“Bad polling” and a sense that he was “out of touch” with ordinary Americans led to Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama in the Nov. 6 presidential election, USA Today’s Washington editor told a crowd Thursday night at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla.
Romney based his campaign strategy on “inaccurate information,” Ray Locker said, and “that’s why he’s back in Boston and the president is preparing for his second term.”
But Romney, and not his campaign staff, is responsible for his defeat.
Fundamentally, he was the problem. He was not comfortable in his own skin. People didn’t trust him.
Locker said Romney was “ineffective in gauging the electorate.” His campaign conducted most of its polls by calling voters who had landline phone connections at home. That skewed the results because people with landlines tend to be older, white voters. Relying on that demographic excluded many young people who use mobile phones and don’t have landlines at home, Locker said.
Locker said Romney’s comments to donors behind closed doors in Boca Raton, Fla., was another big mistake and may be seen as a pivotal error when historians look back at the 2012 election results.
In a leaked video, Romney said:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it — that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax.
Romney told the donors that his job was “not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The comments reinforced a perception that many voters had about Romney and “hammered it home,” Locker said.
The editor said he didn’t come to St. Augustine to beat up on the Republican Party, which he said has many hard-working, well-intentioned supporters. But he said many voters were uncomfortable with Romney’s changing his stance on issues over the years, giving the impression of a candidate who was willing to say practically anything to be elected. Romney “had to align himself” with certain political positions – opposition to the Dream Act, for instance – to get the Republican nomination, and that hurt him in the general election, Locker said.
Locker spoke at Flagler as part of the college’s 2012 Forums on Government and Public Policy lecture series. His talk was entitled “It’s Not Over Yet: The 2012 Election and the Stakes for a Lame-Duck Congress.”
Locker, who supervises the investigative and enterprise work in USA Today’s Washington bureau, gave brief remarks then took questions from students, faculty and members of the audience.
Flagler President William T. Abare Jr. asked Locker the questions as they came in from the audience. One question dealt with the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
Locker said while he’s not an expert on the Benghazi incident, he believes Stevens may have been running some sort of intelligence operation when he and others at the mission were attacked and then something went terribly wrong. The inability of U.S. officials to “get their stories straight creates the impression of a cover-up,” he said.
Another audience member asked Locker to speculate about who might run for president in 2016.
Locker said, smiling, that there’s probably some junior congressmen out there planning for the 2020 or even the 2024 election.
On a more serious note, he said that if Hillary Clinton pursues the Democratic nomination, “it’s hard to see someone who beats her.”
Clinton was a polarizing figure as a vice presidential candidate in 2008, but has “served with distinction” as Secretary of State and would be a strong candidate if she decided to run for president.
Near the end of the presentation, another audience member asked why the media seems to support liberal causes.
We try to be as non-partisan as possible. We’re trying.