We're learning a lot since Tuesday about the incompetence of the Romney campaign -- for the latest, read this about the utter meltdown of the Romney get-out-the-vote operation known as Project ORCA. But I don't think all the blame should go to Romney and his team.
Alec MacGillis notes a Wall Street Journal article called "How Race Slipped Away from Romney," from which we learn that Romney had money woes throughout his campaign (even though he's got plenty of cash of his own). Yes, his unwillingness to self-finance is a sign of cheapness, as MacGillis notes (and we now know how cheap Romney is because campaign credit cards were cut off on election night before staff could even pay for cabs home from the "victory" party). But if refusing to tap into his fortune was a serious mistake, because it forced him to rely on right-wing fat cats, those fat cats, and the right-wing super PACs they were also funding, also share the blame for the campaign's failure.
As MacGillis explains:
... the GOP primaries dragged on longer than expected ... and had forced Romney to spend much of what he'd raised. He was not allowed to spend what he'd raised for the general election ... until after the nominating convention. This left him at a disadvantage in the May to August period when the Obama campaign shrewdly decided to spend much of its money, pummeling Romney with ads like this one to cast him as an out-of-touch, out-for-himself plutocrat.... the SuperPACs supporting Romney spent very heavily to counter the Obama assault, nearly $400 million over the year. But their ads were mostly attacks themselves, rather than positive defenses of Romney, and studies have suggested that the conservative groups' attacks resonated far less than Obama's against Romney did.In political campaigns, if you're a challenger, you have to go positive before you go negative. You have to define yourself. You have to make voters feel good about voting for you. Obama didn't have to do that because the country knows him. But Romney did have to do that.
And he didn't. His super PACs just attacked Obama. Why? I think it's because the people bankrolling those super PACs, for all their wealth, are just Fox News louts who wanted hate-ads, not effective ads, for their money.
And then there's this:
According to the Wall Street Journal, the campaign's need for cash was a big driver behind one of its most pivotal decisions -- to delay Romney's shift toward a more moderate tone, his Etch-a-Sketch moment, until very late in the campaign, at the first debate.... according to the Journal report ..., the reason Romney waited so long to soften his tone on issues like taxes and Obamacare was that he did not want to upset ... the millionaires and billionaires he needed to write checks for him, who wanted to hear the usual conservative talking points:So the fat cats demanded wingnuttery of Romney. And Romney dutifully complied.
Mr. Romney's heavy wooing of conservative donors limited his ability to move his campaign positions to the center, to appeal to moderate and independent donors....
Now, I don't know why Romney didn't push back. I don't know why he didn't say, "Look, I know he's a Kenyan Muslim socialist who's deliberately destroying America with dependency, but saying that is not how we're going to destroy him." I think Romney was incompetent, and cheap -- but I also think he likes being servile. He has no core values, so he likes being compelled to follow someone else's core values. He liked being forced to rebrand himself as a left-centrist in Massachusetts and a loony rightist for most of 2012. That's his nature.
But the fat cats were stupid. They should have known that running Romney as the Fox News candidate was going to doom him. So they share the blame for his failure.