Romney the Great Manager? Not Nearly as Good as Obama, the Election Proved
In the days since the election we have learned that President Barack Obama‘s campaign had an amazingly advanced and disciplined ground game that knew just what precincts and even voters to target and how to target them, based on polling information that predicted how the vote was going with uncanny precision. Yet Mitt Romney was the man running as the experienced manager, the man whose years running a business uniquely qualified him to run the biggest, most complex organization on earth, the federal government. That was his main, most consistent claim to the office. Now it looks more as if, though he may have been very good at buying and selling companies and extracting profit from them, he wasn’t nearly as good at heading an effective complex organization as President Obama.
As a commenter on Andrew Sullivan’s blog summed it up,
Obama executed quantifiable long-term plans, adaptable short-term planning, an innovative GOTV initiative and plotted better ad strategies, while Romney had the ORCA trainwreck [see below], inaccurate internal polling, poorly informed managers and insufficient fiscal planning (e.g. coffers too low in July to react to the Obama ad blitz seems so minor league!). Not to mention its upper management was rewarded with bonuses in September, right after the languid convention and the embarrassing European trip.
The blogger Allahpundit has a very good post about the difference in the organizational success of the campaigns, in which he writes,
This was supposed to be Romney’s strength, the reason to prefer him to Gingrich, Santorum, etc. Even if he didn’t always seem so “severely conservative,” he could be trusted to hold his own against Team Hopenchange in a battle of the ground games. After all, that’s his brand — he’s a managerial genius. If anyone could build a company capable of capturing the presidency, he could.
Allahpundit cites a Romney campaign worker’s account of Project Orca, which the campaign described as “a massive undertaking – the Republican Party’s newest, unprecedented and most technologically advanced plan to win the 2012 presidential election.” It involved using smartphones on election day to figure out which precincts weren’t producing enough voters, so help could be rushed to them to turn out the vote. But it was incompetently set up and planned for and was a wreck on election day, and according to that campaign worker:
the end result was that 30,000+ of the most active and fired-up volunteers were wandering around confused and frustrated when they could have been doing anything else to help. Like driving people to the polls, phone-banking, walking door-to-door, etc. . . . If this had worked could it have closed the gap? I sure hope not for my sanity’s sake.
The bitter irony of this entire endeavor was that a supposedly small government candidate gutted the local structure of GOTV efforts in favor of a centralized, faceless organization in a far off place (in this case, their Boston headquarters). Wrap your head around that.
Here’s how Jonathan Last, who writes often for The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard, puts it:
There was, to my mind, only one qualitative argument generally made in favor of Romney: that his management experience made him uniquely qualified to be president. He was a “turn-around artist.”A “genius CEO.” . . . At least this was a falsifiable claim. And the fact that Romney could not master even his own campaign organization in order to win an incredibly winnable election demonstrates–incontrovertibly–that it wasn’t true. If he was a turn-around artist, he would be president-elect right now.
Most political campaigns aren’t invalidated by a loss. A candidate puts forward an idea or a worldview and it can stand whether or not it’s embraced by voters. It has its own truth. But in the wake of his loss Romney’s campaign now looks ludicrous. He simply can’t be a “genius” of managing and salvaging and not win.