In my column for CNN, I argue that Mitt Romney's war room overreacted to the attacks it faced last week:
By any measure, the Mitt Romney for president campaign has had a painfully bad week. What went wrong?
The bad news began Wednesday. That day, Romney addressed the NAACP convention in Houston. The speech was poorly received, so much so that Romney, in an interview that afternoon on Fox Business, told host Neil Cavuto that he had "expected" boos. Some interpreted that comment as proof that Romney had actually wanted to be booed by the NAACP in order to rev up elements of the conservative base.
The Romney campaign next reacted by whispering to the Drudge Report (which acts as a kind of message board for Romney) that it was seriously considering Condoleezza Rice as a running mate. That story excited the press for half a day, until reporters remembered two hard realities: Party conservatives won't accept a pro-choice running mate, and Rice has made repeated public statements of lack of interest in the VP job.
The NAACP story probably moved few votes. But it's interesting in its own right -- and as a warning of the bigger trouble that hit the campaign on Thursday.
The NAACP incident shows a hyperactive campaign war room, overcorrecting one way ("the boos are no big deal; everything's going according to plan!") and then overcorrecting the other way ("we weren't trying to generate TV images of racial confrontation; why, look, here's Condi Rice!"), spinning and counterspinning without any forethought for how this hour's aggressive statement would sound when the next hour's realities arrived.
And it was that "win the hour" mentality that got the Romney campaign into much more serious trouble when the Obama campaign launched a big push on Romney's business record the next day.
Thursday morning, the Obama campaign released a tough ad attacking the record of downsizing and outsourcing at Romney's old firm, Bain Capital.
The Romney campaign reacted with outrage. That same day, it announced a multimillion-dollar purchase of airtime for an ad that bluntly accused President Obama of lying.
In support of the ad, Romney's team argued that he had left Bain Capital in February 1999; the incidents alluded to by the Obama campaign all occurred after that date and had nothing to do with Romney.
Wham. The first attack on Romney had been a jab, dropping Romney's guard against the haymaker: On Friday, the Obama team counter-charged that it was Romney who was lying in his ads or who had committed a felony, lying on 140 official forms that he signed as CEO and sole shareholder of Bain between 1999 and 2002.