How Romney Really Blew the Election, Even by His Own Strange Scoreboard

A new e-book offers more insight into Romney's micomanagement approach to politics, and the three big ways in which it failed him.

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The more details we get on how Mitt Romney managed his presidential campaign, the more his management style appears at odds with his reputation as a competent, number-crunching turnaround artist. Romney spent more money on ads but got less, his campaign was deluded by internal polls that showed a far more white electorate than the one that showed up on Election Day, and he insisted on writing major speeches himself. On Monday, Politico released an e-book by Jonathan Martin and Glenn Thrush that offers more insight into Romney's micomanagement approach to politics:

After the primary, Romney instituted a point system that assigned a specific numerical value to each event — rallies, speeches, fundraisers and so on. The more labor-intensive the event, the more points it was assigned. Romney’s instructions to his assistant were that he was not to exceed 900 points on a given day, the better to manage his time.

Points often exceeded the limit, but Romney's assistant still emailed a daily point tally till the end. Sure, it's a silly bit of campaign culture. But Romney's team didn't make great decisions about the big stuff, either:

  • Romney spent 30 percent more money on ads than Obama, but Obama aired 50,000 more ads. The difference came from Romney's reliance on an in-house team to buy ads, and because it often waited till the last minute to buy them, which made the ad time more expensive.
  • Romney didn't want to delegate speechwriting to speechwriters. Romney's strategist Stuart Stevens scrapped Romney's speech eight days before the Republican National Convention and asked George W. Bush's former speechwriters to write a new one. The weekend before the RNC, they decided they didn't like that one either. Romney and Stevens wrote the final version together hours before the convention started. They forgot to mention the troops. 
  • Romney and Paul Ryan were totally shocked when they lost election night. They'd actually believed their pollster Neil Newhouse's projection of a whiter electorate, which showed much more favorable chances for Romney than all the public polls. Update: Newhouse emails to say that Romney's polls projected a 73 percent white electorate, and it was actually a 72 percent white electorate. It's a 1 point difference, but as National Journal's Ronald Brownstein showed earlier this year, it's a difference that matters. If whites had been 75 percent of the electorate, Romney only needed 59 percent of white support. If whites were 74 percent of the electorate, Romney needed 61 percent of the white vote, Brownstein explained.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.