Posted on | April 11, 2012 | 85 Comments
“After having destroyed every conservative that came on the scene, you can’t say ‘You have to line up behind me.’ No, no, no. Conservatives are not going to jump until they hear where Governor Romney wants to take everybody.”
— Richard Viguerie, veteran conservative leader
“I still think Mitt’s electability is a myth and a lot of conservatives are going to have to sell their souls to support Mitt (More than a few of them have already gotten started). There are a lot of conservatives who’ve put their reputations on the line to assure everyone that Mitt is actually very conservative — and extremely electable. Of course, some of those same people started doing CYA-backpedaling when it looked like Romney almost had the nomination locked up, which begs the question: If you don’t think Mitt is going to win, why were you working so hard to undermine all the other candidates and push Mitt in the first place?”
— John Hawkins, Right Wing News
“Wednesday April 11th is day one of the general election. But there are things I’m seeing that tell me that Mitt Romney is kicking off the campaign in a telling defensive posture.”
— Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo
“You go to war with the Mitt you have.”
— William Jacobson, Legal Insurrection
My ambition to abandon the drudgery of journalism for an exciting new career in diplomacy as the Future U.S. Ambassador to Vanuatu suffered a major setback Tuesday. When Rick Santorum promised me that ambassadorship in December — in a telephone interview, while he was still in sixth place in the Iowa polls, waiting to catch a plane during his layover in Fort Worth on the cheapest available flight from Des Moines to D.C. — I made sure I saved the recording.
Because I knew, when the miraculous Iowa victory came through, Santorum’s political advisors would try to talk him out of it.
So I was prepared to hold him accountable to that promise, and he not only won Iowa, he won 10 other states. Santorum raised $9 million in February, beat Newt Gingrich in Southern states like Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana — oh, it was so close, I could taste it. And I had the digital audio of that ironclad promise, the Word of Honor of a Christian Gentleman that next year I’d be jetting off to Porta Vila to begin my new career in South Pacific diplomacy.
Dreams die hard and, despite the professional requirements of Neutral Objective Journalism, my friends, I dared to dream.
When I’m feeling this low, it’s nice to know I’m not suffering alone: I’m not depressed; the world objectively sucks.
Yesterday, after Rick Santorum quit, my 13-year-old son Jefferson asked, “Does this mean I have to stop bad-mouthing Mitt Romney?”
“Yeah,” I said. “It doesn’t mean you have to start good-mouthing him, but you have to stop bad-mouthing him.”
Then I went on to explain that, having been saddled with a nominee whom we had opposed with all our might, we cannot be held responsible for the inevitable disaster. Therefore, on Wednesday, Nov. 7, we will be ready to demand an accounting from those responsible.
Could I be wrong? Is there actually a chance that Mitt could win? This is a possibility that must be considered, at least as a hypothetical.
In a few weeks, when I’m covering the general election campaign, I’m going to have to try to convince myself that this is not an absurd exercise in political futility, that “President Romney” is actually within the realm of the possible, and that a Romney administration might conceivably accomplish something meaningful for the preservation of the American Republic. It is nonetheless important to emphasize that today — April 11, 2012 — I am overwhelmed by a bone-deep certainty that those who actually believe such things are fools, who are wasting their time and efforts, and now asking us to waste ours, too.
Then, when it’s all over, and people ask me, “What went wrong?” I’ll point them back to this post and say, “It was do0med from the outset.”
Let me explain why this matters: Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. On Nov. 7, if Obama is re-elected, the people actually responsible for this — the Republican Establishment, which now obviously includes certain people at Fox News, both on-camera and behind the scenes — will be looking to evade responsibility. They’ll be hunting for scapegoats and, just as they scapegoated Sarah Palin for the defeat in 2008, they will blame conservatives for what went wrong.
Having warned you in advance of what lies ahead, it is now my professional obligation as a Neutral Objective Journalist to begin forgetting this. “Punch a big hatpin through my frontal lobes,” as Hunter S. Thompson once phrased it, and pretend that I don’t know what I know.
What I know is this: As of this date, April 11, Mitt Romney has received just 40.7 percent of the GOP primary vote:
Mitt Romney ……… 4,595,908 (40.7%)
Rick Santorum …… 3,209,301 (28.3%)
Newt Gingrich ……. 2,284,557 (20.4%)
Ron Paul ……………. 1,191,026 (10.6%)
“But, but, but … what about the delegates?”
