Political Animal


October 25, 2012 2:47 PM Beneath the Surface

By Ed Kilgore

It’s easy to assume that presidential campaigns are flawless machines whose directors cooly deploy and shift resources like Field Marshals, based on the very latest accurate data and finely honed strategies.

But then you read something like veteran reporter Jon Ralston’s take on the Romney campaign’s commitment to winning in Nevada, and it all gets kind of mushy:

There are various theories as to why Romney is still campaigning here and why his team and outside groups are spending a fortune in the final two weeks. And some of it - maybe a lot of it - may have more to do with races below the top of the ticket.
I believe that some people in Romney’s organization believe the state can be won. They are happy that Republicans are turning out better than in 2008, even though that is an awfully low bar because there really was no race here after John McCain all but gave up and it was a wave election.
I have been reliably told that Romney’s internals in Nevada show him up a point - but some of those folks are smart enough to give the margin of error to the Democratic machine. But that makes it a race, so they aren’t going anywhere….
There also are outside groups on the air (Crossroads, especially) and on the ground (Americans for Prosperity and a few others) who are doing more here than 2008. Again, a low bar, but they have leapt over it. But these folks can’t fix the Hispanic problem or the registration problem for Romney and the Republicans; they can only hope to contain it.
Can they mitigate the natural demographic deficits and save the state, if not for Romney, for Sen. Dean Heller, Rep. Joe Heck, Danny Tarkanian and Republicans seeking to control the state Senate? (Heck is considered a favorite by both sides, but the new seat is seen as up for grabs, with Tark seen as barely holding on now as Democrats coalesce. And the state Senate is a true toss-up, with Republicans needing to win four of five seats and now deeply concerned their candidates could be washed away by registration and turnout.)
I think Romney also is playing here because he can - the money is there - and because he needs to, as one wag put it, “show off for his investors,” including Sheldon Adelson. This is about what happens after the election, too, even if Romney becomes president and has lost Nevada. He at least has to give it the old college try.

So Ralston asks a simple question and comes up with a bunch of possible answers: maybe it’s about internal polls, or maybe it’s about downballot races, or maybe it’s a thank-you note to Sheldon Adelson or maybe it’s just because they have the money so why not spend it?

Truth be told, most campaigns are rolling balls of madness just beneath the surface.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • schtick on October 25, 2012 3:10 PM:

    People aren't paying attention to those down ticket state elections. Thanks to the media, the main show is "How Many Lies Will Willard Tell Today?" and how some offbeat poll from the nether has Willard 5 points ahead.

  • bigtuna on October 25, 2012 3:15 PM:

    Romney's time in NV perplexes me. I do not have a sense that he will win there. Likewise I was in the Pittsburgh area when Ryan made a stop, added at the last minute, to Moon township, PA - it hardly rec'd a ripple in the local news. I worked at the edges of a few campaigns, and the last line in this post is the best analysis. At this point, it is all caffene, spending, etc., and gotv.

    if Willard were to have a home state advantage, it should be MA, MI, UT, and a few other mountain states, some of which he'll win anyway [ID]. One might think he'd have some leg up in NV, as there is a largeish LDS community there; however, there is a large anti LDS feeling in the state as well. A Romney visit to NV may stir up some feelings that he may not want to stir. So, he will win UT.

    Thems that know him don't like him.

  • Marko on October 25, 2012 3:55 PM:

    This is what the "momentum" is all about: the MSM wants them to spend all their money on teevee ads.

  • Steve P on October 25, 2012 4:39 PM:

    I know "Restore Our Fortunes" is running a lot of ads in MI, written off by Rmoney weeks ago. Fascinating thing is that his name appears nowhere--it's all Obama Hate.

  • Amusing Alias on October 25, 2012 4:50 PM:

    My suspicion is that Adelson's financial support came with conditions. One of which was that Romney had to contest NV until the Nov 6.

  • penalcolony on October 25, 2012 5:38 PM:

    Just a guess: since Nevada is one of the few states with a substantial Mormon population, Romney thinks he SHOULD win it.

  • DRF on October 25, 2012 6:09 PM:

    Here's a theory: The Mormon Church leadership will be disappointed in Romney if he doesn't do his best to support the Republican candidates running in Nevada,if he appears to abandon them. Romney doesn't want to be on the outs with the leadership, particularly if he loses the Presidential election.

  • Erin Johnson on October 26, 2012 11:39 AM:

    Taking polls into account, Nevada seems like a likely win for Obama http://www.pollheadlines.com/poll-category.php?category=nevada

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