• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Could Benghazi Have Changed The Outcome Of The 2012 Election?

Benghazi-Consulate

ABC News’s Jonathan Karl had another exclusive report today with the news that the Republican National Committee had produced, but then decided not to run, an ad focusing on the Administration’s response to the attack in Benghazi:

It was the Benghazi attack ad the Republican National Committee created but never aired.

ABC News has obtained an ad the RNC made last fall and approved to air in the final weeks of the presidential campaign.  The ad begins with a replay of Hillary Clinton’s famous “3 a.m. phone call” commercial from the 2008 campaign and then cuts to video of the burning U.S. consulate in Benghazi Libya.

Over the images of the attack-in which four Americans were killed-words appear on the screen:

“The Call Came … On September 12, 2012.”  As the screen goes black, the words continue: “Security Requests Denied. Four Americans Dead. And an Administration whose story is still changing. The Call Came.”

The video of the Benghazi attack used in the ad includes the sound of gunfire and what appear to be voices of people speaking a foreign language as flames engulf the consulate.

A source familiar with the creation of the ad says the RNC leadership approved the ad but it was scrapped at the last minute because of objections from the Romney campaign, which was concerned the ad would distract from Romney’s efforts to focus on the economy.

Here’s the video:

The fact that the attack on Benghazi plays a central role in the narrative that conservatives have developed regarding the attack and the Administration’s response to it. According to this narrative, the White House and the Obama campaign’s first response to the attack was to worry about its political consequences and the danger that it would upset one of the central parts of the President’s re-election campaign, the idea that he had decimated al Qaeda and kept America safe from terrorism. That’s why, they argue, the talking points used by Susan Rice when she went on the Sunday morning news programs on September 16th were edited to remove references to al Qaeda and terror and instead read to make it appear that the attack was primarily the result of protests over an anti-Muslim YouTube video. The narrative also seems to lead conservatives to believe that had “the truth” about Benghazi come out prior to the election then it would have hurt the President’s re-election campaign and, quite possibly, given Mitt Romney the chance he needed to win the election. As will all theories like this, it’s perfect for those who believe it primary because it seemingly cannot be refuted since we cannot go back and alter the past to test the hypothesis. Nonetheless, there is still reason to be doubtful that any more information about Benghazi would have had a significant impact on the election in the end.

David Weigel explains one reason why:

[W]hy are Republicans convinced that this would have altered the election? Four Americans died in the attack in Benghazi. For the first time since the Carter administration, a diplomat was among the fallen. That was unspinnable. That did a certain amount of damage to the Obama campaign, like it should have. Where Hannity et al lose people is on the “cover-up”—why would the phrasing of talking points have ended the outrage? Why, because the administration was telling voters that the death of Osama bin Laden effectively ended the War on Terror, and that there was nothing new to fear, so we could go on not talking about “Islamism” and be perfectly safe.

This was never going to work. We learned why, not during the election, but during the weeks around the George W. Bush Presidential Center dedication. Bush, you’ll remember, was president during the deadliest terrorist attack ever on American soil. Yet Bush’s defenders credited him with Keeping America Safe. How? As Jennifer Rubin put it (though you could quote one of dozens of pundits), “there was no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11″ while Bush was at the wheel.

This is mockable (Charlie Pierce calls it “the great mulligan”) but astute. Bush got re-elected on this theory. Americans are fretful about terrorism only to the extent that it might kill them in America. The Bush-era response to terrorism led to two fitfully successful land wars in central Asia, with thousands of military deaths; more relevantly, when we’re talking Benghazi, the Bush years saw 64 attacks of varying scale on American diplomats and embassies. None of them hurt his re-election. A terrorist attack of the same scale in, say, Indianapolis would have. Not overseas.

In other words, it’s unlikely that an attack on Americans overseas would have had a significant impact on the election. Indeed, had it become a significant campaign issue, it’s most likely that the public would have looked to the President for leadership rather than holding it against him. Now, if September 11, 2012 had seen a terrorist strike in an American city, even something as relatively low-key as the attack on Boston last month, then things would arguably different. This would have been the first successful terrorist strike on American soil since the September 11th attacks, and that would have been significantly politically different. An incident overseas is simply a different animal and, unless it was something massive like the attack on the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1982, it’s just not likely to have that much of a domestic political impact.

