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The Internet Has Not Eliminated the Need for Campaign Organization

[ 53 ] March 5, 2012 |

This, from Silver’s Super Tuesday preview, is what I mean when I say that (implausible as it seems in the abstract) that Mittens has been inevitable since Perry imploded:

In Ohio, most of the delegates (48) are awarded winner-take-all by Congressional district. Note, however, that Rick Santorum does not have not have full delegate slates in some districts and will not be eligible to win them there.

[...]

Whether or not Mr. Romney is a favorite to win the popular vote in Ohio, however, he is probably the favorite to take the plurality of delegates there because of Mr. Santorum’s delegate problems.

And, as most people know, the ineptitude of the Santorum and Gingrich campaigns means that Romney can get almost all of Virginia’s 46 delegates uncontested. The spend-lotsa-cash-grind-out-the-delegates approach Romney has adopted out of necessity would have real vulnerabilities against a serious campaign, but Santorum doesn’t have the resources to run one and it’s not clear that Newt would have bothered to run a serious campaign even if he had the money he doesn’t have. When you eliminate the impossible, you’re left with Romney.

Comments (53)

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  1. JRoth says:

    There was probably a moment – maybe Florida, maybe Michigan – when a humiliating Romney loss could have actually flipped a money switch, such that Santorum (or, less plausibly, Gingrich) could have actually had enough cash on hand to become competitive (even with organizing failures like VA) and stop the Romney campaign (which, let’s be clear, isn’t nearly as well organized as Hillary’s was, let alone Obama’s cover-all-the-bases approach) in its tracks. At some point, even with contested primaries and plenty of money, if a candidate has become a loser, he can’t keep accruing delegates.

    But as long as Romney and Santorum are roughly equally viable, Romney’s advantages are overwhelming. And with Super Tuesday about to pass without any shocking outcomes, it’s unimaginable that Santorum can find some other game-changing blow.

    I do wonder if a slightly less repulsive version of Santorum, one who’d be more acceptable to wealthy, non-insane conservatives, could have started to pull in real money after that triple win (or even after Iowa’s “tie”) and find a way to take Michigan. I mean, even his fellow travelers find Rick repellent – recall that he was known as the most friendless Senator.

    • c u n d gulag says:

      Somewhere, Tim Pawlenty “Stupid” is pulling his hair out, and crying into his pillows at night.

      • JRoth says:

        No doubt.

        Although I do wonder what his angle would have been – Gingrich surged thanks to his performance of the reptile id of the GOP, Santorum embodies their anti-modernity self-righteousness, but Pawlenty’s just a more acceptable version of Romney. I don’t think there was any primary that he could have won to generate buzz.

        Of course, every other candidate has had his or her turn, so…

      • Murc says:

        Not just T-Paw. Mike Huckabee could have run away with this thing if he’d been in the race.

        • Malaclypse says:

          While Huckabee has a whole lot of flaws that I have no wish to defend, his version of Christianity does not have enough hatred of poor people baked in to be acceptable to 2012 wingnuts.

          Of course, I’m also on record as believing that Mormon Jesus would also be unacceptable, so take my analysis with a grain of salt…

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            Huckabee’s problem is that he raised taxes once as Governor of Arkansas. This makes him 100% toxic to Grover Norquist and the moneybags in the GOP. Huckabee would have found himself in exactly the same situation as Santorum and Gingrich, though for somewhat different reasons (and my guess is that Huckabee is smart enough that he didn’t run because he had figured that out).

            • Joey Maloney says:

              And don’t forget the rapist he pardoned because the guy found Jesus. True, he only raped a Clinton cousin so it probably wouldn’t have mattered except for that mini-killing spree he went on post-release.

            • mark f says:

              This makes him 100% toxic to Grover Norquist and the moneybags in the GOP [ . . . ] Huckabee is smart enough that he didn’t run because he had figured that out).

              They did send him a pretty clear message in 2008, when they left him sitting at home waiting for their phone calls even as he kept beating their supposed nemesis John McCain in primaries.

          • Warren Terra says:

            All of this focus on the perceived motes in the eye of Mike Huckabee seem to be rather missing the beam in Willard’s own optical receptor.

