Mitt Romney's campaign has concluded that the 2012 election will not be decided by elusive, much-targeted undecided voters — but by the motivated partisans of the Republican base.Politico and Huffington Post have more details, but the obvious question is whether this latest Romney gambit will work. Well, let's put it in some context.
This shifting campaign calculus has produced a split in Romney's message. His talk show interviews and big ad buys continue to offer a straightforward economic focus aimed at traditional undecided voters. But out stumping day to day is a candidate who wants to talk about patriotism and God, and who is increasingly looking to connect with the right's intense, personal dislike for President Barack Obama.
Three Romney advisers told BuzzFeed the campaign's top priority now is to rally conservative Republicans, in hopes that they'll show up on Election Day, and drag their less politically-engaged friends with them. The earliest, ambiguous signal of this turn toward the party's right was the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as Romney's running mate, a top Romney aide said.
Romney began the month of May running as a business executive with the private sector experience to turn the economy around. Then the Obama campaign questioned his Bain record—and Romney's response was to deny any responsibility for Bain. In a flash, what was supposed to be his biggest asset was gone. Then when the focus shifted to his tax returns, Romney said he wouldn't release any of his tax returns from before 2010 because to do so would be politically damaging.
Then Romney decided to show he could handle being commander-in-chief by going to London, Poland and Israel. He ended up insulting more nations than he visited. Upon his return, Romney decided to address his biggest policy vulnerability—Medicare—by selecting as his vice-presidential running mate the guy who wrote the Republican plan to end it.
Throughout all this, Romney remained a viable candidate, though still an underdog because of Obama's edge in the swing states that will decide the election. But Romney didn't panic, because he still had the Republican convention to look forward to. Unfortunately for Mitt, that didn't work out, despite Clint Eastwood's best efforts.
Then came Labor Day. There were just two months to election day when the Democratic convention started. Romney hoped that his decision to elevate and praise Bill Clinton would pay off with Clinton attacking President Obama on prime time television. Romney was probably the only person in America who was shocked when that plan didn't work out. Undaunted, Romney decided to say that President Clinton's speech overshadowed President Obama's speech. And then when that strategy fizzled, he tried to take advantage of the attack on American diplomats in Benghazi, but in the process bungled the facts so badly that he dealt his own campaign what should turn out to be a mortal wound.
And now Romney claims he is re-releasing himself so that he can focus on turning out the vote among people who already hate President Obama. On the surface it seems like a low-risk strategy: keep Romney away from swing voters and use him to turn out people who have already made up their minds. But given Romney's track-record, I'm sure he'll come up with a new and creative way to screw this up too.