Another reason why the idea that more information about Benghazi would have had a significant impact on the election is two-fold. First of all, foreign policy played a very small role in the 2012 election itself. Indeed, other than the single Presidential debate that focused on foreign policy (which itself delved into domestic policy more than once over the 90 minutes it ran), both campaigns spent almost the entire campaign focused on domestic issues like jobs, the economy, and health care policy. The main reason for that, of course is that poll after poll showed that these were the issues that voters cared about, but it was also because this was where the two candidates actually had significant differences. In reality, there weren’t a lot of differences between Mitt Romney and President Obama on foreign policy outside of the rhetoric. Additionally, the polls in 2012 consistently showed that the President had impressively high poll numbers when it came to foreign policy and the “war on terror, ” even in polls taken after the Benghazi attacks. This is why you just didn’t see many attacks on Obama on the foreign policy front, because it was going to be next to impossible to change voters minds on that issue. Given that, it’s no surprise that the Romney campaign was not enthusiastic about the RNC ad mentioned in Karl’s report.

So, no, I don’t think any amount of revisionism could credibly be crafted together to make the argument that the outcome of the election would have been any different if only “the truth” about Benghazi come out, or if the Romney campaign had hit the President over it more often. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that there will be plenty of conservatives who will hang on to it to justify their belief that the election was winnable if only the campaign had been run the way they wanted to run it.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I doubt that it would have had much effect on the election. First and foremost Americans don’t care much about foreign policy. Second, were there really enough voters who’d care enough about foreign policy to switch the column one or more of the states was in from Obama to Romney? Which states? I just don’t see it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  2. Ben Wolf says:

    Barack Obama bayonetting a nun in the throat wouldn’t have changed the election outcome. Mitt Romney was a horrid candidate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

  3. Caj says:

    In one word, no! Time to move on from this never ending nonsense. Republicans will never be satisfied with any answers that don’t end with President Obama’s impeachment which in itself is a complete joke!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  4. MM says:

    And in 2008, the election would have been swung to McCain had Palin only been allowed to scream about Bill Ayers at campaign stops. And Sharron Angle would have won if only x, and Todd Akin would have won if only y. And if the establishment had let a real conservative win the nomination, that person would have totally shamed Obama into resigning on the spot.

    The GOP just cannot accept that they are becoming decreasingly popular in the US and can only assume that people just need to hear more of the exact same stuff that hasn’t been resonating.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 2

  5. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Nixon was way ahead in the polls back in 1972 anyway, and Watergate didn’t have the slightest chance of swaying the election. So, obviously, the whole brouhaha about it was pointless, and should never have been brought up.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 17

  6. No, it wouldn’t have.

    (Indeed, I remain at a loss as to what piece of information of any significance that we know now that we did not know in early October of 2012).

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4

  7. mantis says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    This is way worse than Watergate. Way worse than anything bad that ever happened, ever.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 5

  8. While I do not think this ad would have swung the election, I do think a more competent response from Romney and company would have had some effect. Romney bungled it so bad, the right’s been reaching ever since.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  9. Caj says:

    @mantis:

    Oh please! Did Fox News tell you that? That station doesn’t deal in facts on anything. Propaganda machine for Republicans that’s all. So they will say and do anything to keep the lies going on whatever made up stuff might help the Republican cause on any given day!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  10. Davebo says:

    @Caj: Obviously you didn’t see what Mantis was doing there…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  11. inhumans99 says:

    I just hope this obsession with Benghazi ends soon enough, and is perhaps the last gasp of the old GOP as it transforms itself into a party that is not increasingly out of touch with the average joe (Jenos…dude, most average joes would look at you with a blank look on their face if you wanted to rap about Benghazi, they would probably think you are talking about the next generation of the board game Yahtzee before they realized you are talking about a city in Libya).

    In another thread, someone brought up a list of other U.S. tagets abroad where U.S. citizens were attacked or killed, and I just do not remember the GOP getting the vapors over the response to those attacks. All this to damage Clinton…it really does cheapen the deaths of the 4 Americans who were killed in Benghazi.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  12. Latino_in_Boston says:

    No.