            In other words: yes, Huckabee has a record that could harm him with the Republican base (and that’s not counting the whole abetting brutal rape and murder because Clinton Had A Penis business). But we’ve seen that records can be overlooked.

      • Tybalt says:

        Pawlenty pulled out because he couldn’t beat Romney and knew it. That wouldn’t have changed had he stayed in; he wouldn’t beat Romney.

        • Warren Terra says:

          No one has convincingly beaten Romney by the sheer power of their charisma and their compelling vision for America. People have been able to soak up support in the polls and sometimes even at the polls when the overwhelming weakness of Romney’s support has caused him to go quite some distance towards beating himself. And then, once they get some attention, they tend to rapidly implode under the weight of their absurdity.

          There’s no reason that Pawlenty wouldn’t have eventually benefited from a similar dynamic, and while he’s got all the appeal of unflavored day-old oatmeal, he’s arguably less given to absurdity than either Newt or (either) Rick.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I do wonder if a slightly less repulsive version of Santorum, one who’d be more acceptable to wealthy, non-insane conservatives, could have started to pull in real money after that triple win (or even after Iowa’s “tie”) and find a way to take Michigan. I mean, even his fellow travelers find Rick repellent – recall that he was known as the most friendless Senator.

      This is a real issue. I’m open to the possibility that, even if their effects are overstated, Citizens United and the intarwebs make a late challenge more viable than it used to be. The real test case will come if a popular figure with a real national following makes a late entry. Santorum, a not-very-likable minor pol, isn’t a good test case; he can’t reap all of the possible rewards and can’t make as much of them as a better politician could.

      • I do wonder if a slightly less repulsive version of Santorum…

        You mean Romney?

        • JRoth says:

          He’s really not. I mean, I don’t doubt that he’d ultimately govern in roughly the same way (more tax giveaways, less panty sniffing), but his profile, but as a candidate and as an ideologue, is very, very different. Romney’s supposed to be pragmatic; that word doesn’t appear anywhere in Santorum’s campaign bio. Indeed, for the most part Santorum isn’t even campaigning on the basis of having experience – it’s all culture war, with no thought towards governance.

          If you asked the GOP electorate which of the 2 would make the trains run on time, Santorum would lose 3:1. But they don’t care about that, they only care about demonizing anyone who’d ever ride a train.

          • Uncle Kvetch says:

            If you asked the GOP electorate which of the 2 would make the trains run on time, Santorum would lose 3:1. But they don’t care about that, they only care about demonizing anyone who’d ever ride a train.

            Nice. Very nice.

      • joe from Lowell says:

        Santorum, a not-very-likable minor pol, isn’t a good test case; he can’t reap all of the possible rewards and can’t make as much of them as a better politician could.

        Agreed. He had a real chance, having built up a big lead in Michigan despite being heavily outspent. He was positioned for a major upset, and it would have been a serious blow to Romney.

        And then he went and opened his mouth. Contraception is wrong? John F. Kennedy makes you puke?

        I know Rick Perry is a tough clown act to follow, but Rick Santorum executed a hell of a prat fall over the past couple of weeks.

        • mark f says:

          John F. Kennedy makes you puke?

          You’d think you’d be smart enough to keep this one to yourself if you were actively courting crossover Democrats.

          • Hogan says:

            Spinal Tap runs for president:

            Ian Faith: The Boston gig has been cancelled…

            David St. Hubbins: What?

            Ian Faith: Yeah. I wouldn’t worry about it though, it’s not a big college town.

          • joe from Lowell says:

            You’d think you’d be smart enough to keep this one to yourself if you were actively courting crossover Democrats.

            Or competing with other candidates for older, blue-collar Catholics.

            • mark f says:

              It really follows nicely from the line they’ve been selling these folks for 20 years. “JFK would be a conservative Republican nowadays,” with its implicit “and if you like him, you should be too” . . . “Boy, that guy makes me puke!”

      • chris says:

        a popular figure with a real national following

        Is there one? I assume you’re adding the unspoken conditions “Republican and hasn’t already been in the race”, so… who does that leave? Feelings are mixed on Christie, Jeb Bush is a Bush, most other governors are obscure, disliked or both, and Congressional figures are tainted by the general opinion of Congress and its accomplishments. Or they could run their living ex-veep… yeah.

