Opinion: The 5 Mistakes that Cost Romney the Election

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - 11:57 AM

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) debates with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. U.S. President Barack Obama (R) debates with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (Rick Wilking-Pool/Getty Images)

We know that Barack Obama won the 2012 election by a convincing margin of electoral votes and a healthy popular vote. But we should also acknowledge that Mitt Romney, whose Secret Service name was Javelin, lost the election. Why?

According to the Washington Post, "Romney told the donors he believed Hurricane Sandy stunted his momentum in the final week of the campaign, according to multiple donors present. Although Romney himself stopped short of placing any blame on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who praised President Obama’s leadership during the storm, several Romney supporters privately pointed fingers at the outspoken governor.

“A lot of people feel like Christie hurt, that we definitely lost four or five points between the storm and Chris Christie giving Obama a chance to be bigger than life.”

1. Not enough Romney ideas - Critics of the Romney campaign say that they think it was a mistake to frame the race as a referendum on Obama instead of a clear choice between two different philosophies - the Romney GOP solution or the Obama "same as before."

2. Romney ignored the media - Still another blistering criticism is leveled at Romney for having an adversarial relationship with the news media. Romney avoided the media for most of the campaign, did not quickly appear on TV programs, and maintained a shield of privacy on his personal life for too long according to many observers.

3. He didn't release his taxes - Yet another negative was Romney’s failure to release his income taxes. The longer this issue lingered and vice president’s comments that Romney probably had paid no taxes for years, the more voters wondered what he was hiding. That will go into the history books because he has still not released 10 years of detailed tax returns and, since he probably will never run for office again, he never will.

4. Romney picked the wrong sidekick - Yet another game of second-guessing involves his choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate. Many Republicans now feel that a VP choice from a more winnable battleground state could have gotten him the electoral votes needed. One of my Republican friends asked me, “Stef, maybe Senator Marco Rubio of Florida could have given Mitt a double whammy – a clear and early victory in Florida and a big chunk of Hispanic voters?”  I said “perhaps.” Others mentioned by GOP “Monday morning quarterbackers” I met over coffee are Rob Portman of Ohio, Chris Christie of New Jersey (to excite independents), and Bob McDonnell of Virginia.

5. His ground game was bad - Finally the Romney campaign is being harshly criticized for not running a stronger “infantry” ground war and instead relying too much on an “air war” of negative ads. A ground war involves spending money on setting up a vast army of swing state offices with staff who spend 24-7 identifying voters, painting them with “micro targeting” ads that fit each voter’s concerns, getting early voting information and even absentee ballots to voters, and insuring turnout. The Obama campaign FAR outmaneuvered Romney with this tool.

The loser in a big race will always be blamed but this year I am seeing a highly vitriolic pushback from Republicans about the failures of the Romney campaign.


More in:

Comments [9]

Victoria Zunitch from Forest Hills

Interesting that we can log in somewhat anonymously on IAFC, but on Schoolbook, we must log in with Facebook only. Is that because it's ever so important to control thought that anyone and everyone must know exactly what everyone says at all times about schools? Intersting.

Jan. 28 2013 01:08 AM
Mark from Maplewood, NJ

One word. Authenticity. Everything about his campaign was inauthentic. Breathtaking changes in position...sometimes over years...sometimes within 15 minutes with one of those campaign corrections after the camera shut off. How much energy did he waste on "You didn't build it."... total puffery and reinvention. When in Ohio he claimed Chrysler was moving all its Jeep jobs to China - attempting to fearmonger Ohio voters with falsehoods - which Chrysler called him out on it - he went ahead with ads doublingdown on this blatant lie while at the same time denying the press any access to him. Add in what he would say behind closed doors to the 0.1%, both before and after the election, he couldn't have played the heartless sneering plutocrat the Obama campaign painted him as more to a tee. The scary thing is that almost 48% of the people voted for him despite being an a breathtakingly flawed candidate. That is where money was more effective then many will concede.

