The 2012 Presidential Campaign: A Strategic Retrospective

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Title: The 2012 Presidential Campaign: A Strategic Retrospective
Date: December 6, 2012
Panelist: Michael Cornfield, Ph.D., Acting Program Director, Political Management Program; and Bobby Dhillon, Host/Moderator
Subject: Michael Cornfield, Acting Program Director of GW Master’s in Political Management program discusses the best and worst moves made by Mitt Romney and Barack Obama throughout the election. This webinar is an in-depth analysis of the 2012 presidential election of both Republican and Democrat parties.

Transcript

Bobby:

All right and we’re going to get started. Hello everyone. Welcome to the 2102 Presidential Campaign: A Strategic Retrospective Webinar from the George Washington University. My name is Bobby and I will be your moderator for today. Before we begin I would like to go over some logistics of the presentation and address some commonly asked questions. All participants are in listen-only mode. The presentation will last approximately 45 minutes. We encourage you to ask questions throughout the webinar and you can do so by entering them in on the chat box on the right-hand side. Questions will be addressed at the end of the webinar on a first-come first-serve basis. At the end of the webinar you will receive a copy of these slides and a recording of the webinar.

Now let’s get over to our panelist today. Our panelist is Michael Cornfield. Dr. Cornfield is a political scientist, studies and advises on campaign politics, public affairs and the internet. He is the author of two books on the subject, Politics Moves Online: Campaigning and the Internet and The Civic Web: Online Politics and Democratic Values. Cornfield currently serves as Acting Director of the Political Management Program. He has been an Adjunct Professor at The Graduate School of Political Management since 1994. He helped found its Semester in Washington Program for visiting undergraduates and its Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet. At this moment I would like to hand the presentation over to Dr. Cornfield starting things off with the agenda. Take it away Michael.

Michael:

Thank you Bobby. Thank you all for joining us today. We’re going to talk about the 2012 Presidential Election, a subject I know you’re all very familiar with and I hope I can cast some fresh perspective on it and more importantly illustrate the sort of approach we take at the Graduate School of Political Management in the Political Management Program.

I’m going to be focusing on the best and worst moves that I think Obama and Romney made. It doesn’t mean I think these moves decided the election, that they made the difference between victory and defeat. Nobody can really ever know that for sure. But they were important moves in the sense that they were choices and I’m going to use the word move or choices or decision interchangeably. They were consequential, in that it was a decision to go in one direction instead of another which turned out to affect a great many other choices. These were moves that could not be easily undone or ignored even if the campaign wanted to. They helped or hurt or helped and hurt in alternation for weeks and months and even years. And some of these moves will remain consequential for years to come, not just for elections but policy making. Let’s go to the next slide.

So let’s start with Obama’s worst moves in my judgment. Next slide. President Obama won the Nobel Prize in 2009 and went to Oslo and made a speech about world affairs. A few months before that he went to Cairo, Egypt and made a speech, which has been linked for better and worse with the series of events known as The Arab Spring. But although he visited Israel while he was a candidate in 2008, he never as President went to Jerusalem or to Tel Aviv for that matter. Why was that significant? Well it’s significant because for one reason Jewish Americans exercise considerable influence in US domestic policy. The Jewish population in the United States is about the same as the Jewish population of Israel, about 6.5 million people. And while it’s certainly true that oil-rich Arab regimes exercise considerable influence on energy and defense policy, they don’t really on our elections. Moreover many Christian conservatives are passionately committed to Israel. So for President Obama to deliver an address in Cairo but not Jerusalem I think had consequences.

Once of the most noted of those consequences that the Jewish casino owner Sheldon Adelson, a fervent advocate for Israel’s security, spent some people estimate between 100 and 150 million dollars to support Romney and other Republican candidates. Now we know this decision was consequential because in the third Presidential Debate, which was dedicated to foreign policy, Obama took the time to prepare and deliver a careful answer to a statement by Romney that suggested that the Obama campaign knew very well that Jewish American voters and Christian conservative voters and others were looking to him to make sure that he was committed to the defense of Israel. And he mentioned something called the Iron Dome, which is something that Americans helped fund, which was a missile defense system that was used recently in the conflict with Arabs in the Gaza strip. Next slide.