        It’d be understandable if some of the Republicans’ A-tier candidates were ducking the election with the incumbent in it and waiting for the open seat, but I’m not sure they even *have* any A-tier candidates.

        Not very likeable minor pols are the whole freaking party.

    • Bill Murray says:

      Didn’t they try the slightly less repulsive version of Santorum when they ran Bush in 2000?

  2. DrDick says:

    I have to say that the GOP presidential slate this year really does look like the gang that can’t shoot straight. Romney is a chronic waffler with no core values (other than he deserves to be president) and the charisma of moldy Wonder Bread, while Gingrich and Santorum cannot even get their acts together to run actual campaigns.

    • John F says:

      But, both Santorum and Gingrich were running essentially vanity campaigns, if you had wired up either to a lie detector 6 months ago and asked where they’d be on Super Tuesday the truthful answer would have been “Back on TV as political analysts.”

      They were not in it to be competitive, let alone to win the damn thing.

  3. JRoth says:

    Datapoint on the poor organization of Romney’s campaign: he had something like 1/6 the number of campaign offices in FL that HRC and BHO had, which means that, in a crucial swing state, his people have not begun the work of developing volunteers, getting names for phone banks, etc. I suspect that, in a lot of these states, his org is a house of cards, vulnerable to an energized insurgent campaign. But such a campaign was never forthcoming.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Right, although I assume there’s some interactive effects; the Obama campaign had to be as good as it was to win against formidable opposition, while Romney just has to have some semblance of organization and get on the ballots, and doesn’t have a lot of incentive to invest the time and money to get his campaign up to Obama/Clinton levels. What he had in Florida was, after all, more than sufficient.

      • JRoth says:

        Oh, right, it was ample for the primaries. But he’ll miss it in the general. As a guy with A. limitless funds and B. a presumption of running in the fall, it’s a foolish oversight.

        Indeed, the narrative should have been that Romney was too busy organizing against Obama to win against his primary opponents, but I don’t think that you can really make the first part of the argument. He certainly has focused his rhetoric mostly on Obama, but I’m not convinced that he’s done much, if any, of the groundwork necessary to win a close election. Even without a surging (nojinxnojinx) economy, even without a damaged candidate for an opponent, I’m not sure Obama would have that hard a time beating Romney because only one of them seems to know what it takes to win the ground game.

        I wonder if Romney simply assumed that the economy would stay in the shitter and that he’d have a coronation.

        • Tybalt says:

          There is plenty of time to organize for the general, especially when you consider it will be all over bar the shouting by the end of March at the latest. And I think the correct assumption is that the volunteer energy will come in for Romney once the rubber hits the road. These folks may dislike Romney but they hate the President.

          • JRoth says:

            I’m just viewing it as a missed opportunity. Especially for an enthusiasm-poor candidate. If you can get someone to vote for you in a primary, they’re more likely to come out again in the general, seal the deal, if you will. But if they don’t really care for you, and you’ve only contacted them a couple times, and, well, you’re losing, that “hate Obama” energy might not be enough to get them to the polls.

            It’s like the Yankees underspending in the draft. No, they don’t need to max out their prospect opportunities, but why would you blow off an opportunity to build for the future on the cheap?

  4. c u n d gulag says:

    “When you eliminate the impossible, you’re left with Romney.”

    And wonder, as part of the base, if eliminating Romney is still possible – maybe via “The 2nd Amendment Solution,” if nothing else works out first.

  5. Uncle Kvetch says:

    it’s not clear that Newt would have bothered to run a serious campaign even if he had the money he doesn’t have

    Wait, what happened to Adelson?

    • Hogan says:

      Even as loose as the rules are, I suspect there are limits to how much independent expenditures can substitute for campaign funds. Gingrich probably can’t use superPAC money for salaries or travel, which are the major expenses for a campaign, because you couldn’t do that without coordination. It’s a great supplement to the air game, but it’s pretty useless for the ground game, and now all the ads in the world won’t help Newt in Virginia.

      • Uncle Kvetch says:

        Gotcha.

