Wishful thinking continues as Romney’s businesslike campaign does just enough

March 7, 2012

So: Super Tuesday played out much as expected. Romney snuck Ohio – the biggest prize of the night – and won four other contests easily, Santorum took Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota, and Gingrich was the comfortable Georgia victor.

A number of early comment pieces attempt the tricky balancing act of pretending that Romney might not win the race (no Super Tuesday knockout!) whilst accepting that, er, there’s no way Romney cannot win the race. I have absolutely no idea what BBC North America editor Mark Mardell is actually saying in this, for example.

(Incidentally if you’re not convinced that Romney will be the eventual nominee, then go quickly to the ever-excellent FrontloadingHQ blog written by psephologist Josh Putnam.)

Slightly more interesting is this piece in the New York Times which suggests that Mitt’s campaign has ‘always resembled a detailed, methodical business plan’ and makes an indirect comparison between this race and Obama’s own ‘winding path’ to the White House.

That the Obama campaign was businesslike is an inescapable conclusion of reading campaign manager David Plouffe’s utterly absorbing and even thrilling The Audacity to Win. The memoir works just as well as a management textbook – on effective delegation, strategy vs. tactics, personnel management, risk-taking and lines of command – as an election-winning guide. The Plouffe campaign was consummately businesslike.

But there are few other similarities. Romney has millions in the bank, Obama had to generate his funds largely through grassroots donations. Obama was up against the colossal might of the Clinton machine, Mitt faces a motley crew of half-baked nonRom contenders. Perhaps most pointedly: Obama had a clear and positive mission, which he communicated consistently, so that voters knew what he was for. Romney chops and changes, beats his opponents with wave after wave of negative advertising, and fails to enthuse.

There is, however, one further similarity that will certainly be to the forefront of Mr Plouffe’s mind as he looks to support his boss triumph again (from the safe distance of the White House this time, and as a senior adviser rather than campaign manager). Once the primary tousle was over in 2008, Democrats unified solidly behind their candidate, brought together by the common over-riding goal of getting rid of a hated commander-in-chief.

No-one should pretend that beating Obama won’t have a similar edifying effect on Republicans, whether ultra-conservative, liberal, from the North or from the South. And the GOP on the march is a fearsome prospect.

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