Another one of Obama’s worst moves was protracting debt negotiations with Congressional Republicans in 2011. As you recall Barack Obama won his first term promising a change from the intensely partisan politics of the last two decades. Evidence mounted steadily from the start of Obama’s term in 2009 that a block of Republicans had no intention of compromising with him on any issue and every intention of underscoring differences in their public statements. We know this because of what happened in many Republican Primaries in 2010 and then again in 2012, where candidates or even incumbents who were seen as moderate, as compromisers, were defeated by candidates who were campaigning on their commitment never to compromise with Barack Obama.

It’s kind of ironic, five moderate Senate candidates, actually Senators, Republican Senators, were defeated in primaries in 2010 and 2012 and the candidates who took the incumbents place were so far to the right, that they were defeated by Democrats. And those five defeats make the difference between control of the Senate by the Democrats, which they held and what would have turned the body over to the Republicans starting in 2013.

At any rate, this pattern of no compromise on the part of the Republicans and an attempt to compromise on the part of Obama, reached a low point in the summer of 2011 when the United States verged on not raising the ceiling on the Federal Government’s debt. It’s a technical provision that no other country in the world has, which was transformed by partisan politics into a standoff that undercuts the financial confidence in the United States. Obama had the high ground on this issue then as he does right now, but he did not press that advantage and he looked weak and indecisive even to Democrats. He looked no more committed to deal-making and compromise as opposed to grandstanding than his opponents and this hurt his brand. To many voters Congress and the President were Washington politicians squabbling and elbowing one another instead of doing their work and protecting the full faith and credit of the United States. Next slide please.

I think Obama’s worst move as a candidate was underselling the Recovery Act and he himself admitted this failure in a television interview a few months ago. Now Presidents don’t enact economic policy. They influence Congressional policy makers, the private sector, the banks, the Federal Reserve and the consumer public, by talking about the moves they make on economics and putting them into a narrative that shapes the environment for negotiations and financial choices by others. When the President’s economic narrative glows with optimism it helps his electoral cause. When the President’s economic narrative point the finger of blame at somebody else, it can as well. But when his narrative is incomprehensible and incomplete, he’s the one who gets the blame. The Recovery Act, which was enacted in the very beginning of the Obama first term in 2009, was an extremely complex and large piece of legislation with many components. It became known by default as the Stimulus Package, even though it included a lot of tax cuts. And then it become known as ineffectual government spending and taxing. The facts are mixed. We could argue all day on what the impact on the economy was and whether it was the right thing to do, but I don’t think there’s much doubt that the impact on Obama’s campaign was negative. Next slide.

So let’s turn now to Mitt Romney and what I see as his worst moves that were of great consequence. In order to win the nomination a presidential candidate needs to make a special appeal to party activists. Mitt Romney had to work especially hard to overcome his reputation as a moderate technocrat who did not care passionately about conservative causes. A Massachusetts Moderate, his opponent called him. Now when it came to the issue of immigration, Romney called for self-deportation by undocumented Hispanics; that is making life so hard for them here that they would leave the United States on their own accord. Romney also opposed the Dream Act, a bill that would create a legal safe haven and citizenship route for the children of those who lack such status. Well Pew Research found in December 2011 that 91 percent of US Latinos supported the Dream Act. In one of the Republican debates Texan Governor Rick Perry said that those who oppose a similar policy in force in his state of Texas, by which children in this category pay in-state college tuition rate, Perry said that that lacked a heart. And Romney responded that Governor Perry’s policy made no sense. Well from a long-term campaign perspective it’s now obvious that Romney’s position makes no sense. And we have all sorts of Republicans now who are striving to repair relationships with US Latinos who only voted – only 1 in 4 voted for Romney in 2012. So going too far right was probably an inevitable choice by Romney, but choosing to do so on the issue of immigration was a bad move. Next slide.

