Karl Rove on Romney's Big Tactical Mistakes

Karl Rove was at the Aspen Ideas Festival Thursday and described the two big tactical mistakes Romney made that, in Rove’s view, cost him the election.

The Atlantic‘s Garance Franke-Ruta has a piece recounting the conversation between Rove and Atlantic Editor in Chief James Bennett. Rove says the Obama administration took a gamble that they could not win the election on a positive message about the economy or the President’s first term achievements. Instead the re-election came down to “a grand bet: We have to take a fifth of our campaign, almost 200 million dollars, and go irradiate Mitt Romney.”

Though not mentioned specifically, Rove seems to be referring to some of the more vicious attacks on Romney’s record which included claims that Bain Capital was akin to “vampire” capitalism and that Romney was complicit in the death of a woman whose husband lost his job at a steel mill. [The ad was produced by an outside group but the campaign had posted the same information on a website and refused to disavow it.]

“I think this is one of the critical moments because Romney needed to defend Bain Capital” Rove said. And his own outside group put $9 million into ads defending Romney in battleground states. Rove says it was an attempt to “signal to the Romney campaign, if you want to engage on this, you lead, we’ll follow.” Federal law prevents outside groups from coordinating directly with campaigns but the message Rove’s group got back, in the form of statements the Romney campaign made to the media, was that they weren’t concerned about attacks on Bain.

The other turning point, in Rove’s view, was the failure to highlight people who knew Romney personally during prime time slots at the convention. Rove believes the decision to feature Clint Eastwood instead of these personal testimonies was a missed opportunity. Rove summed it up this way, “The problem is when you run for president the American people want to
know who you are inside and Romney didn’t share who he was inside.”