Nov. 19 2012 01:04 AM
Daniel in Dover

Yeah, all good theories. Now here's the real reasons:
1. he never had the full support of his own party-or have we forgotten the primaries already? Every other week someone else was ahead of him, so he had to make more and more promises to more and more factions under the Republican tent, many of which he was obviously not going to be able to keep. There are people who can strike that just right balance to unify the party vote-and Romney simply was not one of them.
2. He never struck a consisten tone in his campaign. He contradicted himself openly time after time, changing his message from one week to another. To some this made him look weak and indecisive, and to others it made him look dishonest and untrustworthy. Its not a bad thing to stake out a positon and then STICK BY IT.
3. He never put forth a realistic plan. All he really did was churn out the same worn-out line of ideology, much of which has been thoroughly disproven. His answer to seemingly everything was tax cuts and oil drilling. He claimed he would cut spending, but that he would also increase the size of the military. He really had no plan, just a bunch of talking points.
4. He underestimated the sitting president. Look no further than the debates: Romney did well in the first one and clearly got cocky; when Obama came out swinging in the second debate, Romney looked like he was ready to start crying. He and his fellow Republicans bought into their own idea of Obama as a stuttering, stumbling moron who couldn't hold his own without a teleprompter, and they forgot to see him as what he was and is: a sitting president, which carries with it a lot of advantages-which Obama did not hesitate to use.
5. Romney never connected with voters. He came across as an over-priveleged snob. I honestly could not care less that he is rich, as he did earn much of his wealth through his business ventures, but the fact is that when you casually toss out ten-thousand dollar wagers or you boast of having friends who own NASCAR franchises you really do not have much connection to middle class Americans. His infamous 47% comment sounded perfectly snotty, as if he were dismissing half the populace as peasants. Being rich and powerful does not, evidently, make you immune to acting like a jerk.

Nov. 16 2012 10:19 AM

highly vitriolic? Many have gone plumb nuts. I did likewise when Bush won in 2000. I was only down in the dumps for a few hours because I had the good sense to pivot and position myself to succeed under the administration of someone I did not support. And it worked. t can work for Romney supporters too. It will for many who have enough sense to make lemonade out of lemons.

Nov. 14 2012 08:45 PM

I am looking forward to the day America has a president whose focus is rich Americans protecting and building their wealth!

Solely because it will mean that the majority of Americans are rich.

Nov. 14 2012 12:10 PM
LastGirl from Los Angeles, CA

Here's a bit of irony:

Romney currently has 47.84% of the votes. Now where have we heard 47% before?

Nov. 13 2012 03:40 PM
LastGirl from Los Angeles, CA

" A good example is Wayne Allen Roots looney rant on the Fox news web site today."

I just read that before coming here.

Romney lost because he insulted his own supporters. Every time he insulted a group of people, the people who nominated him were among that group. Whether it was stating he would get rid of FEMA during the primaries and then avoiding the issue when Sandy hit or his flip flopping on issues or saying he didn't care about "the 47%", people who wanted as president were kicked in the teeth by him.

A day or two after the election, I was listening to a Republican strategist on the radio and he ended up voting for the candidate from the Independent Party after hearing Romney's 47% remark. There is no telling how many others Republicans either voted for Obama or one of the other candidates because they didn't like what Romney was saying or how he was behaving like expecting Gov. Christie to leave NJ and help him campaign on the Sunday before the election while NJ residents were still without electricity. Or like his fake hurricane relief efforts in Ohio. Did Sandy hit Ohio?

Nov. 13 2012 03:27 PM
brbr2424 from West

I agree that Romney made a poor choice for sidekick. Governor Bob McDonnell would have been a worse pick. If Republicans did enjoy talking about rape, I'm sure they would be equally uncomfortable trying to explain why they want the government to force women to be penetrated with vaginal ultrasound wands. Governor vaginal probe helped send Kaine and Obama back to Washington.

Nov. 13 2012 03:03 PM
benzdriver from 48473

As a Reagan democrat and from what I was hearing before the election, the Obama votes were actually votes against talk radio, comments about rape and abortion and Gov. Romney's inability to recognize the need to strongly condemn these people. A good example is Wayne Allen Roots looney rant on the Fox news web site today. Until the GOP disassociates its self from these people they will continue to lose.

Nov. 13 2012 03:02 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About It's A Free Blog

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a blog, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at



Supported by