There’s usually a period of a few months in the spring and summer of a presidential election year, between the time when the nominee of the out party becomes obvious because he or she has amassed enough delegates to assure nomination, and the time at the convention, which is at the end of the summer, when the nomination becomes a fact. Now this period of time is, because of campaign finance regulations, a time when the challenger has less money to spend on television ads and other public communications than the incumbent. And what President Clinton did to Robert Dole, his challenger in 1996, and what allies of President George W. Bush did to John Kerry in 2004, which got the name swift boating, the Obama campaign did to Romney in the summer of 2012. Romney left himself vulnerable to this tactic by not being forthcoming about who he was as an American success story. And while he couldn’t have expended direct campaign funds, he certainly could have gotten stories about his life and his values out in the media, through the internet or through independent expenditures by allies. And because he was silent about himself, the Obama campaign spent 20 percent of their total campaign budget for the year 2012 to depict Romney as a predatory venture capitalist who refused to release his tax returns. In this characterization Romney was a success at the expense of other Americans. Romney complained about the attacks, as did other Republican surrogates, but did not offer an alternative account of his life story until the GOP Convention, and by then it was too late. Next slide.

Furthermore, Romney made another mistake at the convention by picking Paul Ryan and through the rhetoric that they chose. Challengers normally fare best against presidential incumbents when they focus the voters’ attentions on the shortcomings of the first term. This is called the Referendum Strategy, framing the election so that it is a judgment on how well the incumbent did in his first term. It contrasts with the Choice Strategy, which seeks to present voters with a crossroads between two sharply divergent approaches to government. Now as I’ll argue in a minute, when Romney chose the Referendum Strategy and said this election is all about how well Obama did as President in his first term, Romney did very well. But in selecting Congressman Paul Ryan, author of a budget proposal that departed radically from the status quo in budget allocations as his VP choice, Romney decided that he would fare better in the general election by motivating the base of the Republican Party and depicting this election as a big choice, a choice of ideology, a choice of values and priorities. But the numbers made this a dubious call. Even Tea Party adherents liked the Medicare Program that Ryan sought to convert into a voucher program in a version of his proposal.

And then there was the inconvenient release of Romney’s speech to high-dollar donors in Florida, in which Romney said, “The choice in this election is between people like us who are the makers and the 47 percent who are Democrats who are takers, who live off government benefits.” This was a most unfortunate characterization of the election. In the weeks immediately following the Republican convention when the Romney-Ryan ticket become official, the Romney autobiographical film which was finally released, was buried. It was buried by the choice that the election now posed. It was buried the night it aired by a work of performance art from movie star Clint Eastwood and the 47 percent video went viral. And it was right after the convention you’ll recall that Romney’s chances to win the Presidency sunk to their low point. Let’s go to the next slide.

Let’s look at Romney’s best moves. Let’s remember that Romney finished second and that there were many rivals for the Republican nomination and that Romney exhibited many, many smart strategic moves during this campaign. I’m trying to resist the temptation, which is always strong, that the winner does nothing wrong and the loser does nothing right.

So Romney’s best moves. First is capturing Iowa through stealth media. Romney entered the long pre-Iowa campaign season, which spanned much of the year 2011 and even part of the year 2010, with advantages in money and organization over a lot of challengers. Romney chose to stay out of the State of Iowa for the most part, to lower expectations that he might win there and to lower his profile as a target that his rivals could gang up on. Instead Romney stayed in touch with Iowa Republicans who had supported him in 2008 via tele-town halls, which are conference calls undetectable to outsiders, and via field captains who contacted the Romney base in person. Romney also benefited from the fact that the 2008 Iowa Republic Caucus winner Mike Huckabee opted out of the 2012 election. It was only when as the caucus day neared, that it looked like Romney had sufficient hard support to prevail, that the candidate appeared in the state. Ironically Romney received six fewer votes in 2012 than he had in Iowa in 2008, but those votes proved enough this time to have him emerge as the apparent winner by another narrow margin, by eight votes, over Rick Santorum. Now eventually Rick Santorum would be declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses but that was too late for the public narrative benefits that accrued to Romney for having seemed to have prevailed on the night the caucus results were first announced. Next slide.

