The Daily Beast has done a fascinating write up of a talk given by David Axelrod, President Obama's chief re-election strategist, on the serious missteps made by the Romney team:
Offering a lengthy dissection of the campaign, David Axelrod told a Chicago audience that he was “a bit surprised that super PACS which spent an unbelievable amount of money” didn’t hit television and radio with anti-Obama ads until May.
“Our air defenses weren’t ready,” he said, alluding to his side’s early lack of resources. “They gave us a pass, for whatever reason.”
At the same time, he was surprised that a plausible, distinctly positive image of Romney as successful businessman was not central to Romney’s media strategy until late fall. In part he ascribed that to Romney’s “Faustian bargain” to get the Republican nomination and tacking far to the right while also unleashing a barrage of mostly negative ads against GOP primary rivals.
The Obama camp assumed that after Romney sewed up the nomination, he would offer that more upbeat aura in his ads. “They never did that,” Axelrod said at the evening gathering at the University of Chicago.
As for Ryan, Axelrod personally figured former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty would be the choice, possibly Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. His doubts about Ryan were a function of tough-minded views on privatizing Social Security and making significant changes in Medicare.
Axelrod's assessment is obviously more informed than mine, but I don't think the strategic errors played the biggest part in Romney's downfall. Romney's campaign, right up until the first Presidential debate, was nothing short of disastrous mostly because they had a disastrous candidate; Mitt Romney. At literally every high profile event, Romney would put his foot in it and say something to disconnect himself from the general public. Time and time again he revealed himself to be an out of touch multi millionaire with no concept of how most people in America lived, culminating in the release of the '47%' video that should have ended his campaign once and for all.
Then an inexplicable meltdown from the President and a reasonably human performance from Romney on debate night propelled him back into the running, giving him a realistic shot at the Presidency that he did not deserve. Of course Romney's team made strategic errors, but it probably would not have made a difference. A bad candidate is a bad candidate, and Romney will go down as one of the worst in Republican history.
No amount of negative campaigning could have countered that.