Posts Tagged romney

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: How you win the game matters

There is a saying in sports that it isn’t winning or losing that matters, it is how you play the game. In professional sports appropriate conduct is required. The NFL will flag players for personal fouls or unsportsmanlike conduct. Behave poorly in pro baseball and you are tossed from the game. Ask Lance Armstrong what happens if you get caught cheating. Fair play is as important, if not more important, than the outcome of the game.

Sporting contests, of course, have an organization that sets the rules along with referees or umpires to make sure they are followed. In politics, however, the prevailing cliché is more like winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. Unlike professional sports, nobody polices the event so elections become more of a back alley brawl than a serious discussion of the issues.

In some ways voters themselves act as referees. Attack a candidate for controversial votes, such as a middle-of-the-night pay raise, and the electorate may reward you with a win. Dredge up pictures of the candidate doing drugs in college, and the personal attack might be called out-of-bounds by voters.

Even in victory how the race was won can have a big impact on a candidate’s ability to serve once elected. Sometimes the circumstances surrounding an election win can hinder the new office holder, and sometimes the tactics used to win the race will poison the well.

In 2000 George W. Bush won one of the closest and most disputed elections in American history. In his case it wasn’t the campaign itself or how it was conducted that created ill will; it was the closeness of the outcome. Not only did Bush lose the popular vote, winning election in the Electoral College, but it took a highly controversial ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States to bring the election to a resolution. Bush took office amid extreme partisan bitterness. Democrats never fully viewed him as a legitimate president, creating a deep divide that abated only temporarily in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

The 2012 Presidential Election is a prime example of how unsportsmanlike tactics tarnished a win. Mitt Romney prevailed over a number of primary opponents by incinerating the front-runner of the day with negative ads. First Herman Cain, then Rick Perry, blow up Newt Gingrich and then finish off Rick Santorum. It worked as far as gaining the nomination, but in the process voters learned little if anything about Mitt Romney. He never laid the groundwork for his own election, he merely ran up the negative on his opponents. Going into the General Election campaign he was ripe for the picking by Barack Obama.

And the Obama Campaign was ready for the challenge. From the moment it became apparent that Mitt Romney would be the nominee the Obama machine opened up its guns painting the former Massachusetts governor as a vulture capitalist. They turned what should have been his biggest asset as a candidate – successful private sector job creating experience – into his biggest negative. When most voters got their first unfiltered look at Romney in the initial presidential debate, and saw he didn’t have horns and a tail, the Obama strategy almost collapsed. Almost.

Instead, Obama doubled down. He stayed on the attack through the closing hours of the campaign. Unlike his 2008 election which sounded the aspirational theme of hope and change, his 2012 re-election effort was shrill and negative. As a result, the president heads into a second term having divided an already polarized electorate even further.

Now, Barack Obama must govern. Having won re-election through effective class warfare and demonization of the American system of free enterprise, he must deal with those of the other party who believe in growth and opportunity and who now deeply distrust the man who will sit in the White House for the next four years. Worse, the job creators are offended and scared of the taxes and regulations that surely will come. Thus the very people who can pull America out of the lingering economic downturn will play defense rather than join the team.

Former President Jimmy Carter called it a malaise. And that will be the legacy of the second Obama Administration. Yes, Barack Obama won the election. But he won ugly. And, as George W. Bush learned a decade ago, there is a price to be paid for how you win the game.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is

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The Circle Game

By Lowman S. Henry

After the longest and most expensive election cycle in American history we are

. . . right back where we started. President Barack Obama has been re-elected by a narrow margin – even more narrow than his 2008 victory over John McCain, Democrats will continue to control the U.S. Senate – although holding less than the magic 60 votes needed to move legislation; and the GOP has maintained, even increased its hold on the House of Representatives.

Voters have opted to gridlock the federal government. Given President Obama’s razor thin 2.5 million vote win in the popular count, and the GOP’s failure to capture control of the Senate, Congress will continue to be polarized and paralyzed. Thus in the coming weeks as the nation faces a series of critical fiscal tests including raising the debt ceiling, dealing with the expiration of Bush era tax rates and the need to enact a 2012-2013 budget, the national government will be deeply divided.

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s defeat, pressure will be on Republicans to cave and compromise. They should not. This election was not a repudiation of conservative economics. If anything it was a continuation of the deep, even division among the American electorate that was ushered in at the beginning of this century when the 2000 Presidential race ended up essentially tied.   The re-election of President George W. Bush hinged on a few thousand votes in Ohio; the movement of less than a half million votes in a few key states powered Barack Obama’s victory in 2008; and, less than 100,000 votes in three or four key states decided Tuesday’s election.

Thus voters have been remarkably consistent over the past four presidential elections. The big swings have come in the composition of Congress, with Democrats affecting wave elections in 2006 and 2008, and the GOP staging a historic resurgence in 2010. This year, voters appeared to have sated their appetite for legislative change and embraced the status quo.