Presidential nominees traditionally turn to the center and moderate their issue positions during the general election campaign season, which consists of course of September and October of the election year. Romney managed to make this very expected turn a total surprise by doing it live during the first presidential debate and doing it in a very aggressive manner. This apparently caught President Obama by surprise and as you’ll recall, Obama reacted to Romney’s confident display of his new issue positions. Obama stared down at the podium instead of meeting Romney’s gaze and that spectacle elated conservatives. Conservatives loved the sight of their nominee sticking it to Obama stylistically even as he was moving away from the policy stances they favored. So this has justifiably been hailed as the single best master stroke of the entire campaign, Romney’s performance in that debate. He satisfied conservatives emotionally while appealing to moderates substantively. And the polls showed an uptick, that it worked very well. Next slide.

Romney’s best move as I suggested earlier was what he did for most of 2011 and early 2012, when his main message was that Obama is a nice guy but inept in economic policy making and management. Romney’s ads featured everyday Americans putting on a brave face as they suffered the consequences of Obama’s poor performance in office. Romney was the first and the best among the GOP candidates to articulate this position and it worked extremely well then and during the debates. And in the jargon of today, this created a permission structure for those who liked and voted for Obama to switch to Romney. Romney wasn’t saying that Obama was a bad person, he was just saying that he wasn’t up to the job of managing the economy and that he, Romney, could do a better job. And that was a very effective argument. So why did it not prevail? Well let’s take a look now at some of Obama’s best moves and then we’ll be able to switch to Q & A.

Obama’s 2008 campaign used digital technology and formulated a digital strategy to use digital media so successfully that some described the Obama campaign as a billion dollar start-up, which in effect it was. So version 2.0 the campaign for 2012 made significant improvements. The most significant was the backend integration of data from a variety of sources, from voter files, from consumer information, and from volunteer inputs. Now Romney is no slouch when it comes to micro-targeting. He had digital ads. He had a Facebook app. He has many if not all of the technologies in use that Obama did. But Obama did something more besides integrate all his data, which Romney did not do. Obama relied on field experiments and the pooled knowledge of a group called the Analyst Institute. And this enabled them to take digital campaigning and even face-to-face and mass-media campaigning to another level. They tested everything. They not only knew where the voters worth contacting were, which is what micro-targeting is, they had tested approaches on what to say, how to follow-up, how to knock on the doors, how to do everything.

For example, Obama had 20 million more Facebook friends than Romney, 32,313,965 Facebook friends to be exact, by Election Day. This campaign network, if you took all the people who were friends with those 32 million, extended to 98 percent of the US Facebook population. This meant that via Facebook, the Obama campaign could have people communicate to their friends and reach just about every voter and potential voter in the United States. What’s particularly important here is that they could reach voters who did not watch a lot of television and who did not have landlines. The process of reaching out through Facebook to voters from similar supporters who were friends, the Obama campaign called targeted sharing. More than 5 million prospective voters were engaged this way. The Obama for America Facebook app, which streamlined and rationalized targeted sharing for callers as well as the campaign staff, this app was downloaded by more than one million supporters. Romney’s app in contract was downloaded by 30,000 and the level of integration was inferior. So this wasn’t the sole reason Obama prevailed, it’s now a much talked about reason in our world because it’s a new way of campaigning and it was indeed important. Next slide.

