Why Is Mitt Romney Campaigning So Little?

Mitt Romney's campaign schedule has been oddly light recently.

Stuck in the middle of a very long Politico article about Republican jitters about the state of Mitt Romney’s campaign is this insight from Senator Lindsay Graham: 

Even as they lament this latest unforced error from Romney, many in the party believe their candidate faces more fundamental challenges, including a dwindling number of days left before the election to make his case to swing-state voters.

Romney has not held a public event since Friday and spent much of Tuesday raising money in Utah and Texas.

“He needs to be talking about the economy and not in Utah,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “He’s not going to get beat because of money. He ought to be running in Ohio and Florida like he’s running for governor and running in Virginia like he’s running for sheriff.”

Now, obviously, Romney can’t be on the road every single day. There’s debate preparation that must be done, for one thing, and the reason that Romney was in Utah, and Texas, over the past two days is because he was there for fundraisers, which have become even more necessary in today’s high-dollar campaign world. Indeed, yesterday President Obama traveled to New York, a state he is likely to win by 15 points or more in November, for a fundraiser at the home of Jay-Z and Beyonce that netted some $6.4 million for the campaign. Even in these final seven weeks of the campaign, such events are necessary.

Additionally, while Romney himself hasn’t been out on the campaign trail very much in the past week, Paul Ryan most certainly has. By the end of this week, he will have been in Virginia twice and he’s also spent time in Florida and Ohio. That’s the advantage of having a running mate, you can send them out to do the rallies while the Presidential candidate is otherwise involved.

At the same time, though, Graham does have a point here. Although television ads are going to reach a lot more people, the candidate needs to be out on the road, especially in the states where the election will be decided. He needs to be gathering the crowds, getting the local press coverage, and speaking to local reporters. If you don’t ask people for their vote, they’re going to think you’re not all that interested in getting it.

Today, Mitt Romney finally returns to a swing state. He’ll be in Florida, where he’s participating in a forum co-hosted by Google and Univision, then he’ll appear at a rally in Miami’s Little Havana. Shouldn’t he be doing stuff like that nearly every day?

I’m not sure what the logic behind Romney’s current schedule could possibly be. Perhaps they want to make sure he’s really ready for the debate. Perhaps he really doesn’t like retail campaigning. Perhaps they don’t think he does very well on the stump. Whatever it is, though, I may just be a simple country lawyer, but it strikes me that if Romney wants to win this thing he needs to act like it and get out on the stump already.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. James Joyner says:

    Maybe he’s figured that every time he says something he loses two points in the polls?

  2. @James Joyner:

    You do have a point there.

    So what is going to do for the debates? A mime routine?

  3. Rob in CT says:

    Because he sucks at it?

    [bah, JJ beat me to it]

  4. David M says:

    @James Joyner:

    Maybe he’s figured that every time he says something he loses two points in the polls?

    You would think that by now they would come up with a device Romney could read off of, to make sure he stays on the approved message during his campaign speeches. That would be a cool invention.

  5. Brett says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually was something like that. Perhaps their polling/public opinion operation told them that Romney doesn’t connect with voters in person, and having him do retail events would result in minimal gains to his position in the polls.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    They’re following Andy Borowitz’s advice: having the candidate’s mouth wired shut.

  7. My guess is that he isn’t wearing well on the road, needs more rest.

    Which reminds me of another terrible, terrible, gaffe. The right answer to “Snooki(*) or Boo Boo” was “who?”

    I don’t want a President who can name a preference, let alone the one with lack of sense to voice one.

    * – I’ll have you know I had to Google the spelling.

  8. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    So what is going to do for the debates? A mime routine?

    Spme ideas for what Mitt can do:

    1. Pull his missing tax returns out from behind Obama’s ears.

    2. Bet Obama $10,000 that Obama can’t debate without using the words “the” and “and.”

    3. Yell “look over there! No, really, guys, I’m not kidding! Look right there, right behind you! Guys, come on, look, for real!” Then, when Obama and the audience all turn to look, duck down, hide behind the lectern, and stay there for several hours until everyone gets bored and leaves.

    4. Reveal details of his new Middle East peace plan.

    5. Demonstrate choreography for Rafalca’s new routine.

  9. Rafer Janders says:

    @Brett:

    Perhaps their polling/public opinion operation told them that Romney doesn’t connect with voters in person,

    Apart from that, he’s a great candidate.

  10. @john personna:

    To be fair, that Snooki thing happened during an appearance on Live with Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan (now there’s an odd couple if I ever heard of one), a pop culture show to begin with.

    But, yea, I agree with you. Moreover, I am absolutely convinced that Romney doesn’t actually have any idea who Snooki or Honey Boo Boo are, or at least that he’s never watch the shows they are on. His people knew that he’d face questions like that going into the appearance, so they fed him answers. The idea, apparently, is that admitting you are familiar with banal pop culture references makes you seem more like a regular guy.

