Other

Then Florida seemed to lean toward Obama before falling back to Romney. Then it went back to Obama. Back to Romney. Ohio experienced similar shifts in the polls. Romney led in the “popular vote” in the state. Romney captured Utah.

In the end, though, none of it helped.

Romney’s top strategist, Ed Gillespie, came out and continued to express his optimism, saying the party would throw a huge election-night party and that: “We feel very good.” Ohio Senator Rob Portman, one of Romney’s closest supporters then appeared in a patchy video feed. “That’s for your hard work,” he said. “I’ve never been prouder.”

But then more and more dominos started to fall. Romney lost Massachusetts, his home state, to Obama. Then he lost Michigan, the state where he was born. Then he had to cede Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and New Mexico to his Democratic Party challenger.

Romney Takes Two Hours to Concede Defeat

Things then grew deadly silent in Boston, and the expressions on peoples’ faces grew solemn. Nobody moved. Just one young boy continued to wave a small American flag.

By then, the rumors were already circulating that Jeb Bush, George W. Bush’s brother and the former governor of Florida, had called to say that Florida had been lost — and, with it, the presidency.

Then Romney’s bodyguard, Garrett Jackson, tweeted a photo from behind the scenes showing the Romney family sitting around on white leather sofas as they took in the results. “Gov and @anndromney having a great time with the grandkids,” Jackson wrote. The expressions on their face, however, told a different story — with Romney looking tense and serious. By then, he seemed to know — after all, this is the numbers guy.


Sarah Palin, the unsuccessful 2008 vice-presidential candidate, also looked distressed. She only appeared in Boston via video — courtesy, of course, of Fox News — and she was greeted with frosty silence. “I’m disappointed,” she said, “but I am still keeping my fingers crossed.” When asked for her thoughts on the possibility of Obama getting re-elected, she responded: “Truly a disastrous setback!” 

At precisely 11:12 p.m., Palin’s worst fears came true as the first US networks called Obama the winner of the election. It took exactly 12 minutes longer for that news to come than it did in 2008.

Afterwards, it took nearly two hours before Romney appeared to give his final speech and concede defeat to Obama.


Like Obama, Netanyahu will win elections only with a focused campaign

Like Obama, Netanyahu will win elections only with a focused campaign
Obama entered the race at a disadvantage, as a consequence of the deep economic crisis, but skillfully exploited the time and resources at his disposal in order to focus on the key states. Israel, too, has a politician who employs this method.
By Aluf Benn | Nov.07, 2012 | 12:49 PM

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, in March 2012. Photo by GPO

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By Aluf Benn | Nov.07,2012 | 12:49 PM | 1
Obama in victory speech: For the U.S., best is yet to come
By Chemi Shalev, Natasha Mozgovaya, Reuters and DPA
Nov.07,2012 | 12:49 PM | 25

President Barack Obama won his second term in office thanks to the successful focus of his election campaign. He entered the race at a disadvantage, as a consequence of the deep economic crisis, but skillfully exploited the time and resources at his disposal in order to focus on the key states.

While Obama’s Republican rivals were wearing each other down in the primaries, the president’s campaign staff was already operating at full capacity and concentrated its efforts in Ohio and a handful of other states in which the American presidential election was decided.

Obama did not waste money on advertising in certain states, such as New York and California, where the voters were in any event going to vote for the Democratic candidate; nor did he make any effort to divert the attentions of voters in the Republicans’ bunker states in the South and the Midwest. His campaign only broke a sweat in places where each vote counted.

Obama and his people correctly assessed that Mitt Romney would be the Republican candidate, and they conducted a prolonged smear campaign against him, aimed at building a negative image of him among voters in Ohio.

The strategy paid off, and Obama won in practically all of the swing states, where voters led him to four more years in the White House. Romney put up a fight, and for a while his victory in the first presidential debate put him in position to take the lead. But Obama recovered, and ultimately the Democratic machine triumphed.

In the focus method, the candidate concentrates his efforts on a single goal: winning the election and remaining in power. He isn’t interested in being viewed as being right, or nice, or demonstrating rhetorical skills. He identifies the match point and strives toward it. As far as he is concerned, everything else is just noise.

Israel also has a politician who employs this method, Benjamin Netanyahu. He knows that elections are not decided at the ballot box, but in the Israeli President’s Residence. In the Israeli system, the Knesset acts like the American Electoral College. There a candidate has to amass 270 electors to win, and here he needs 61 MKs to recommend him as the candidate to assemble a coalition. How can they be secured? Israel does not have any swing states as in the U.S., but rather wavering political parties – Shas and Yisrael Beitenu. Both of them are capable of transferring the reins of power from right to left. Thus, to win the election, one must gain the support of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman.

In the past few years, Netanyahu has been engrossed in a single endeavor: keeping Shas and Lieberman at his side come hell or high water, even if it costs him the loss of his popularity among the general public. In the 2009 election, Netanyahu lost votes to Lieberman, but opted to absorb the loss of a few Knesset seats rather than risk the desertion of Yisrael Beitenu. That is why he avoided attacks on Lieberman. It came at the expense of a defeat at the polls – the Likud received fewer votes than Kadima – but in the real election, the one that takes place in the President’s Residence, Lieberman stood at Netanyahu’s side and ensured him the government. Since then, Netanyahu has repeatedly absorbed the insults of his foreign minister, and repeatedly held himself back from responding.

President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden wave at his election night party Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, in Chicago. AP
In the current campaign, Netanyahu preferred not to take any risks and bought Lieberman and his faction up front, in the “Likud Beitenu” deal. The public opinion polls show that the united list will lose seats, as compared to the situation of the two parties in the outgoing Knesset, but the union consolidates the right-wing bloc around Netanyahu’s candidacy and gives him a crushing advantage on his way toward a third term. Sealing the deal at this early stage is intended to deter Netanyahu’s potential rivals Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni from running against him. Like Obama, Netanyahu also enjoys the advantage of time and early preparation.

The period of indecision ends today, and the time will soon come for Olmert and Livni to decide if Obama’s victory gives them sufficient reason to run against Netanyahu, on the grounds that he has devastated Israel’s foreign relations and undermined American support. Alternately, they will assess that they don’t have a chance to crack the Likud’s protective armor and its “natural partners” among the right-wing parties. The decision they make will herald whether Israelis can expect a turbulent and passionate campaign in the weeks remaining until the election, or a relatively relaxed period, during which Shas, Labor, Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi will compete for their places in Netanyahu’s next coalition.