Yeah, it’s amazing, huh? The guy with less than 41 percent of the actual votes somehow has an overwhelming advantage in delegates: Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, District of Columbia — there’s 61 delegates in Mitt’s column right there, and a fat lot of good it will do him Nov. 6, because those places have a combined total of zero Electoral College votes.
Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland — another 145 Romney delegates, and I’m sure the GOP geniuses are counting on those states to come through for Mitt in November, eh?
Never has “inevitability” been built of flimsier stuff, my friends: Mitt Romney is the weakest nominee in modern Republican Party history.
This is not my opinion. It is a Neutral Objective Fact. Mitt makes Bob Dole and John McCain look like unbeatable juggernauts by comparison.
If I were the only one who saw this fact as an ill omen for November, maybe I could shake off my forebodings of doom. Maybe I could dismiss my overwhelming despair as merely a result of my disappointment over losing that ambassadorship to Vanuatu. Dreams die hard.
However, John Hawkins sees it the same way, and he’s never expressed any interest in a South Pacific diplomatic career. Richard Viguerie sees it the same way, and if he harbors hope of an ambassadorial appointment, he’s shrewdly concealed his ambitions.
No, the omens are obvious, and these two fine Christian Gentlemen see the same things I see: The way Romney won the nomination is the strongest possible harbinger of defeat in November.
This is not pessimistic croaking by a handful of disgruntled cranks. We are not doomsaying as a way to salve our disappointment, nor trying to spread discouragement. We are soberly examining the auguries and frankly explaining what they portend for the future.
Longtime readers will note that I have “buried the lede,” as journalists say: You had to read through a bunch of dark humor before you got to the stuff about Romney getting just 41% of the votes so far, about how Team Mitt padded their delegate lead by racking up wins in places that will be irrelevant on Nov. 6. This is purposeful, a way of scaring off the shallow and superficial people who want to listen to Chris Stirewalt blathering on Fox News and watch Karl Rove do his silly whiteboard tricks and then tell themselves everything’s going to be OK.
It is obviously not going to be OK, but the superficial people would freak out if I tried to tell them in a Joe Friday Just-the-Facts-Ma’am way just how dire our predicament really is. So I piled up the top of the story with grim sarcasm, permitting the optimistic fools to brush this off as a joke, knowing that very few — regular readers who’ve seen me prophesy the downfall of “The Phantom Menace,” et cetera — would plow through that and reach The Serious Stuff.
How bad is it? Bad. Very bad, and when you factor in how Team Mitt deployed their overwhelming financial advantage, unleashing negative ad tsunamis against any conservative rival who threatened their man’s precious “inevitability,” it looks even worse.
Here’s the thing superficial people are really missing: Unless you were in one of the handful of states where the Mitt Blitz hit, you have no earthly idea what it looked like. I remember driving around Iowa in that black Mustang, listening to the radio — talk radio, country radio, classic rock, whatever — and hearing those ads against Newt from the Romney campaign and the “Restore Our Future” super-PAC. Then I’d hit a deadline at midnight and stumble back to my motel room, turn on the TV and see Romney ads nearly wall-to-wall during commercial breaks.
In New Hampshire and South Carolina, I saw and heard something similar but slightly less focused and heavy-duty. Team Mitt got distracted by Santorum’s Iowa surge and began hammering at him for a while, which permitted Newt to score a comeback win South Carolina. But I remember standing outside a hotel in Charleston on the Friday night before the South Carolina primary, having a smoke with a young Romney staffer. He admitted they’d taken their eye off the ball, and darkly suggested they’d learned a lesson: Next time would be different.
Indeed. Even while South Carolinians were preparing to vote, the Mitt Blitz was hitting Florida like a hurricane. Nothing in all the history of the Republican Party provided any precedent for what Romney did to Gingrich in Florida. Keep in mind, I’d never favored Newt. Back at least as far back as November, I’d said that if the choice came down to Mitt or Newt, I’d go with Mitt.
At that time, my first choice Herman Cain was cratering under the weight of unproven sexual misconduct accusations, and Rick Santorum was still struggling to hang on to sixth place, down in the single digits with “Governor Asterisk,” Jon Huntsman. Allahpundit’s “second look at Newt” wasn’t my idea of a smart move, because I knew there was no way Gingrich could ever be nominated, nor any way Newt could win even if he did somehow get the nomination.
So when I got to Florida and turned on the TV, I should have been happy to see those wall-to-wall Romney ads slamming Gingrich. Instead, I actually felt a strange sense of sympathy for Newt. Whatever his faults and flaws — and quite grievous they are — not even Newt deserved that kind of sadistic humiliation from a fellow Republican.