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    Indeed, yesterday President Obama traveled to New York, a state he is likely to win by 15 points or more in November, for a fundraiser at the home of Jay-Z and Beyonce that netted some $6.4 million for the campaign.

    I was there, actually, and the sex party afterwards was OFF THE HOOK.

  12. Ron Beasley says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I am absolutely convinced that Romney doesn’t actually have any idea who Snooki or Honey Boo Boo are, or at least that he’s never watch the shows they are on.

    At last – something Romney and I have in common.

  13. DRS says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    But, yea, I agree with you. Moreover, I am absolutely convinced that Romney doesn’t actually have any idea who Snooki or Honey Boo Boo are, or at least that he’s never watch the shows they are on.

    Okay, so this is one nice thing we can say about Romney and say it sincerely.

  14. @Doug Mataconis:

    Mitt talked about Snooki’s pregnancy and subsequent weight loss! I never watch those shows and was tangentially aware of Snooki and her pregnancy via media buzz .. but to know all about it?

    I don’t believe that was a supplied answer. I think, as strange as it seems, Mitt is sitting there in a $2000 suite watching reality TV and thinking that is the 47%.

    Seriously.

  15. (In my sheltered life I may only think a good suite costs $2000. Drew may correct me.)

  16. Rafer Janders says:

    He’ll be in Florida, where he’s participating in a forum co-hosted by Google and Univision

    Univision? Oh. Oh no. Oh dear god no.

    This…this can’t end well.

  17. @Doug Mataconis:

    To pile on just a little bit more, I’m not sure it makes you look like “a regular guy.”

    Regular guys are watching Alaska Troopers.

  18. J-Dub says:

    Mittens has taken his ball and gone home. If we aren’t going to vote him to be team captain then he doesn’t want to play anymore.

  19. LCaution says:

    More and more Romney reminds me of Nixon. (If you are under 50, Google him).

  20. J-Dub says:

    @john personna: Mittens gets his shirts from Costco, didn’t you hear?

  21. Anderson says:

    So what is going to do for the debates? A mime routine?

    Something involving an empty chair that symbolizes President Obama, I predict.

  22. @J-Dub: lolz

  23. mattb says:

    Ok… leaving Snooki aside, I have to wonder if the fundraising and a few other factors are showing the limits of Super-Pacs in Presidential Politics.

    Fact #1 – Romney’s Campaign went into Debt in Mid August
    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/09/romney-reports-first-debt-of-campaign/

    Fact #2 – Obama leads in the ground game in most states
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/09/17/1127774/-Obama-vs-Romney-a-side-by-side-comparison-of-campaign-offices
    (note — I realize that this is from kos, ignore the commentary, look at the chart, which has been on a couple sites but I just can’t find them right now)

    The Republicans have led for a while in terms of SuperPAC funds. The problem is — if I understand things correctly — they cannot be used for much beyond advertising and advocacy. When it comes to running phone banks or GOTV efforts, that money needs to come from the campaign itself. (Please correct me if I’m wrong on this)

    Obama’s strategy to concentrate on building his candidate fund (which is more flexible in terms of spending) and developing the early ground game makes sense. Where as there is some feeling that swing states are quickly reaching the saturation max on campaign ads (and therefore there’s little more for Republican SuperPACs to do), actual on the ground networking (especially with early voting) can have a major effect on the race. And Romney may not have enough cash on hand to be effective in this area.

    Romney, on the other hand, needs to convince donors to ignore the last three weeks and continue to fund the campaign versus donating to PACs.

  24. J-Dub says:

    Mitt thinks fundraising is the point of campaigning. He’s not used to spending everything he brings in. He’s going to lose the election with a record amount of money in the bank.

  25. Jeremy R. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    So what is going to do for the debates? A mime routine?

    He can potentially do well, as long as he is caught completely off guard by an exchange and responds with some sort of flustered gaffe.

    One thing Romney was good at during the primary debates was demanding time and responses, and even when the moderators turned him down, taking it anyway (a couple of times leaving the moderate sputtering). He’d also break debate format & the opening ground rules and just start interrupting opponents mid-answer, peppering them with new questions, and breaking them out their ability to deliver their prepared talking points. Meanwhile, he was extremely good at segueing to his own prepared remarks (though he sometimes sounded like he was reading from a script). That may or may not work in the presidential debates — it depends on if the moderators are more resistant to being bullied.

  26. danimal says:

    My first thought was succinctly stated by JJ immediately. But, to elaborate a bit, Romney’s best chance has always been to be the “Not Obama” candidate. He needs to be generic and non-threatening enough that people feel comfortable with him as president, then let unhappiness with the past four years lead to a “throw the bums out” election. He already has the “look” of a president, but doesn’t sound like one when he opens his mouth. So, limiting the chances of going off-message is intentional.

    The physical demands of a presidential campaign have to be taking a toll, and when the body is tired, the mouth can really do some damage. I’m sure he’s getting more rest, having his message filtered through the campaign and tv ads as much as possible and hoping for an Obama gaffe or negative news cycle. It’s probably the best strategy he has at this point, and it’s potentially a successful one.

