Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Q Day 3: Massachusetts Romney?

Another anonymous commenter asks:

What do you think would have been the result of the 2012 presidential election if Romney had campaigned on his record?
* Said that he did his job of creating wealth for stock holders at Bain even though people lost jobs and that he would do his job of president to get more people working.
* Stood behind Romneycare.
* I think he was for cap-and-trade before running for president.
* Proposed tax policies that actually added up.
It's an important question because it has a clear, certain answer: that Romney could not have been nominated by the 2012 Republican Party. He would have been knocked out, receiving Hunstsman-level support if that, depending on whether "campaigned on his record" meant only those things or extended to guns and abortion.

A candidate Romney who flipped (back) on these things after winning the nomination by sticking to the GOP platform would have risked a horrible mess...some Republicans would have stuck with him, but the odds are very strong of a major, debilitating party revolt, with Romney reduced to winning Utah and maybe a handful of others.

I'll add one more. Forgetting about the specific issues, what about a supremely skilled candidate Romney who was able to fully pull off the "moderate technocrat" image that was his best bet? My guess is that at best it gets him a couple of points, leaving him still a solid loser. Indeed, I haven't looked post-election but in the fall if I recall correctly his reputation among voters was, indeed, moderate technocrat. The bottom line is that the out-party candidate's image just doesn't matter very much in presidential elections when there's an incumbent on the ballot.

But the key thing here is that parties really are not going to nominate someone who opposes their consensus positions. Just not going to happen. And the 2012 position on health care, taxes, and climate didn't allow for Romney to deviate at all.


  1. He still would have been running in the primaries vs Santorum, Gingrich, Perry, and company. It would have been tougher if he had done what the commenter asks, but it still would have been possible for him to win the nomination. But that's as far as he would get. The economy and the President's approval ratings made re-election a high probability regardless of what the opposition candidate did.

  2. Ah but a Romney running on his record would not have faced such a weak crowd as a lot of other possible contenders would have run. Think Thune, Barbor or Christie, and with a Romney polling at very low levels Pawlenty certainly wouldn't have dropped out. If Gore hadn't run in 2000 Bradley wouldn't necessarily be the nominee, why? Because a lot of other folks would have run as well.

  3. Romney did stand behind Romneycare--in the sense that he never repudiated it, as some people said he would have to do to win the nomination. He just gave convoluted explanations about why it was supposedly entirely different from Obamacare...

  4. I'm interested more in the mechanics and tactics of various campaigns, as well as the ostensible policy positions (as a historian, those policy positions of presidential candidates don't mean much after Jan. 20 of the following year.)

    Romney clearly embraced the model of "mass a huge warchest from any and all donors who can be persuaded, then run massive ad campaigns (in the prime contested areas only) using any and all rhetoric that might hit emotional nerves with low-information voters."

    At least for Republicans, and for many Dems too, this is the mainstream model, the only model to be considered. And it seems to be the only model Romney considered.

    So the more intriguing and enlightening questions would be, could Romney have possibly called on the skills that helped him be an innovator in finance, and have come up with a campaign model that would produce better results? And is there any possibility of future Republican Plouffe's and Axelrod's coming up with game plans that tweak the model to their benefit?

    I suspect that the world of Republican managers and money-raisers is too closed a circle, too attached to certain ideological postulates, to make it work. However, that better model for campaigning is what Dems and progressives should be fearing, not a Republican that can find a more optimum mix of right-wing cliches that can be shaded or re-worked to attract enough moderates to win.

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