By Dick Morris
As the popular vote counts emerge and we move out from under the shadow of the media spin, we are learning the real reason Mitt Romney lost. The mainstream media is pushing the story that a massive turnout among minorities and the young drowned the white male vote as America changes its demography.
But the real reason is that the whites that supported Romney didn’t turn out to vote. Just look at the fact, brought to my attention by National Review and Washington Examiner columnist Byron York, that Obama carried Ohio by 107,000 votes (some are still being counted) and that Romney got about 100,000 fewer votes than John McCain! McCain received 2,677,820 votes while Romney only received 2,583,580. Romney really lost by failing to turn out his base even as Obama was doing a very good job of getting his to the polls.
Why was the white vote so low? Why did so many anti-Obama voters stay home? The immediate cause was the total failure of the ORCA system for getting out the vote. This new high-tech gadgetry had never been beta tested and crashed repeatedly on Election Day. It was supposed to target the Romney supporters who had not yet voted and to give canvassers interactive maps of where to find them and to keep them appraised if they voted. But the volunteers who were to use the system to find the voters had not been adequately trained in their use, and the system itself was flawed.
But the failure of the white vote to turn out was also because neither the Romney campaign nor any of the super PACs rebutted Obama’s attacks on the Republican candidate. Unanswered, the attacks transformed Romney’s Bain Capital experience into a nightmare of outsourcing and callous layoffs. Had either Romney’s people or the super PACs answered the attacks by pointing to the splendid record of job creation at Bain and told the stories of the failing companies he turned around, these voters would likely have voted and Romney would have won.
During the campaign, some may recall that I pleaded for answers to the Bain attacks in columns, videos and on Fox News. Other consultants, like Pat Caddell, also called for answering ads. But none came. Throughout the late spring, it was clear Obama was destroying Romney’s image, but none of his supporters spent money on ads defending the candidate.
The super PACs were focusing instead on negative ads against Obama. Handcuffed by their own tax status, some of them felt legally able only to criticize Obama and not defend Romney. Others felt that rebuttal ads might raise accusations of coordination between the PACs and the Romney campaign.
But the fact is that those running the Romney campaign, the super PAC consultants and the Republican consulting community in general do not believe in the efficacy of rebuttal media. All throughout the bruising Republican primary, nobody ran rebuttal ads. The negatives on each side just piled up until Romney crushed his rivals by sheer weight of his negative media.
And when Romney was on the receiving end of the attacks, the doctrine of no-rebuttal precluded an effective response. It was not until the convention that America got to see the positive aspects of Romney’s Bain record. By then the damage may have been done.
Republican consultants are like the French Army of World War I, always committed to attacking, never to defending, regardless of the cost.
By contrast, the Clinton campaigns always focused on rebuttal media. “Never sleep under the same roof with an unanswered negative attack” was the motto of Clinton campaigns, nationally and in Arkansas. As a result, his ability to survive negative attacks has become legendary.
Only a change in the doctrine of the Republican Party can stop this pattern from being repeated. Answer, answer, answer must be the new motto.
Finally, superstorm Sandy had a great deal to do with Obama’s re-election. His presidency may be the storm’s most lasting damage to our nation and its inhabitants. One voter in six cited the storm as the key factor in their decision to back Obama, according to exit polls. This was a last-minute bump for the president that was not reflected in previous polls. Why not? Because there were no polls. The polling firms could not reach the affected areas during the storm. We were all flying blind when Obama and Governor Chris Christie’s display of bipartisanship garnered votes for the Democratic ticket.
All this attests to the accuracy of the predictions, prior to the storm, of a Romney victory. But the failure of the Romney Election Day operations and the impact of the storm combined to put it out of reach.