So much dumb this week coming out of conservative circles performing the traditional post-mortem of the Romney campaign. They lost because of Hurricane Sandy and Chris Christie. Because of Hurricane Isaac or even vote suppression. Or maybe single women. Pretty sure the media was behind it, too.
As dumb as these apologist screeds are, I think we’re going to be hearing this claptrap for some time to come. What we won’t be able to experience again is the immediate reaction of the Romney campaign to the electoral drubbing they took.
Despite the dire warnings of every pollster worth their salt, and expressions of concern from Gallup and Rasumussen, the Romney campaign was apparently “shellshocked” by what happened on Tuesday night.
Around 11PM Eastern we started getting reports of the Romney campaign changing the channel at headquarters on their giant monitors in order to find a network with better news. For a group of people violently opposed to the theory of relativity for encouraging the belief that God may not have created one universal truth, these folks were really eager to see if changing channels would transform reality.
But the ill-informed reaction of slack-jawed supporters is understandable. What should absolutely terrify every one of us is that two guys — who were reasonably close to being the leaders of this country — had absolutely no idea they had failed to manage a successful campaign.
“We went into the evening confident we had a good path to victory,” said one senior adviser. “I don’t think there was one person who saw this coming.”
Now think about this a second. These two guys who were pitching (at least at their own convention) an immediate war against Iran on the grounds that they “knew for a fact” that Iran, a secretive hostile power half a world away, was on the brink of building a nuclear weapon. But they were unable to get a handle on whether their own campaign was on the brink of carrying Hillsborough County, Florida. Making plans based on shoddy intelligence reports is hardly an encouraging quality in a possible president.
Romney was stoic as he talked to the president, an aide said, but his wife Ann cried. Running mate Paul Ryan seemed genuinely shocked, the adviser said. Ryan’s wife Janna also was shaken and cried softly.
“There’s nothing worse than when you think you’re going to win, and you don’t,” said another adviser. “It was like a sucker punch.”
Their emotion was visible on their faces when they walked on stage after Romney finished his remarks, which Romney had hastily composed, knowing he had to say something.
Both wives looked stricken, and Ryan himself seemed grim. They all were thrust on that stage without understanding what had just happened.
This resolves what many of us suspected that night. The Mitt Romney’s lengthy delay in conceding the election stemmed from a genuine lack of preparation for the possibility. No concession was prepared and the campaign was not willing to begin work on one until well after the election was called. Remember that even in the warped conservative “anti-Nate Silver” argument, Romney campaign surrogates were only willing to call the election a toss-up. In other words, the Romney argument was always for a narrow victory — which should include the possibility of a narrow defeat.
The idea of a president unwilling to consider alternative consequences and prepare accordingly is chilling. Especially when the alternative outcome is, in your best case scenario, a 50-50 shot.
Put aside all the policy problems afflicting the modern Republican Party, America dodged a bullet on Tuesday because Romney and Ryan were fundamentally unfit for basic leadership.