Monday, May 7, 2012

Why Mitt Romney's Worried About Nevada

(Also at DK Elections)

So "The Revolution" succeeded... Even though it still didn't. But even though Mitt Romney may be guaranteed 20 of 28 Nevada Republican delegates on paper, his campaign has still been shaken. Why? Look who has the energy and the passion.

This is what Ralston talked about in his column yesterday.

The RNC, represented at the Nugget and watching the Paul folks dominate similar conventions across the country, would prefer an uneventful (read: choreographed) national convention where Paul delegates don’t boo Mitt Romney as he accepts the nomination or start a resolution revolution from the floor. Similarly, they were hoping for a relatively sedate Nevada Republican Party event this weekend, with the Paul folks leaving happy and the Romney contingent fairly represented on the national delegate slate (3 of 25!).

Instead what transpired Saturday was a microcosm of the war for the soul of the Republican Party, with orange-capped Romney captains patrolling the convention floor, motivated by a desire to keep the sheep in line, while more colorfully dressed Paul delegates destabilized the convention, animated by either a love of liberty or a love of black helicopters (hard to tell percentages.).

Considering how close the election is foretold to be here and in the country, though, what the Paul folks do come November is critical to Romney’s fortunes. And that is the delicate waltz the Romney National Committee is confronted with, one that it executed with two left feet with two letters threatening not to seat the entire Nevada delegation if the Paul folks didn’t play ball. (Net impact: Zero.)

The Paul folks want to “change the party from within,” as I heard so many of them say – while Team Romney and its RNC allies want to do what Al Davis always urged: Just win, baby.

It is the bloodless mind of the GOP vs. the passionate heart that wants to beat loudly in Tampa. And over at Obama for America, they are smiling that despite the economy and the president’s numbers, knowing that at this rate, the Republicans might just beat themselves.

This is the dilemma that Romney's campaign and the RNC are facing, and the dilemma that they don't want the media to focus on. After all, it's quite embarrassing. For someone who's supposed to be "the presumptive Republican nominee", Romney still can't lock down his own base.

Now yes, we've become used to DC pundits telling us that Republicans are coalescing behind Romney and are enthusiastic about beating Obama. Yet while the Republican base does vehemently hate President Obama, and while much of that base has drifted to Romney in the last month, the view inside the GOP isn't really as rosy and peachy as those DC pundits think.

I definitely don't think it's an accident that President Obama has been on the rebound here in Nevada. However, there's more to this story than just the polls. Really, OFA has been active in the field since last summer. And Nevada Democrats are preparing to ramp up the field campaign for the entire ticket once the primary is over. When local pundits like Jon Ralston describe the Democratic Party's ground game as a "well oiled machine", they mean it. Just talk to Harry Reid about it.

Still, Democrats are not taking this election for granted. That's why we're seeing more field activity along with more media ad buys. After all, Barack Obama is not the only Democrat on our ballot. We also have an(other) US Senate race and two key US House races that may tip the balance of power on Capitol Hill. And on top of that, there's even more action down the ballot. And since elections are still won or lost in the field, that's where Democrats are doubling down.

And this is why so many Nevada Republican insiders are panicking. As this past weekend's display of unbridled insanity shows, the rank and file have still not coalesced behind Romney. Even if most of them eventually do by the summer, that's time and energy wasted on "the base" that should otherwise be spent corraling "the base" into working the field.

And even worse, Romney couldn't even count all the folks in John Ascuaga's Nugget this past weekend as his base! Even now, the bulk of Ron Paul's supporters refuse to endorse Romney... Even in the general election. And now that some of Ron Paul's biggest supporters are taking control of the Nevada Republican Party, big donors are threatening to bolt. And while that likely means money that would have gone to the Nevada GOP is instead being directed to pro-Romney SuperPACs, that still means money that can't be invested in the kind of GOTV (or "get out the vote") operation that Romney, along with down ballot GOP candidates, will need to win.

And since Ron Paul's campaign is still hellbent on causing even more trouble on the road to Tampa, it's denying Romney the chance to fully unite the base and redirect them from the primary fight to the general election. This is why Romney is in more trouble than some of the national polls suggest. With OFA building a strong field operation here in Nevada and throughout the country, Romney simply has no ground game to competently compete. And Ron Paul supporters are intent on keeping it that way.

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