Incumbents can campaign through policy initiatives, suggesting that members of Congress introduce legislation or more importantly through executive orders. And Obama played this incumbent strategy very well. He came out for gay marriage. He supported women’s reproductive rights and equal pay. He announced that he would not initiate deportation of illegal immigrants who came to the United States before they turned 16, had been residents for at least five years and a couple other qualifications. He reduced the cost of student loans. He made sure through the Affordable Care Act that students could stay on their parent’s health insurance to the age of 26. And he bailed out General Motors and Chrysler. Now each of these moves, each of these presidential moves was also a campaign move, because it pleased segments of the democratic electoral coalition, gays, women, Hispanics, auto workers, and young people and other students. Each of these positions also contrasted with Romney’s position and every day the media talked about one of these moves was a day that changed the subject of public discussion away from the economy. So in a number of ways, the nourishing of key constituencies and changing the subject helped Barack Obama immensely. Next slide.

Ultimately Obama had to have a response to Romney’s effective assault on his economic performance as President. And that response first came and best came from Bill Clinton in his speech during the Democratic Convention. Bill Clinton basically taught the Obama campaign how to rebut the effective charge by the Romney campaign that Obama was not a good manager of the economy. Focus on the choice between what Obama was trying to do and what Romney would try to do. Point out that the Romney-Ryan numbers didn’t add up, that this was about arithmetic. And make the worst case analysis clear in terms of how the middle class would be hurt if the nation chose to go with the Romney-Ryan approach to the economy. Those arguments were repeated numerous times by Obama and other Obama surrogates during the general election, but they didn’t have it until Clinton gave it to him. And the reason Bill Clinton gave it to him was because one week after Obama’s election in 2008, he nominated his fierce rival, Bill Clinton’s wife Hilary, as Secretary of State. That brought the Clintons into an alliance with Obama. An alliance politics goes back way before American democracy. If any of you have seen the new movie Lincoln, Lincoln is derived from the last two chapters of a book called Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and the beginning of that book is devoted to how Lincoln when he became president in 1860 made a point of bringing his top rivals for the republican nomination into his cabinet, where he could supervise them and where he could effectively silence them from criticism of his administration. Barack Obama, a big Lincoln fan, did exactly the same thing with Hillary Clinton and in time the Clintons repaid the favor. That favor may be repaid in the other direction in four years but that’s another topic. At any rate, embracing the Clintons was a great benefit to Barack Obama.

Romney by contrast, campaigned alone. He did not have anyone as a super surrogate. He dared not mention the name of George W. Bush. George W. Bush is like the Voldemort of American politics. Many people are still angry at him for the way he prosecuted his foreign and domestic policies, and I’m including republicans by the way, when he was president. So Romney had no alliance with George W. Bush. He didn’t try to revive or rehabilitate Bush’s reputation. And not having an alliance with W also deprived Romney of full support from W’s father, Bush 41, George Herbert Walker Bush, and from Jeb Bush. That’s three very powerful republican politicians with extensive, if overlapping, networks of party activists who could have done more for the Romney campaign. And so this has been a very underappreciated I think but important factor in the election result. And with that I’m going to make some concluding remarks and then I will be more than happy to discuss what I’ve said and take any questions, although there’ll be a brief poll after that.

Let me talk a little bit about what winning the Presidency does. Political science research finds little evidence that a mandate materializes for specific items on the victorious candidate’s agenda and party platform. The voters just aren’t that familiar with specific items in the party platform and congress is a separate branch of government. But what happens in the wake of a victory such as we’ve just gone through, is that decision makers on both parties, and in all branches, act with sharper awareness of the winning and losing coalition constituencies. Everyone’s talking about helping Latino immigrants today. Everybody is moderating their talk on the republican side about women. Nobody is talking about gays. And there is now talk about actually fulfilling the original promise that brought Barack Obama to president and coming up with a bipartisan deal on the budget. So the election mattered and that means that the campaign mattered. And that means that what political managers do as they advise campaigns mattered and that’s what we attempt to teach at the George Washington University. So with that my formal remarks conclude and I will turn it back to Bobby.