      • DrDick says:

        My understanding is that those independent expenditures are only allowed for advertising and not actual direct campaign expenses, but I could be wrong. That is covered in the “no coordination with the campaign” injunction.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Yup. Superpacs can greatly help an already-established campaign, but they don’t provide help with infrastructure.

        • Warren Terra says:

          Well, I suppose you could fund the creation and staffing of an independent street-level ground game, with branch offices mobilizing volunteers all over the country to pick up a candidate and drag them, uncoordinatedly, over the finish line.

          But it’s a lot harder than funding ads, and the whole point of a political party is supposed to be its connection to offices all over the country and to people willing to volunteer.

      • BigHank53 says:

        Never mind ads: even if Adelson gave Gingrich every dollar, euro, and dirham he has, Gingrich can’t buy a spot on the Virginia ballot.

        • chris says:

          Speaking of gifts, aren’t they a loophole in the whole idea of campaign finance restrictions? Gingrich can spend his own money on whatever he wants, so what stops him from selling his vacation home to Adelson for $500 million, or being hired to do some urgent history consulting at $10 million a week? Then Gingrich would have all the money he needs for whatever he needs it for.

          Is there someone that would actually have the authority to investigate that kind of transaction for fraud and do something about it, and if so, would they operate in a timescale that would do anything more than create an unpleasant news story a couple weeks after Gingrich’s inauguration?

          • mark f says:

            Speaking of gifts, aren’t they a loophole in the whole idea of campaign finance restrictions? Gingrich can spend his own money on whatever he wants, so what stops him from selling his vacation home to Adelson for $500 million

            As I understand it, the prohibition on this kind of thing is why John Edwards is in trouble. I think that while you’re a candidate for office your uncle can sell his house and give you $10,000 or you can sell your vacation home for market value, but a random benefactor can’t just give you a million bucks because he likes the cut of your jib, nor can he purchase your assets for unreasonable sums. In other words, the gift has to be something that could’ve plausibly been given absent the campaign.

            • Hogan says:

              Given the market value of Gingrich’s knowledge of history, if you hired him as a consultant, he’d owe *you* money.

              • Warren Terra says:

                The “market” value is what the market will pay, not what the customers will reap. The “market value” of Newt as a historian is immense; it’s the customer value that’s negative.

          • Malaclypse says:

            Gingrich can spend his own money on whatever he wants, so what stops him from selling his vacation home to Adelson for $500 million, or being hired to do some urgent history consulting at $10 million a week?

            Either of those would result in a large personal tax liability for Newt. Grifters rarely try and increase their personal tax liabilities. Not the good ones, at least.

        • Hogan says:

          Yes, that was my point.

  6. mingo says:

    I agree that Newt was never really seriously into it, but I sometimes suspect that Santonarola was, and his strategy was to win Iowa, then… GAWD!!!
    (would do the rest). I mean, all things are possible, amirite? Although I’m not sure how GAWD can get over the hurdle of not getting on the ballot in time.

    I’m with many other commenters that Paul is in it for what he can gain for his vile spawn.

    • c u n d gulag says:

      The Republicans will have to continue to plummet downhill if Rand “Much Dumber Even Than Ron” Paul is going to be any sort of a viable Presidential candidate.

      I’d bet that Aqua Buddha will ever amount to anything more than a one-term Senator from KKKrackertucky.
      Ok – maybe two.

  7. 4jkb4ia says:

    And we have learned that the Paul campaign had the organization, and the money, but didn’t have the proper views to go over the top anywhere yet.

    This week’s Billboard– was too good.

    “I vividly remember John [Janick, president of Fueled by Ramen] dropping by my office with a just-mastered “We Are Young” in hand,” “Glee” music supervisor PJ Bloom says. “It was still on its original blank CD-R titled in poorly handwritten red Sharpie.” When Janick suggested that the track was perfect for the musical show, Bloom demurred. “Glee doesn’t break bands,” Bloom says. “We celebrate existing pop success–that’s our core model.” But after listening to the song only once, he changed his mind.
    “Not five minutes later I sent it to…Ryan Murphy, and within a few short weeks Ryan created what would become one of [the show's] pinnacle song moments of the entire series,” Bloom says. “For fun., Glee provided a launching pad for much of the success to come. For Glee, fun. allowed us to show the world we could be an A&R source and break a band. It was music business perfection.”

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