Monday, September 17, 2012

Campaigns in Disarray

FHQ's Twitter feed was littered last night and this morning with reactions to the POLITICO story indicating infighting and disarray within the Romney campaign. Most seemed to either simply link to it or attack it for shortcomings like how inner circle those quoted in the story really were.

FHQ's reaction? I would place it somewhere between "meh" and "Sir, I'm not impressed."

This just isn't much of a story given the context of the race. If a general election presidential race is not exactly tied then there is a major party candidate who is ahead and a major party candidate who is behind. The 2012 presidential race is not exactly tied. Obama is slightly ahead nationally and ahead by varying degrees in enough states to total 332 electoral votes as of now. That means that Mitt Romney is slightly behind in this race.

And historically those candidates who are slightly behind can face an awful lot of scrutiny. When campaign strategic actions by underdog campaigns don't exactly move the needle, people (voters, the press, etc.) wonder why. When a series of those sorts of actions fall flat, those same people wonder what's wrong. That is where we are in this race. People are wondering what's wrong.

This is not something that is new. It hints at a structural mechanism in American presidential elections.

I humbly submit:
Kerry campaign shifts gear into attack mode 
Candidate seen setting agenda as debates near 
By Glen Johnson, Globe Staff  |  September 26, 2004 
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The perception of a Democratic presidential campaign in disarray remained so widespread Wednesday morning that Senator John F. Kerry got unsolicited advice from a woman attending a town hall meeting on Social Security: Beef up your rapid-response team, the retired lawyer suggested. 
The remark prompted laughter, including from the candidate himself. But the Kerry campaign was already undergoing a transformation. 
Between a speech Monday in New York that gave a point-by-point accounting of continued problems in Iraq, and a speech Friday in Philadelphia that accused President Bush of taking his eye off the real terrorist threat, Osama bin Laden, the Kerry campaign seized control of the political dialogue during a week that was supposed to have been dominated by the incumbent as he visited the United Nations and invited Iraq's prime minister to the White House.
And it goes on.

Now, this is not meant to be yet another connect-the-dots-to-2004 post. That is a story/discussion for another time. [Truth be told, FHQ has drawn that parallel enough already.] No, the intent here is to point out just how difficult it can be to defeat an incumbent president in an environment that is not necessarily favorable but one in which silver linings can be found (...whether in terms of the economy growing (but not quickly enough) or razor-thin approval/disapproval margins that benefit the president). The fundamentals continue to point toward a close election on November 6, and the polling to some extent reflects that as well. The problem from the Romney perspective -- now -- is that when those two things are combined -- the fundamentals and the polling -- the major issue that surfaces is that the polling has been so very consistent throughout the summer and heading down the stretch in this race. That is a tough but not insurmountable obstacle to overcome.

Is the Romney campaign embroiled in discord? FHQ is dubious. The Romney campaign is in the same position plenty of underdog candidates/campaigns have been: behind and looking for the right combination of things to right the ship. There isn't an easy out and as FHQ mentioned earlier, time is running short.

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