    But the GOP is obsessed with it, to the point they’ve convinced themselves otherwise. This will just go on and on, until they find their next “this is worst than watergate!” scandal™. You can count on it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  13. Ken says:

    Short Answer: No

    Longer Answer: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  14. anjin-san says:

    This is way worse than Watergate. Way worse than anything bad that ever happened, ever.

    Makes the black death look like a frat party…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  15. Jr says:

    The Right are simply trying to rationalize Romney’s loss by coming up with these “what if?” scenarios. Benghazi wouldn’t have changed a damn thing. First, the attack didn’t happen on US soil, which sadly means that the American public won’t care. Second, there was no massive cover-up or law-breaking by the Obama Administration. And third, their candidate was Mitt Romney, whom doesn’t have any credibility when it came to Foreign Policy.

    But, if it helps them sleep at night they can continue to believe this crap.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  16. Andy says:

    Agree with Dave Schuler. No one cares about this stuff – or the only people that care about this stuff are those that are already in the tank for one side or another. Just look at Bush’s reelection – Iraq probably hurt him a bit, but he still got elected.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  17. EddieInCA says:

    Doug -

    Stop it. Seriously. Just effin’ stop it. You’re too damn smart, and too knowledgeable for such a piece of crap post.

    Fact #1: Bad People attacked the embassy.
    Fact #2: 4 Americans were killed.
    Fact #3: Within the time of the actual attack, there was no realistic way to get help to the embassy in time to stop Fact #2.
    Fact #4: In confusion afterwards, misinformation was put out by the Administration, which, even if true, still DOES NOTHING to prevent Facts #1 and #2.
    Fact #5: Facts #1-#4 were known before the election.
    Fact #6: If you’ve been paying attention since the beginning, there has been no real new information which has come out over the past several weeks – just rehashing of the same old facts.

    Would it have changed the election? No. Because the electoral math would still have given Obama a victory. Romney didn’t just lose. He got CRUSHED.

    So stop. Just stop.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 4

  18. Neil Hudelson says:

    Jesus, Caj, that’s like the fourth time you’ve done that. Please, google “sarcasm,” read comments closely, and don’t engage in knee jerk liberal defense. This is actually a pretty thoughtful bunch of commentators. Even Jay Tea will occasionally have an engaging moment. I like you but took my of your comments are just plain reactionary.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  19. Neil Hudelson says:

    *too many

    (Typing on a bus)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. michael reynolds says:

    So, Obama beats McCain and the GOP in its fevered imagination thinks they can somehow reverse that if only they can prove that Obama is a Kenyan. Who traveled through time to plant a phony birth certificate.

    There follows four years during which Republicans convince themselves that Obama is Hitler-Stalin-Khamenei and further become convinced that this fact is self-evident and thus he will be bodily ejected in the next election.

    So, Obama buries Romney. So then in their fevered imaginations Republicans believed they could still, somehow win, if only it turns out that an ass-covering set of talking points caused the deaths it was written in response to. So again, we have the time travel idea.

    And yeah, that’s not happening.

    So Benghazi is being re-purposed. Now it’s going to destroy Hillary. Says who? Karl Rove. And he’s going to beat Hillary with who, exactly? Um. . . And he’s going to beat her with what set of ideas? Um. . . By attracting which voters? Um. . .

    The party of stupid, ladies and gentlemen.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 2

  21. Latino_in_Boston says:

    @EddieInCA:

    And I salute you sir, because this post is an excellent summary of why this Benghazi obsession should stop.

    Don’t count on the GOP to stop, though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  22. G.A.Phillips says:

    Ok, like 4 million people on our side did not show up to vote.I know that a few of these idiots voted for Ron Paul in some form, but I am sure most of these idiots stayed home because we ran a Mormon.

    So no, I don’t think the obvious Benghazi cover up being used more would have helped…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 11

  23. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    You and our colleagues have developed a very interesting approach to this story, Doug. You seek out and find extreme assertions on the fringes, and go to great lengths to rebut them. Recently, you’ve argued that it didn’t really affect the election, that Nakoula isn’t really a political prisoner, that the revision of the talking points was nothing unusual, that the whistleblower might not have been retaliated against, that it really isn’t a “scandal,” that it was just a run-of-the-mill screwup, and so on.

