On The Road

February 9th, 2012

Tuesday Was More Than Just a Bad Night for Romney

Even before a vote was cast in Colorado, Minnesota, or Missouri on Tuesday, the Romney campaign was downplaying each contest. On Tuesday morning, the Romney campaign distributed a memo to the media and other interested parties reminding them that the contests in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri were meaningless since two of them were nonbinding preference polls, and the other was strictly a beauty contest.

Lowering expectations is nothing new in politics, but it seemed odd that a campaign with a lot of momentum and plenty of financial resources like Romney’s wouldn’t play to win.  Remember, it was Romney who basically ignored Iowa for the better part of a year before making a major investment in the final weeks of the campaign.  It seemed this time Romney’s campaign saw trouble and held back in Minnesota, but losing in Colorado was something they did not see coming.

Romney did not campaign in Missouri, but he did make stops in Minnesota and Colorado.  His Super PAC spent $127,000 on television ads in Minnesota, the same amount as Santorum’s Super PAC spent.  Romney’s campaign sent mail to likely caucus goers in Minnesota, Santorum didn’t.  Romney also had the endorsement of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who was very visible in the week leading up to the Minnesota caucus.

The Romney campaign was more confident about Colorado.  Unlike in Minnesota where he canceled a rally after his Nevada victory, Romney campaigned in Colorado and spent money on mail and phone calls.  Santorum’s Super PAC didn’t run television ads in Colorado, but did spend about $40,000 on phone calls in the state.  At the end of the day, the only state where Santorum spent more money than Romney was in Missouri, and even then it wasn’t much.  All told, the Super PAC spent about $50,000 on television ads and spent another $15,000 on phones.

The notion that Santorum focused and spent a lot of money to win in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri on Tuesday night is nothing more than spin from the Romney campaign.  Had Romney won those states instead of Santorum, he would have cut off the oxygen to both Gingrich and Santorum.  In many respects, he would have made it nearly impossible for anyone else to gain traction before Super Tuesday.

It’s not the fact that Romney lost three states on Tuesday that should concern his campaign, it’s how badly he lost.  Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri consist of 265 counties.  Romney only won 17 of them, while Santorum won 240, or 91 percent.  It’s inconceivable that Romney, the clear national frontrunner for the Republican nomination, didn’t win a single county in either Minnesota or Missouri.

Santorum’s small investment of time and resources paid huge dividends.  The most difficult thing that Gingrich, Paul, and Santorum had to overcome was always going to be remaining viable until Super Tuesday rolled around.  To accomplish that they each needed to find a win in the month of February.  Santorum did that and so much more on Tuesday.  The crazy thing is that Romney allowed Santorum to do it with out bankrupting his campaign or even making the task difficult.

Santorum’s big night also confirms some troubling trends for Romney.  Despite his big wins in Florida and Nevada, polls show that Romney is losing appeal with the Republican base.  If anything, Santorum’s sweep on Tuesday night added an exclamation point to that.  However, Romney was showing signs of trouble before the results came on Tuesday night.

In head-to-head national polls against President Obama, it was Santorum who polled ahead of the President, not Romney. Those polls showed that Santorum’s populist message is resonating with independent voters.  Now that Santorum owns victories in four key swing states, we know that those poll numbers are not a fluke.

The emerging issue set also favors Santorum over Romney.  With the unemployment numbers creeping down, Republicans are going to have to deliver a much more disciplined critique of President Obama.  Santorum’s focus on the manufacturing sector speaks right to the swing voters in industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.   Foreign policy and social issues have also dominated the headlines as of late.  Both sets of issues are in Santorum’s wheelhouse.

Romney has struggled to put his opponents away in this election.  After winning three states on Tuesday, Santorum has all the fuel his campaign needs to make it Super Tuesday.  There is also a chance that he could cause Romney more damage if he is somehow able to win either Michigan or Arizona later this month.

It’s understandable why the Romney campaign is downplaying what happened on Tuesday night.  However, one has to wonder why they didn’t play to win?  Unlike their opponents, they had the resources to spend, yet chose not to.  Now they have to contend with Santorum who has a lot of momentum and is raising a lot of money.

When it’s all said and done, we may look back to February 7th and say that is the day the Romney lost control of the race.  Only time will tell.

Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of TheIowaRepublican.com, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and TheIowaRepublican.com as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, TheIowaRepublcian.com. Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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