Bobby:

Excellent. Thank you very much for that Michael. What we’re going to do is we’re going to our Q & A session and we actually received some really detailed questions. But before we do that I would like to open it up to the audience. We’d like to hear more from you. Number one, we have a poll on the right-hand side of the chat box and please fill in your answers. And we’d like to ask you how did you enjoy today’s webinar? And how did you find out about today’s webinar? So please go ahead and submit your answers and at this moment what we’re going to do is we’re going to open up to Q & A. And Michael throughout the course of the presentation we actually had quite of questions and we’d like to start things off about the impact of the Democratic Party after the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. Could you talk a little bit more about how the Democratic Party benefited from that?

Michael:

Well I think the big benefit – and I’m not sure it’s for the entire party – but certainly for Obama – is it deprived the Republic Party of an advantage it had long enjoyed in American presidential elections, which was Americans traditionally regarded the Republican nominee as superior to the Democratic nominee on issues of national security. That doesn’t mean that everybody thought that Obama was doing a great job on foreign policy issues and it doesn’t even mean that Obama was doing an adequate job or that Romney was doing a bad job, but what it meant was that it was almost like a subtext, that there was very little that Romney and the republicans could say about foreign policy without reminding people that Obama had done what previous administrations had not been able to do and get Osama Bin Laden. So it was an advantage and it’s a very good question.

Bobby:

Excellent. Thank you very much for that Michael. We have a question here reflected on New Hampshire and Colorado. What do you think accounts for the misinformation that the Romney campaign was working with which gave them the idea that they both up in both New Hampshire and Colorado, even up to a night before the election?

Michael:

Well misinformation to me means deliberate distortion and while there were some aspects of the Romney campaign where they could justifiably be accused of that, I don’t think this was misinformation. I think this was – which is to say I don’t it was deliberate deception or distortion. What seems to have happened is that the pollsters that the republicans relied on, the internal polls in particular, used as a basis to predict who would likely voters be, used the 2004 and 2010 elections. They didn’t think that Barack Obama’s coalition that got his elected in 2008 could be reassembled. And so that’s why underestimated the Obama vote in Colorado and New Hampshire and for that matter in Florida and many other states. Obama did not get as many votes as he did in 2008 and he did not totally succeed in getting everyone to vote for him obviously who did in 2008. But he got a lot more than showed up in 2010 in those categories and that probably is what led the republicans astray in their projections of the votes would be.

Bobby:

Excellent. Thank you very much for that. Another question that we have is reflected around the Jewish population of America and not visiting Israel. As a result of Obama not visiting Israel, does the Jewish vote really reflect it for Romney in the elections? By what percentage?

Michael:

I don’t know that it affected the Jewish vote. I don’t have the exit polls in front of me. Jewish Americans traditionally tend to vote democratic. I think the effect was more among the activists, among the contributors and the financial contributors and the people who make calls and have meetings and open their homes to meetings. I think there was less enthusiasm for Obama and more enthusiasm for Romney as a result of Obama’s – the failure to go to Jerusalem. So I meant it more in terms of elite activity and less in terms of votes. And the votes frankly would not make a big difference in any state with the possible exception of Florida. The Jewish vote is what I mean.

Bobby:

Excellent. Thank you very much for that Michael. Right before the third debate, the US and Israel held what was the largest joint military training exercise in history testing the Iron Dome. Why didn’t the Obama administration promote to combat attacks that he wasn’t committed to defending Israel?

Michael:

That is really good question and he didn’t do it until in the third debate. He never mentioned Iron Dome. It was a big irony that in military terms and spending terms, Obama spent more in the defense of Israel than any of his predecessors, but they did not broadcast that message. It was a failure of campaign communication and campaign strategy.