    Do you have a Google News alert for these fringe stories, or do you get them straight from the DNC?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 13

  24. Latino_in_Boston says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Fringe Stories! Why didn’t I think of that before?

    I’m sure many of the regulars here already knew this, but it’s clear to me now. And it’s clear by the laws of Gods and Men that you’re a troll.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  25. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @G.A.Phillips: Ah, of course – the *obvious* cover up!!! Let me guess – you are part of the secret cabal whose members are privy to the *real truth* about 9/11 The Assassination of JFK What Happened at Ruby Ridge The Illuminati Who Shot J.R. Benghazi. If only the real super-secret motivations were revealed, the blind sheeple of this country would finally wake up and for all!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  26. Scott O says:

    Ben Gazzie, the great white hope.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  27. G.A.Phillips says:

    Gromitt Gunn, Dude, your demigod and his cabal have been lying for months and are still at it. Why? I do realize you can’t tell what a lie is because it is the stuff of what your worldview is made of so forget that question. Still, you joking about it and blowing it off is disgusting and pathetic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  28. Scott O says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Ok, like 4 million people on our side did not show up to vote.

    What you need to do next time is tell all your base voters to make sure their mobility scooters are charged the night before the election. You do know that landslide Mitt got more votes than McCain, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  29. bill says:

    it may have swung a few voters but probably not a loss for obama- the msm wouldn’t allow him to go down. now that he’s in for another 4 they’re starting to look like they’re doing their job, but in the end they’ll accept another scapegoat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  30. Surreal American says:

    @bill:

    it may have swung a few voters but probably not a loss for obama- the msm wouldn’t allow him to go down.

    Your God Reagan was allegedly hated by the press. Yet he won. Twice.

    Mitt Romney had the power of Fox “News” on his side.

    Don’t blame the media for Romney stinking on ice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  31. al-Ameda says:

    We know that Benghazi would not have changed the outcome of the election because there is not one single Obama voter who would have changed his vote based on the current Republican kabuki and dance toward impeachment.

    But let’s acknowledge now that what happened in Benghazi was worse than the fact that Bush send us to war in Iraq based on a false pretext, and the subsequent loss of 4,000 American troops over there. Benghazi was definitely worse than Vietnam too, and we lost over 50,000 American lives there. It’s close to being as bad as the combined death counts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki too, although I don’t want to imply THAT, that would be over the top.

    I’m surprised that the Republican House hasn’t drafted articles of Impeachment yet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  32. al-Ameda says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Ok, like 4 million people on our side did not show up to vote.

    What happened, were they locked up in Jane Fonda’s work-out room or something?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  33. Steve V says:

    Benghazi didn’t affect any votes. Only the 27 percent think it’s a scandal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  34. Stonetools says:

    The question for Republicans is not,

    “Could Benghazi have changed the outcome of the 2012 election”
    But :

    “Will Benghazi change the outcome of the 2016 election”.

    And the answer is No, on both counts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  35. Mike says:

    No. Not with the “American’s splashing, dancing, talented Idol” mentality of the average citizen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  36. G.A.Phillips says:

    What happened, were they locked up in Jane Fonda’s work-out room or something?

    Um…

    I know that a few of these idiots voted for Ron Paul in some form, but I am sure most of these idiots stayed home because we ran a Mormon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  37. G.A.Phillips says:

    I just looked up the number that stayed home and it says 3 million mostly. But I have heard closer 4 many times.
    I think it is more the case of the Christians not voting for a Mormon then is about the lies Obama and friends told for over a year.

    The reason I said I don’t think the truth about the Benghazi cover up would have helped….jeeez…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  38. fred says:

    Stupid conjecture and NO, the result of the election would not have changed. Has any administration or news medium done any investigative reporting where troops were killed in Iraq and Afghan after each battle fought in those countries? Of course not? Fox News and CNN are driving a non-story instead of letting our heroes rest in peace and giving their familieis some solace. Result is great for America though. I predict that Hilary Clinton will now run for President and unlike Pres Obama she will relish taking on the right-wing and GOP and confronting their obsession in keeping our country in the doldrums instead moving the middle class and poor forward. She will also take on Wall Street and folks like Koch brothers who want to buy out our political aparatus.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  39. Davebo says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    I know that a few of these idiots voted for Ron Paul in some form

    What form are you referring to GA? Is there a new form of voting I’m unaware of?

