Mopping Up

What Might Mitt Have Done?

Before we leave Romney for good, let’s ponder what he might have done.

We should be leaving Romney in peace soon, but I’ve meaning to write this what he might have done differently post, and I’m interested in your thoughts.

David Axelrod shared some reflections on this with Mike Allen. Axelrod thinks the Romney message was “at war with itself” because there was, at the end, simultaneous playing to the base and trying to sound conciliatory, and it clashed. He also pointed to the Jeep ad, the late messaging on the auto bailout, as being pretty disastrous for Romney.

I’d agree with that. But what might he have done differently? Here are my thoughts:

1. He should have created a Sister Souljah moment of his own with the right sometime over the summer. Not sure on what. But he should have found some occasion and used it to give a speech that said to the nation broadly, “I’m not just in these people’s pocket.” I will lead, I won’t just follow.

2. Though his religion never became an issue, I still think he may have gained from making it one himself. Another big summer speech here—not just defending his church, not even mainly defending his church, but expressing an idea and vision about faith and public service. Again, this would have said to voters that he is a leader, has some vision.

3. Axelrod is right, that Jeep ad was absurd. He just never should have done that.

4. He seemed to think that after that boffo first debate, he could just tread water. He let Obama win the next two. I think I wrote at the time that in the second debate, he should have gone even more aggressively to the middle, saying: “You know what? Maybe people like me can afford to pay a little more. I don’t like this $250,000 figure, because I think that will hit a lot of small business people, but I’m open to something more along the lines of $1 million, which, after all, is the idea of Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, who know that people in high-cost states like their own might get whacked by the 250 threshold.” I think that would have really boxed Obama in.

Two big things, two late-innings tactical things. The big things would have presented a totally different candidate to the public, someone with some vision and some ability to rise above the fray instead of engaging in the usual back-scratching. But he clearly didn’t have that in him. Also, I’m not saying he’d have won. The GOP just got massacred on the ground. If you look at Obama’s win percentages in the alleged swing states, most of them weren’t close—five, six, seven points. The popular vote total is also edging up toward a 3 percent Obama advantage, so in the end, this was a fairly close election, but no more than that. Anyway. Interested in your thoughts on this as well.