Bobby:

Excellent. Thank you very much for that Michael. The data team for AFA is discussed as being quite advanced. One source said that as Ohio voters were shifting after the first debate, they could tell from the data that it was not an overwhelming negative for them. What did they use to interpret the field data with such accuracy?

Michael:

The Obama campaign has voter dossiers at the individual level on over 100 million Americans. And I know that sounds kind of scary or Orwellian. The republicans and almost any other candidate would have it if they could have put it together and it’s not really Orwellian because it’s public information. By a dossier I mean a combination of how people have voted in the past – excuse me, not how they have voted in the past – the vote choice is secret – whether they have voted in the past, how they have registered, if registration information is public, consumer data, which is available for purchase, and contact data that the Obama campaign procured through Facebook, through door-knocking, through phone calls, through emails. And the Obama campaign combined all this data and developed predictive models on how people would vote based on past performance. And so they knew down to the individual, not even down to the household, down to the individual, who they wanted to show up. And this database was dynamic. It was maintained in close to real time and because of that they knew during election night, based on what their predictive targets were for different areas, different precincts, and how they were showing up, they knew how they were doing. They also benefited from the fact that close to 40 percent of the vote this year was done before Election Day through early voting. And if you were in individual contact with people, it’s a lot easier to bank their votes by getting them to vote in advance and the Obama campaign did that too.

Bobby:

Excellent. Thank you very much for that Michael. What aspect of field work was the most effective for Obama and least used by Romney?

Michael:

Well that’s hard to know exactly which one was the most effective but let me talk about several techniques. One was this predictive modeling. Another was the randomized experiments where it’s almost like a drug test, where you have a control group and a treatment group and you send one control group a bunch of emails with one subject header and another with a different subject header, and you just find out by the level of responses which one is working better. By the way if any of you received Obama emails, the most effective subject header for the Obama campaign for a lot of groups was the single word hey. It annoyed the heck out of me to get emails. I subscribed to both campaigns and I would see these emails that would come from Barack Obama and the subject header would be hey. And I thought that was too casual and not appropriate for a President of the United States. But they knew it worked and that’s why they did it.

Bobby:

Excellent Thank you very much for that. Right after the VP debate, Ryan went off the radar. He wasn’t present at any big campaign events and it seemed that the Romney campaign was hiding him. Could the Romney campaign have recognized the error and tried to conduct the damage control?

Michael:

You know what, I don’t know the answer to that one. We’ll have to wait until we get more accounts from the campaigns themselves, if at all, to know the answer. I noticed the same thing but I don’t really have any solid evidence as to why that occurred.

Bobby:

All right, thank you Michael. Romney’s [unintelligible 43:52] in the campaign as a economic referendum and focusing on Obama’s economic failures while highlighting his own business success also opened him up to attacks from the Obama campaign, that he was a ruthless business man who gutted jobs and sent them overseas. How was he supposed to balance highlighting his own business success but also protect himself from opposition attacks?

Michael:

Well I mean I think the way – I think that’s right on both counts, that it was Romney’s strongest argument and that’s why the Obama campaign went after it. It was Karl Rove and Sun Tzu who taught us that you attack your opponent’s strengths not your opponent’s weakness. But then the question is, as I raised during the presentation, why didn’t Romney respond? Why didn’t Romney tell us more about who he was so that he would look more like someone who was a standard American economic success story? We have many rich people who are heroes in our economy, everyone from the late Steve Jobs to Jay-Z to Oprah to Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett. We have lots of wealthy people who have positive reputations. And why Romney did not burnish his own story and tell us how he made his money is a mystery to me and I think it was a lapse.

Bobby:

Excellent. Thank you very much for that Michael. We do have quite a bit more questions but I’m not sure how we’re doing for time. I guess we can probably take maybe one or two more.

Michael:

I can go another five minutes.

Bobby:

Sure, no problem, no problem at all. I just wanted to just check on the timing.

Michael:

Sure.