    I hear that Rand Paul is considering a run in 2016 and when he loses he’ll just create his own office of the presidency and take charge!

    That my friend is industrious!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  40. Davebo says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    And where did you look up this magical number GA? Care to share your source with us?

    Of course if you’re pulling it out of your ass as I suspect I’d prefer you don’t share.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  41. Tillman says:

    I take a mental health break from reading the news for a couple of months and come back to Benghazi. Again. What the hell was missing the first time around?

    And then I read around a bit, and realize nothing new is coming up, nothing at all. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    I think I finally have the answer to that perennial question, “Would you rather live during the ascendancy of a civilization or its decline?” I’d prefer ascendancy because this decline is downright depressing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  42. G.A.Phillips says:

    And where did you look up this magical number GA? Care to share your source with us?

    Dude, get on google, take you finger and poke these letters: h o w m a n y r e p u b l i c a n v o t e r s s t a y e d h o m e i n 2 0 1 2….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  43. G.A.Phillips says:

    What form are you referring to GA? Is there a new form of voting I’m unaware of?

    Write in? Scratched into the walls of their bedroom with a tin foil knife?Not showing up?Voting for Obama cause Paul did not get much respect?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  44. Davebo says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Thanks for the tip! I was right after all. I thought I smelt an odor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  45. bill says:

    @Surreal American: so fox news trumps the rest combined? how nice of you to say so, i assume you watch it while screaming at the tv?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  46. Rafer Janders says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Shorter G.A.: we would have totally won the election if so many of our own voters weren’t horrible bigots!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  47. PJ says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Dude, get on google, take you finger and poke these letters: h o w m a n y r e p u b l i c a n v o t e r s s t a y e d h o m e i n 2 0 1 2….

    I did. And it seems that Rush Limbaugh is the source of the “3 million Republicans stayed home” message. That’s one excellent source!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  48. Davebo says:

    @Tillman:

    America has always been in decline just as Iran has always been six months away from nuclear weapons.

    So, with that said. GET OFF MY LAWN!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  49. G.A.Phillips says:

    Shorter G.A.: we would have totally won the election if so many of our own voters weren’t horrible bigots!

    Some Christians can read the Bible and understand it, and take a stand on what is says. I call them idiots because the don’t vote and then cry about things still.I did not want to vote for a Mormon, but getting a guys that thinks he is a Christian is better then someone that lies about being one.

    I did. And it seems that Rush Limbaugh is the source of the “3 million Republicans stayed home” message. That’s one excellent source!

    Why yes he is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  50. OK, so it would seem that a) the media controls elections, and b) Obama really lost because four million Romney votes didn’t materialize.

    Do I have it straight?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  51. wr says:

    @G.A.Phillips: So in your mind people who can read and understand are idiots, and you’re the smart one. Got it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  52. Surreal American says:

    @bill:

    so fox news trumps the rest combined? how nice of you to say so, i assume you watch it while screaming at the tv?

    Actually is the wingnut faction that makes the assertion that Fox is triumphant over other media. Take it up with them.

    As for my viewing habits (since you asked): I don’t have cable or satellite. Nice try with your assumptions, but once again wingnut assertions fail the reality test.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  53. Paul Hooson says:

    Highly doubtful. This foreign policy issue doesn’t mean a great deal to most voters who merely recognize that the U.S. was a victim of terrorists and efforts to politicize this tragic event are probably more offensive to many voters than attractive. Possibly the issue may even lose a few more votes than attract a few votes. Romney lost by about 5 million votes and an electoral landslide. Both he and Ryan couldn’t even win their home states. Nothing much can change things when you lose an election that badly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  54. I’m extremely pleased to discover this web site. If you don’t mind Could I also share a suggestion. Fidning a sexy muscles Legal professional can also be dificult, in the event you live in Sourthern California and you desire a Personal sexy muscles nude man at love, mouse click my link.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0