Using others' words to write my own post-mortem
Jay Cost notes in a Romney campaign post-mortem:
It is fair to say that Romney was a polarizing candidate. Few candidates rouse such strongly divergent feelings among his fellow partisans. All campaign cycle, my email inbox has been full of people telling me Romney was the GOP's best hope and people telling me he would ruin the party.
How might these negative attacks have hurt Romney? My sense is that it likely kept him from winning over those who supported McCain or Huckabee. That is, at its most basic level, it backfired; not only did it fail to convince Huckabee or McCain voters to back Romney, it alienated those voters from him. Pew found that Romney's net favorability rating among McCain voters was just +7 in January and +1 in February; among Huckabee voters it was -9 in January and -4 in February. The only candidate who had so much trouble with another candidate's voters is Giuliani, who was not liked by Huckabee voters. This is different - Rudy's divergence on social issues and his scandal-plagued autumn can explain most of that disregard.
I think the fact that Romney was viewed so poorly by McCain and Huckabee voters, but not Giuliani voters is a consequence of his attacks on McCain and Huckabee.
I think Cost is onto something. Romney attacked frequently -- and sometimes spuriously -- on issues, even though he had flip-flopped on the issue. That's the sort of thing that will reduce your chance of winning over an opponent's supporters.
Campaigns are about introducing yourself to the public and why you're the best choice for the office. Which is why individual tactics -- however advisable on a micro-level some tactics are -- must fit an overall strategy. Frequently Romney seemed to be sending the message that he would do anything to win, or that he was too weak to stand up to his advisers suggestions. Voters don't tend to like either possibility.
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