I’m previewing excerpts from my upcoming book Why Romney Won : The [Fictional] True Story of the Campaign That Should Have Been. It’s part alternative history, part political messaging manifesto. Permission granted to reprint this excerpt.
In the first excerpt we learned how Mitt Romney lost all this major campaign staff just after clinching the nomination. An ‘open call’ for Romney advisors is held at a Maryland hotel. Every Republican with any campaign experience shows up and makes a quick pitch. At the end of the meeting, a rumpled old man stands up…
“MY NAME IS Lystander McRae. You can call me Ly and that’s easy to remember because as you’re about to find out, I don’t lie.”
The man grinned and looked around, obviously hoping for an encouraging smile. He saw a crowd staring at their feet and ignoring him. He pressed on.
“I’m an ad man. A copywriter specifically. You’ve never heard of me but I can assure you that every single one of you has read or heard my work. I’m about to turn sixty and I’ve been in the ad game for over forty years. I’ve written television ads that played during the Superbowl, magazine ads for about fifty companries in the Fortune 500 and long direct mail ads that appeared in the back of popular men’s magazines. I’ve sold billions of dollars worth of products.”
One consultant sighed and looked up at McRae.
“Okay, so you can sell soda pop and tissue paper and whatever you were selling in the back of men’s magazines. Any experience in politics?”
McRae squinted at the consultant for a long second and then twisted his face into a grin. McRae wasn’t a good looking man and it didn’t seem like he had much experience grinning.
“That’s a good question. Damn good. And no, I have never worked in politics. Not once in forty years.”
* * * * * * *
He suddently lept up and was standing on a folding chair. The Secret Service agents stepped forward, unsure if they had a situation or not. McRae teetered for a second as the chair buckled a little then caught his balance. He cleared his throat and spoke in a loud, clear voice.
“Mitt Romney is going to lose this election.”
The place suddenly sounded like a snake pit. Hisses all around.[pullquote align=”left”]If you want to win, you aren’t going to be able to run a politics as usual campaign. If you play it paint-by-numbers, you’re going to lose.[/pullquote]“I’ll say it again because I’m apparently the only one in here with either guts or common sense to say it out loud but Mitt Romney is going to lose this election and Barack Obama is going to be swept into a second term in office.”
The hisses turned to outright booing. McRae raised his hand.
“You can hate me for telling you the truth selling is my business. I know a failure when I see it coming and you are in for a disaster. A historic loss. Worst of all, you’re going to keep kidding yourselves right up to the election night about your chances for winning.
* * * * * * *
“Now, tell me…we’ve got a roomful of Republican political geniuses here. What’s your plan to get even 5% more the black vote than you got in 2012? I’m not crazy and I’m not unrealistic. Well, at least I’m not unrealistic. You’re not going to win the black vote. You won’t come close. That’s reality but what is your plan for getting even a little bit more of it?”
He looked around the room. Everyone went back to looking at the floor.[pullquote align=”right”]If this were a Twilight Zone episode, they would have wished him into a corn field.[/pullquote]“Okay, how about the Latino vote? Someone tell me your plan for getting ten more points of that? How about union voters? How are you going to win states like Ohio or Wisconsin without either getting more union voters or neutralizing the union vote for Obama in some way? Any of you have an answer for that? No? Here’s the big one and I know you don’t have an answer for this, either. You’re going to lose women. You’re going to lose big with women and for no good reason. Someone tell me I’m wrong.”
The room silenty seethed.
“So, I’m standing here in June. The election is five months away. Five months and you’re just giving up ob the black, Latino, women and union votes? Oh, and the youth vote. Who needs them? Not you, obviously. No plan at all to tip the scales in your direction in any of those demographics, right?”
The crowd of professional politics operatives weren’t just ignoring McRae now. They clearly hated his guts. If this were a Twilight Zone episode, they would have wished him into a corn field.
“If you want to win, you aren’t going to be able to run a politics as usual campaign. If you play it paint-by-numbers, you’re going to lose. Losing means four more years of Obama, remember. Five months isn’t that long to fix things but it’s possible to win. Possible, I said, because frankly most Americans aren’t really paying all that much attention yet.”
McRae took a long look around the room.
“But it’s still unlikely because it’s going to mean this campaign sobering up just as quickly as I did on September eleventh. And frankly, you’re not going to do it. I’m done enough pitch meetings in my day to know when people aren’t buying what I’m selling. I don’t need to waste my breath. You are going to lose this election. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
McRae hopped down off the chair, grabbed his portfolio and headed for the exits. Nobody was sad to see him go. The entire room started to breathe again.
McRae’s hand from on the door when a voice called out from the back of the room.
“Wait one minute.”
Everyone turned. It was Mitt Romney speaking.