More ominous than that, of course, I recognized that if somehow Rick Santorum could mount a miracle comeback (and there were entire convents of nuns praying for his campaign), Team Mitt would employ the same brutal tactics against him.
By the time we got to Michigan, then, I knew what to expect. Most nights, I’d turn my motel TV to CNN or MSNBC, because every time I switched over to Fox News — where Stirewalt, Rove & Co. were constantly singing from the “inevitability” hymnal — the commercial breaks would include ad time sold by the local cable providers, nearly all of which had been bought up by Team Mitt for their anti-Santorum tsunami.
The same thing happened in Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin: Wherever Santorum posed a threat to Romney, the multimillion-dollar Mitt Blitz came slamming down. That Santorum lost Mitt’s home state of Michigan by just 3 points, and lost Ohio by less than one percent, was a testament to the enormous resistance to Romney among Republican voters.
If you didn’t watch it happen — if you didn’t see just how heavy those attack-ad rotations were in the targeted states — you can be forgiven for not understanding what these numbers mean:
$66.8 million + super-PAC $40.5 million = $107.3 million
$19.2 million + super-PAC $16.6 million = $35.8 million
$13.0 million + super-PAC $7.5 million = $20.5 million
Those are the known totals of spending, the campaign totals as of Feb. 29, the super-PAC totals as of April 11, although it must be noted that we do not yet have complete disclosure for the super PACs. Nevertheless, treating these partial and incomplete totals as roughly representative of the money picture for the three major GOP contenders, we get this:
$107. 3 million (65.6% of total)
4.6 million votes (40.7% of total)
Price per vote = $23.33
$35.8 million (21.9% of total)
2.3 million votes (20.4% of total)
Price per vote = $15.57
$20.5 million (12.5% of total)
3.2 million votes (28.3% of total)
Price per vote = $6.41
These are, as I say, incomplete metrics. Now that Santorum has suspended his campaign and Gingrich’s campaign is busted and bankrupt, Romney can be expected to win future primaries by rather decisive majorities. The dollar amounts and vote totals will therefore change as the remaining primary calendar plays out and more financial reports become available.
However, what we can see now is clear: What got Mitt to this point of “inevitability” was a strategy whereby he outspent Gingrich about 3-to-1 and outspent Santorum more than 5-to-1, yet still has less than 41% of the votes. And a massive amount of Mitt’s money was spent on a relentlessly negative ad blitz against Romney’s conservative rivals, an intra-partisan assault unprecedented in GOP history.
Having won the nomination by such methods, what are the chances Mitt can win in November? Well, I just got an e-mail from some guy named “Slim,” who said he was thinking about leaving town.
So as I contemplated the meaning of Santorum’s concession to the “inevitable” Tuesday, I tried to remember a more hopeful time:
Just off Highway 17 in the Charleston suburb of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, we found the shopping center where the state campaign headquarters was located. It was Tuesday, Jan. 17, and my 13-year-old son Jefferson was along for the ride on my road trip to cover the South Carolina primary. The day before in Myrtle Beach, Jefferson had helped me cover the press conference where former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman announced he was ending his presidential bid and endorsing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Then, that Monday night, we’d covered the Fox News debate that was generally acknowledged as a solid win for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
We hadn’t come to the Palmetto State to cover Gingrich, Romney or Huntsman, however, and so on that Tuesday afternoon, driving from Myrtle Beach to Charleston, we pulled off Highway 17 in Mount Pleasant to visit Rick Santorum’s South Carolina headquarters. Wheeling into the parking lot, I spotted two familiar-looking young men walking out of the office, carrying large boxes. Rolling down my window, I asked, “Where y’all heading?”
“Mail drop,” said John Santorum, eldest son of the candidate, as he and his younger brother Daniel loaded the boxes into an SUV and drove off to the local post office. . . .
— 30 —
- April 10: SANTORUM DROPS OUT
- April 9: Nate Silver, the Experts and … Me
- April 8: Predictable: Gingrich Admits He Owes More Than $4 Million Campaign Debt
- April 6: Memo From the National Affairs Desk: Eyewitness to History in Florida
- April 5: The Last Nail in Newt’s Coffin UPDATE: Conservative Leaders Huddle With Santorum, Seek Deal With Newt
- April 5: Framing the Narrative: Using Evangelicals as Hook for MSM ‘Mormon Mitt’ Meme
- April 4: Mark Levin and the Omens of Doom
- April 3: WISCONSIN, MARYLAND REPUBLICAN PRIMARY RESULTS HQ