Bobby:

One of Obama’s most loyal support groups was African Americans. Obama’s numbers among African Americans were better than his numbers among Hispanics, the LGBT communities, students, or even registered democrats. He did this despite an unemployment rate in the Black community almost twice that of the national average and no specific policy targeting that group. Blacks have normally been reliable democratic voters but what could Romney have done to appeal to the African American community?

Michael:

Well I don’t know that he could have done much with the African American community, which was why I didn’t include it in my list of constituencies. I guess it’s stating the obvious but it doesn’t hurt to state it that there’s just tremendous affection and pride among the African American community for the first African American president in US history. And that was a near unbreakable bond. I wouldn’t fault Romney for not trying, even trying to break it.

Bobby:

Excellent. Thank you very much for that Michael. Another question that we have is what specific key things does the Democratic Party or Barack Obama need to do in the second term that he could not fulfill in the first term?

Michael:

Well he needs to convince the American people that the Affordable Care Act is a good thing. They still don’t like it all that much. He needs to make the case for increased public investment even during a period of debt. He needs to make a deal on entitlements. He needs to work on climate change. He needs to deliver an immigration bill or at least help Congress deliver all of these things. He needs to maintain peace and improve trade relations. He has a terrific agenda. A lot of it will be consolidating initiatives or following through on initiatives articulated in the first term. I don’t know whether we will see any surprises. So a lot of it will be backing and filling, but that’s traditionally what second term presidents do.

Bobby:

Excellent. Thank you very much for that Michael. Are you going to take one more question?

Michael:

Sure one more.

Bobby:

Okay. Over the course of the 2012 election – this is a situational based question – over the course of the 2012 election, I worked with the [unintelligible 48:23] Latino community and when the “self deportation comment” came to light I saw many of these families solidify their support for the Democratic Party. Do you think that this comment and the subsequent results will change how candidates approach minority groups in the 2016 election?

Michael:

Well it already has. My goodness. We already see republican versions of the Dream Act emerging as potential pieces of legislation in the next Congress. We have criticisms of that position and that term is espoused by Romney by other republicans. Absolutely the case. The Latino community is growing. It is wealthy. It is significant and it has an agenda. I remember being asked by my father-in-law why there isn’t a German American agenda. He’s was a German immigrant. And I said it’s largely a matter of time. When the Germans first came to America, there was a German American agenda and there were candidates who specifically campaigned to German Americans. Because new immigrant groups have issues of acceptance and assimilation and integration as existing immigrant groups or ancestral immigrant groups do not. I should mention Native Americans in this context because they have an agenda as well. So that is one area, maybe faster than any other of the sort of constituencies of the Obama coalition. It’s on Latinos where the republicans have moved fastest. And I think one reason for that is a presumption that apart from immigration and identity issues, that American Latinos are conservative, economic and social and foreign policy conservatives and so there is room for optimism and improvement on the part of the Republican Party. The Republican Party is going to be very interesting to watch over the next year or two to see how much change they absorb and to what extent they find a way to harmonize the Tea Party with the other unnamed but still important wing of their party.

So thanks for all these questions. They were terrific and I look forward to talking more about the 2012 campaigns and elections with all of you in different contexts.

Bobby:

Excellent. Just some closing thoughts. So that was our last question for the day. Just some closing thoughts before we conclude. On behalf of the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, we thank you for attending the 2012 Presidential Campaign: A Strategic Retrospective Webinar. Feel free to follow Dr. Cornfield’s Duck Rabbit Politics Blog. It is duckrabbitpolitics.typepad.com/duckrabbitpolitics and to contact our recruitment services team you can email them at pm@gspmonline.com. You can call them toll free 1-866-232-0232 at extension 3422. If you are an avid user of Facebook you can follow the Graduate School of Political Management on Facebook, facebook.com/gspmgw and Twitter twitter.com/gspmgw. Thank you again to everybody. This concludes our webinar and have a great day.