The 2012 election was not an electoral repudiation of either party, rather it served as validation of each.   In short, there is no consensus among the electorate on a way forward. Under those circumstances we should not expect our elected officials in Washington to arrive at one. Republicans were put in office by their voters to rein in government spending and reduce the federal deficit. Democrats embraced a tax and spend approach and have been rewarded by their constituents. It is unlikely either side is going to back down because to do so would be to alienate the very voters who sent them to Washington in the first place.

In the days and weeks ahead the failure of the GOP to capture the White House amidst dire and deteriorating economic circumstances will be the subject of much discussion, debate and finger pointing. But, Republicans should resist the urge to be swayed by denizens of the Left who will claim the party’s historic conservative economic principles caused that failure. It did not. Mitt Romney was never a disciple of the Right and his rejection at the polls was not a rejection of conservative principles.

In fact, perhaps the time has finally come for the national GOP to realize that nominating moderates for President simply does not work. Despite the fact he performed admirably throughout the campaign, Mitt Romney was never an effective spokesman for the conservative wing of the party. Aside from a pivot to the Right in the early primaries he did not try to be. He was nominated in an effort to appeal to independents and to moderate voters. In the process, the GOP did not develop the bold sharp contrast needed to convince the broad electorate to fire a failed president.

This is the fourth time in recent decades this strategy has failed. George H.W. Bush in 1992, Bob Dole in 1996, John McCain in 2008, and now Mitt Romney in 2012 all fit the moderate mold. All lost. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush flew the conservative flag, and won. With Barack Obama the Democrats were not afraid to embrace their party’s left-wing ideology. They won because they stood for something, just like Reagan and George W. Bush did in achieving their victories. The GOP sacrificed its core message and lost.

And so, here we are back where we began. Hopefully – finally – some lessons will be learned. As we move forward, Republicans in Congress must embrace the GOP’s core ideology, start drawing those bright lines of distinction and put together a strategy for effectively communicating it to the American people.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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It’s Debatable: Candidates’ debate performances have defined 2012 race

Presidential debates have a rich history of making – or breaking – candidates. It began with the very first such debate held in 1960 when John Kennedy’s confident, youthful appearance doomed a sweating Richard Nixon to defeat. The latest candidate to feel the sting of a poor debate performance is Rick Santorum.

Pennsylvania’s former U.S. Senator narrowly lost the Michigan primary to Mitt Romney after having held a double digit lead in several polls just two weeks ago. After winning a trifecta of states on February 7th, Santorum surged both nationally and in Michigan. All that stood between Rick Santorum and an embarrassing, perhaps campaign-ending, rout of Mitt Romney was one debate in Arizona.

That debate did not go well for Santorum. True, there was not one “gotcha” moment or a major gaffe, but Santorum allowed himself to be on the defensive, sank into Washington speak, and permitted Romney to paint him as the beltway insider. Meanwhile, the former Massachusetts governor appeared poised and confident, in command and on the attack. Most analysts agree Santorum regained his balance the second half of the debate, but the damage had been done.

Santorum’s poor performance in the Arizona debate followed what was perhaps his best debate performance, the final meeting of the candidates prior to January’s Florida primary. In that debate, it was Santorum who was on the attack, pinning Romney to the mat on Romneycare and emerging as the strongest personality on the stage. That performance helped fuel Santorum’s wins in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado.

There have been 20 debates among the Republican Presidential candidates this year and those forums have played an out-sized role in shaping and defining the race. Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the contest with a huge lead in the polls, but stumbled badly in his first debate performances, even suffering brain freeze while listing the three federal cabinet departments he would eliminate. Since those debates were his first exposure to a wide national audience, they created a bad image of Perry in the minds of voters; it was an image he was unable to overcome.

Conversely, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich owes the fact that he remains in the race to his superb debate performances. In the early debates Gingrich was the adult in the room, talking serious policy and keeping the focus on Barack Obama while the others bickered like children. In the weeks leading up to the South Carolina primary, which he won, Gingrich turned in perhaps his best debate performances greatly enhancing both his stature and his standing in the polls. Again, at the final debate in Arizona, Gingrich appeared the most presidential.

And then there is Mitt Romney. While the others have sprinted and stumbled, he has been the marathon man. Romney has never been the star of a debate, nor has he committed a campaign-defining gaffe. Reflective of his managerial personality, he has simply done what needed to be done – nothing more, nothing less. And it is that consistency throughout the debates that has allowed him to weather periodic surges by the other candidates.

Fortunately for Rick Santorum the primary calendar gave him time to recover from his poor performance in the Arizona debate. He was on the upswing when Michigan voters went to the polls, falling just short of inflicting a humiliating defeat on Romney. Given that Michigan is Romney’s state of birth, and his father was a popular governor there years ago, Romney should have stomped Santorum. That it took a self-inflicted wound by Santorum to give Romney an anemic three percent win illustrates the fact that the former Massachusetts governor still has not closed the deal with the vast majority of Republican primary voters.

The good news for Pennsylvania Republicans is that our state’s presidential primary will actually matter this year. Romney leads in delegates, but needs to end up with more than Santorum, Gingrich and Ron Paul combined. A treasure trove of delegates is at stake on April 24th, when both Keystone state voters and those in the state of New York go to the polls. It will be a pivotal day. Whether or not the nomination is decided that day is, well, debatable.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is

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