  27. Mr. Replica says:

    I think it is smart that Ryan is the one doing the most stump speaking. He has a lot more experience in campaigning successfully. Compared to Mitt who has only won one race in his political career. Ryan also knows how to connect with the voters a lot better than Mitt ever has/will.

    As much as Mitt thinks he is doing what will win him the Oval office, the fact of the matter is, he is more of a liability to himself than anyone else. Even when he thinks what he saying is what people want to hear, in reality, it usually brings even more criticism onto him than the week before.
    If the last few months show us anything, since Mitt won the primary, it’s that the more time Romney spends out in the limelight, the more people see him for what he is. Which is not what he wants at all.

    As far as the debates go…It may possible for Romney to turn the tables on Obama.
    However, if the past is any indicator as far as how Mitt will perform, then it’s more likely that he will just keep digging himself even deeper in that hole he has created for himself.

    I mean, all Obama has to do is get Mitt to act like Mitt. Uncomfortable laughter, lashing out to try and defend himself(another line like the infamous $10,000 bet), get him to admit that he will not offer specifics until he gets elected etc.

    What exactly does Mitt have on Obama that he hasn’t already used, that would put the president on the defensive so that Mitt can continue to rip him apart?
    And how long would Mitt be able to keep that going without over extending himself to the point in which it all boomerangs back at his face?

  28. Me Me Me says:

    Everyone who has ever had to care for someone with Alzheimer’s knows that even in the early stages – where Mitt clearly is – that the symptoms spiral out of control if the patient is not well rested.

  29. superdestroyer says:

    @James Joyner:

    Maybe he sees his election in the same light that he saw many of the failed business turn arounds he was involved end. Why put more resources into something that cannot succeed.

    Why is amazing is that some rich people are willing to still give Romney money for his election when he has zero chance of being elected.

    How has Sheldon Adelson become the richest Jew is America when it is obvious that he is wasting money so much money of irrelevant Republicans while trying to put one of them into office? How did so many of the rich Republicans get rich without being able to analyze data enough to see that Romney has no chance?

  30. Mark says:

    By comparison, how much campaigning has the President done or scheduled to do this week?

  31. David M says:

    @Mark:

    By comparison, how much campaigning has the President done or scheduled to do this week?

    I wasn’t able to see with a quick google search, but that would be useful info if anyone had the data to compare.

  32. Barry says:

    @Rafer Janders: ” Bet Obama $10,000 that Obama can’t debate without using the words “the” and “and.””

    Not a bad idea – Romney can afford to lost $10k without caring, and this way Obama wouldn’t beat him as badly 🙂

  33. PJ says:

    Mitt Romney was doing some Hispanic outreach today:

    At a Univision candidate forum in Florida Wednesday, Mitt Romney squirmed under a barrage of questions on his immigration policy, mostly sticking to his conservative positions. He even used the hot-button term “illegal aliens” to describe children brought to the the United States illegally by their parents.

    I think that answers the question.

  34. PJ says:

    @Mark:

    By comparison, how much campaigning has the President done or scheduled to do this week?

    Obama is President so I guess he has other things to do.
    Romney on the other hand hasn’t done anything but run for President for something like the last six years?
    Shouldn’t he be a master campaigner by now?

  35. An Interested Party says:

    The idea, apparently, is that admitting you are familiar with banal pop culture references makes you seem more like a regular guy.

    Not even a lobotomy would make Romney seem more like a regular guy…

  36. al-Ameda says:

    “He needs to be talking about the economy and not in Utah,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “He’s not going to get beat because of money. He ought to be running in Ohio and Florida like he’s running for governor and running in Virginia like he’s running for sheriff.”

    Good advice, except that the economy seems to be improving as we move toward November.

    Romney simply does not present himself well, and I think that Paul Ryan was supposed to be part of the solution there – a supposedly dynamic presence who could sell the Romney (make that, “Ryan”) plan.

  37. plaidjammies says:

    He’s a man accustomed to everyone hanging on his every last word, laughing in the appropriate places, etc., as reflected in the leaked video. No one denies him anything he wants, doors are opened immediately as he approaches. And now?…probably for the first time in his pretentious and privileged life, he’s nothing more than a pile of protoplasm, without form or substance…shocked and horrified that he needs more than money to get what he wants, that this door isn’t going to magically open for him. I doubt that anyone has every told him “No.” and he’s at a complete loss. He’s having one of those Palin meltdowns.

  38. plaidjammies says:

    @Doug Mataconis: And he’s just inept enough to do it in blackface.

  39. gVOR08 says:

    @Jeremy R.: Romney did do well during the primary debates. I didn’t watch much of them, but from what I did see and read afterward, it looked like the other candidates were often taking it a little easy on Mitt, avoiding burning bridges with the probable nominee. Obama may be a different story.