Mitt Romney Needs to Campaign, Connect to Ensure His Victory
Walker's victory in Wisconsin doesn't mean Mitt Romney won't have to campaign or that Obama's in trouble
June 6, 2012
Scott Walker's victory yesterday is important to Wisconsin politics, but doesn't portend any tidal shift of opportunity for Mitt Romney. State politics and national politics are two different animals. Voters are much more partisan when it comes to picking their governors, less so when it comes to presidents.
Walker won because he ran a solid campaign, as he did in 2010, and odds were already in his favor. He may be the first U.S. governor in history to win a recall, but there have been five efforts in the last century with only two successful: North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier lost his post in 1921 and California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003. The rest failed during the qualifying process.
Electoral victories hinge on campaign organization. Favorable political conditions and strong super PAC fundraising only go so far; if candidates don't give voters a consistent, strong narrative, they lose. It is no surprise Tom Barrett went home empty-handed. His muddled, mixed message and attempt to make the race a national referendum skipped the pond once.
As for the president, he doesn't need to do some serious thinking about what the election returns mean for his campaign. He does, however, need to start using his bully-pulpit power to help his Democratic colleagues. He focuses too much on protecting his own interests at the expense of helping his friends. He made little effort to help Barrett; he half-heartedly voiced support for same-sex marriage the day after North Carolina's referendum vote, and he disengaged from the 2010 Democratic congressional campaigns.
Even more illogically, he recently sent a memo to the Democratic Congressional Campaign and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committees telling both he won't share any of his campaign funds to help their 2012 causes.
Regardless of GOP spin, which gives Republicans some limited, short-term traction, a Romney victory will be about how hard he campaigns and how successful he is in parlaying the mood of the electorate in his favor. But he's got a big hurdle to jump. He's behind by 100 electoral votes in current forecast models and he hasn't connected with voters on a personal level. Neither he nor the president should spend any time divining the tea leaves of Wisconsin. If they do, the read will most certainly knock their campaigns off course.
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