Tuesday, February 14, 2012

GOP Update: Target Michigan – Romney’s PAC to attack Gingrich with Half a Million Dollars in Ads – Will they Never Learn? Negatives Produce Negatives

The Candidates - For all the negative ads run on his behalf, Romney remains flat - image from cfnews13.com

To date, the proclaimed 2012 GOP “Front-runner”, Mitt Romney, has managed to win the states of New Hampshire, Maine, Nevada and Florida – four out of 9 states which have held either primaries or caucuses, some of which were non-binding. Of the four states that Romney did win, the only one that is of possible consequence is Florida, none of the others are considered all important “swing states”. His polling continues to trend flat, even though there are now four candidates in the race. He is either ahead of the pack by a small margin, or tied, or behind given the day of the week or the pollster, therefore something is not quite working for Mitt Romney. It could be his record as Governor of Massachusetts, where he ran as, what amounts to a Progressive Republican, and then governed as a moderate, more Democrat than Republican at times in a state that’s electorate is ruled by the unenrolled voter (over 50% of the Commonwealth’s voters choose not to affiliate with a political party.) Then again, it could be his flat performances in the majority of debates he has participated in, with one or two examples noted in this blog where he clearly won.

However, it could be the negatives surrounding Romney, as in Negative attack ads produced, not by other candidates, but by the Romney Campaign and the Super Pac, Restore Our Future, against any candidate that is leading Romney or close to leading in the polls in any given state. Romney made a lot of friends via his PAC prior to his candidacy for the 2012 nomination which, by campaign laws, once he became a candidate, he could no longer be directly involved with Restore Our Future. However, Romney had made donations to campaigns across the nation in 2010, supporting candidates that eventually became Congressional Representatives, Governors and Senators. This sets up a “scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” situation when it comes to endorsements (Which are translated into Delegates to the GOP convention – thus pumping up Romney’s Delegate count.) It is not that what Romney did is in any way illegal, or for that manner, no different than candidates in the past – it is the vitriol and plane falsehoods and half-truths against that are played out in each state against the closet opponent in ads funded by the PAC that are questionable. It is one thing to attack an opponent on their record, it is another thing, altogether to go that extra step and make false claims. This is something that Super PACS are known for, for the most part – a scorched earth policy to political advertising, the goal to undo the candidacy of the opposition, no matter if the claims may be over the top false.

It is a tactic that worked in Iowa, for the most part, ads against Newt Gingrich were so damning and frequent, that he lost the large margin he held over Romney, and Romney lost Iowa, to Rick Santorum – who was, at that time polling at the back of the pack of candidates. To Santorum’s credit, he had be the only candidate (besides Michelle Bachmann) who actually committed to spending time in the state of Iowa, a plus. However, the point is still made that Romney lost the state, despite the large investment in negatives advertising by the PAC. He continued in the same vein, won New Hampshire (where he actually showed up), and then lost South Carolina, despite the negatives. It worked in Florida - the PAC had been running ads in Florida weeks before the primary – and the State’s Republican leadership, endorsed Romney – making for a double whammy that slammed the Gingrich campaign. It was not however, to this point of view, the negative advertising of which the PAC and Romney are so fond, it was the debate which Gingrich lost of his own accord, that cost him the State of Florida.

Suddenly, Romney found himself facing Rick Santorum again, in a three state contest, where it was assumed that Romney as front runner would win the States of Colorado and Minnesota, and possibly the non-binding caucus in Missouri – but Santorum won all three, and not by small margins, rather commanding leads.

Batter up! It’s on to Michigan and Arizona, and yes, Restore our Future has been and is at it again – in Michigan, a State seen as critical for Romney to not only win, but to do well, in double digits. The three points to five point wins are not mandates – they are, although a win, problematic, for a “front-runner”, when at least 50% or more of the base are turning to another candidate(s). As of this moment, that appears to be happening in Michigan, a mere two weeks or less before the primary, Rick Santorum is leading Romney in polling (Rasmussen and Public Policy Polling), and Restore Our Future is, according the New York Times investing $500,000 in advertising, in addition to $700,000 that has already been spent in the state - the ads will be the same that have been run absent Newt Gingrich:

“Newt has tons of baggage,” a narrator says. “Beating Obama is important, too important to risk on Newt Gingrich.”
The ad will run throughout Michigan in the major media markets of Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Flint, as well as in the less populous northern regions. It will also run on Fox News on the western side of the state.
Suggesting that Restore Our Future had other ads in the works, a top strategist for the group, Carl Forti, said Monday that the “Risk” ad “will stay up initially.”

One has to ask, if the PAC has already spent over a half million dollars in negative advertising in Michigan, why then is Romney polling behind Rick Santorum? (Note of the same ads run in Minnesota, Romney managed to come in third in that state’s Caucus.) It is a risk, indeed, a risk that the negatives will bury the candidate for whom one is rooting.

It is abundantly clear that after months of attack ads the Romney Campaign would have been better served if they had run ads that were compare and contract on Romney’s achievements versus the rest of the candidates, or even against the main target of all the candidates vying for the Presidency, the current occupant of the White House. When one is already hampered by negatives with one’s base, to top that off with a barrage of at best misleading and at worst false claims against one’s fellows, the one is playing with fire – and one will end up holding onto a fistful of delegates and then releasing them to the nominee at the Convention in Tampa in August. This is the same pattern employed in 2008, and when one follows the same tactic that did not work in the past, history tells us, they are doomed to repeat the results.

Love them, hate them (although hate is too strong a word, seriously), the four candidates left in the field, should be judged on their records, their ability to connect with the populace vis a vis their stand on current issues, and their performance in debates. They all offer different views (although some are similar), and all are accomplished in their own way, and ultimately qualified – it is up to the voters in each of the states to choose based on how well they personally identify with one candidate or another, and those negatives, regardless of misleading or false ads against a candidate, will surface all of their own accord. It is more productive, for the candidate to compare and contrast their policy viewpoints, or records, against another candidate, keeping the truth in front, lest they all, to a man (as there is not woman in the pack), produce “dirt” that will, in the months following the convention, serve to aid the opposition. Of course, then the results may indeed be the same, so in what might be viewed somewhat ironically, the backlash will be against the campaign or the campaigns PAC’s (of which now the President is a fan), who goes negative to the extreme. It will be the candidate who confronts the attack with integrity, that will prevail, not the attacker.

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