Post-Mortems For The Campaigns Of The Failed 2008 GOP Contenders For The Presidency

Candidate: Sam Brownback
Campaign Failed Because Of: Inherent flaws of the candidate

Rundown: Sam Brownback was a little squishy on illegal immigration, a little soft on the war, and didn’t have a lot of charisma. Additionally, for reasons that are hard to fathom given that he was never in the top tier, his campaign spent a lot of time going negative. Despite the fact that Brownback was a solid social conservative, he was doomed from the moment he got in the race.

Candidate: James Gilmore
Campaign Failed Because Of: Inherent flaws of the candidate

Rundown: He seemed like a nice enough fellow, he’s plenty conservative, and he should be wished well in his attempt to pull in a Senate seat in VA, but he was out of his depth running for President of the United States.

Candidate: Rudy Giuliani
Campaign Failed Because Of: Inherent flaws of the candidate

Rundown: A lot of people have panned Rudy’s campaign strategy, which seemed to consist of abandoning the early states to the other candidates and hunkering down in Florida. However, what people are missing is that Rudy settled for that strategy out of necessity, not choice.

In early December, once conservatives voters started taking a harder look at Rudy, they noted that he was a pro-abortion moderate, who had an enormous amount of baggage, and an act that was rapidly getting stale. Within a few weeks, Rudy’s national numbers and his numbers in the early states just collapsed, which sent him scampering off to Florida.

Candidate: Mike Huckabee
Campaign Failed Because Of: Inherent flaws of the candidate/Campaign strategy

Rundown: Mike Huckabee ran a shoestring campaign that caught fire based on the strength of his personality, but a lot of issues kept him from taking off.

A) He had more baggage than most people realized.
B) He went too heavy on the religious rhetoric.
C) He made a lot of small gaffes and came off as unprepared on foreign policy.
D) His campaign did a poor job of reaching out to the new media, which is part of the reason he was savaged so heavily by talk radio and the blogs.
E) He was rhetorically careless with populist rhetoric that rubbed conservatives the wrong way.

Had Huck run a little different, a little more careful campaign, he would have had a genuine chance to capture the nomination. Also, even if he’s not chosen as the VEEP, if he spends the next 4 years burnishing his conservative credentials and carefully planning out another run, it’s easy to see his being a strong contender in 2012.

Candidate: Duncan Hunter
Campaign Failed Because Of: Campaign strategy

Rundown: My former employer looked good on paper. He had a lot of experience, served in the military, had a son who had fought in Iraq, a great ACU rating, and a lot of credibility on illegal immigration.

However, he also had low name recognition and was, by necessity, running a shoestring campaign similar to Mike Huckabee’s. Huckabee broke out on the sheer force of his personality while Duncan never took off anywhere except in the blogosphere. Why? Well, Duncan had enough personality to be President, but he didn’t have as much charisma as Huckabee. So, I think the campaign needed to take a lot more early risks to attempt to draw people’s attention to Duncan. Without a burst to put him on the map before Fred Thompson started sucking up all the oxygen, he just wasn’t able to break out of the pack despite being a very strong candidate in many ways.

Candidate: Alan Keyes
Campaign Failed Because Of: Inherent flaws of the candidate

Rundown: After running one of the worst campaigns anyone had ever seen against Barack Obama for the Senate in Illinois, Keyes had no business running for President. Then, he got in late and turned in two utterly ridiculous debate performances that probably permanently damaged his reputation.

Candidate: Ron Paul
Campaign Failed Because Of: Inherent flaws of the candidate

Rundown: Paul’s anti-war stance, catering to conspiracy theories, ranting about neocons, monetary policy, and empire along with his hardcore Libertarian stance won him a small cadre of diehard fans who poured money into his campaign, but it also turned off the vast majority of Republicans which kept him from getting more than a small slice of the electorate.

Candidate: Mitt Romney
Campaign Failed Because Of: Inherent flaws of the candidate

Rundown: Mitt Romney ran an excellent campaign and the primary season seemed to be tailor made for him. He was governor of the state next door to New Hampshire, his father was governor of Michigan, a large Mormon contingent in Nevada guaranteed him a win there, and his fundraising prowess and ability to self-finance meant that he had plenty of money to work with.

So, what happened? Mitt’s biggest problem was that he was running as the “conservative candidate” in the race, even though his record wasn’t — as you’d expect for a Republican running for office in Massachusetts — particularly conservative. Keep in mind, we’re talking about a guy who made the Human Events list of the top 10 biggest RINOs in the country in late December of 2005, but he was running as a Reagan conservative in 2007. This led people to believe, quite accurately I’m afraid, that he would say absolutely anything to be elected. Adding to that problem, especially in the South, was the fact that he is a Mormon, which is a small, very unpopular religion. That’s how a candidate who had every advantage in the primaries managed to lose anyway.

Candidate: Tom Tancredo
Campaign Failed Because Of: Campaign strategy/inherent flaws of the candidate

Rundown: Despite the fact that he had an extremely conservative record and a fan following, Tancredo wasn’t really running a serious campaign for the presidency. To the contrary, he was just trying to focus attention on the illegal immigration issue — and it showed.

Tanc focused maniacally on the illegal immigration, even though he had a good record on other issues conservatives carry about. Of course, even if he had been running a better campaign, he was a little bit too much of a loose cannon to have a serious chance to win (Examples: Talking about bombing Mecca and referring to Miami as a Third World City).

Candidate: Fred Thompson
Campaign Failed Because Of: Campaign strategy

Rundown: Fred was drafted to run for President and was riding an enormous swell of grassroots enthusiasm. He was raising money and he had the conservative grassroots eating out of his hand, but he just plain old got in the race too late.

Had he gotten in on July 4th, instead of in early September, he would have won the third quarter fundraising and that money would have come in handy later on. Also, it took him about a month to get up to speed and had he gotten in earlier instead of in September, when the microscope was on him, all the minor mistakes he made wouldn’t have hurt him as much and fewer conservatives would have already selected candidates to back. Then there’s the fact that he just didn’t have enough time or money in the end to properly campaign in the early states and ended up bypassing New Hampshire and Michigan to camp out in South Carolina.

Additionally, Fred’s campaign had a lot of turnover, was poorly organized at times, and the man himself, although he did well in the debates and showed a lot of fire, also came across at times like he would rather be back on Law and Order instead of running for President.

Candidate: Tommy Thompson
Campaign Failed Because Of: Inherent flaws of the candidate

Rundown: See the description of James Gilmore. Thompson is from Wisconsin, not Virginia, but everything else applies.

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