To: Interested Parties
From: Jim Messina, Campaign Manager
Re: Romney’s Primary Consequences
As Mitt Romney moves through the Republican primaries, he finds himself in an increasingly weak position among every category of voter critical for a Republican to win the general election.
Romney’s dodging on his tax returns and ever-evolving explanation of his job creation record at Bain has cost him 10 points among independents and 12 among moderates in just the last eight weeks. More voters in both groups now have an unfavorable opinion of him than a favorable one.
Even Republican voters are increasingly skeptical and opposed to the prospect of Mitt Romney becoming their nominee. His lack of core not only hurts him with independents and moderates, but also with the Republican base. He came into South Carolina with a double-digit lead, and came out with a double-digit loss.
The bottom line is this: the more voters learn about Romney, the more unfavorably they view him.
What We Learned from South Carolina
In a strong rebuff of what he calls his chief qualification for office, Romney lost among voters whose top priority is the economy. And in another ominous sign for his general-election prospects, he continues to lose among independents, the middle class, women and young voters, among whom he came in last place.
Romney is now 0-for-3 among independents. But South Carolina’s rejection stands out: it was the first vote in a state where the unemployment rate is higher than the national average, but voters rejected Romney’s profit-at-any-cost record of cutting jobs, wages and benefits while making millions for himself and his Wall Street partners.
He doesn’t fare much better among conservatives, either. Among those who rated a candidate’s conservatism as the most important factor in their vote, Romney lost by a stunning 38 percent to 2 percent. Little more than a third of Republican voters say they are “enthusiastic” about Romney’s candidacy, and 12 percent wouldn’t support their own party’s nominee if it is Romney.
And while Romney has signaled that he will make moral character a key issue in Florida, it’s unlikely to help him: he’s lost who care most about strong character. What’s clear is that Republican base voters are having trouble trusting Romney, who has taken both sides of too many issues.
Romney also continues to lose the middle class. On Saturday he lost every income group except one: those who make more than $200,000 a year. Given Romney’s proposal to give $146,000 a year to families making more than $1 million but cut middle-class taxes by just $138 a family, his support among the wealthiest is not surprising.
One reason for Romney’s quick collapse in South Carolina could be his dodging on whether he’ll release his tax returns. In the days following the debate in which he bobbed and weaved on whether he’ll release the returns and then, he sank 22 points in just four days in South Carolina and by 15 points nationally.
Romney has simply been unable to connect with the voters he would need to win in November. If he recovers from his loss in South Carolina to eventually secure the GOP nomination, he will have one of the lowest favorability ratings among nominees in recent memory, and will be the first nominee in years with a negative rating that outpaces his positives.
What We Could See in Florida
The Holes in Romney’s Bain “Job Creation” Record: In South Carolina, a heavily conservative state, more than a quarter of voters had a negative view of Romney’s record at Bain Capital – which he has made his central argument for the nomination. He lost those voters to Newt Gingrich by 47 points. So it’s clear that Democrats and independents aren’t the only ones who find Romney’s corporate record at Bain objectionable, which will present problems for him as he continues to move through the primary process.
In Florida, things won’t get any better. At Bain, Romney invested in Dade Behring, a profitable medical-equipment company, ran it into the ground, and caused 850 workers in Miami to lose their jobs. Twice as many lost their jobs across the nation. For most investors, that would count as a devastating failure. For Romney, it was a rousing success: at their direction, the company borrowed nearly $250 million and distributed it to Bain and its Wall Street partners. While Romney and his Bain partners made millions, the company went into bankruptcy.
On Tuesday, Romney will release his 2010 tax returns, and partially release his yet-to-be filed 2011 returns. This not only defies precedent for presidential candidates – his father released 12 years of returns, President Bush released returns back to 1991, and President Obama released eight years of tax returns during the 2008 campaign – but it further weakens the central premise of his candidacy. If Romney believes his Bain experience uniquely qualifies him to be president, then why won’t he allow the public to review his returns from his years at Bain? These returns are needed to answer questions like the extent to which he benefited from the “carried interest” tax loophole for Wall Street investors. In the last two weeks, he’s changed his position from claiming that the law didn’t require him to release them, to saying he “maybe” will release them in April, and now to releasing just one full year of returns. What is he hiding?
Romney’s Problem with Independents: Romney will have a difficult time improving his numbers among Florida’s independents and middle class voters.
This morning Romney is holding a roundtable on housing issues to get the attention of the 44 percent of Florida homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages. But after the Wall Street crisis that collapsed the housing market and cost so many Floridians their homes, Romney has said that the foreclosure process should actually be expedited so it can “hit the bottom.” Instead of providing relief for responsible homeowners to help them save their homes, Romney has said it is better that investors come in and buy up the properties after foreclosure. In fact, not one of the 59 points in his economic plan addresses the housing crisis. And his lack of interest in helping homeowners is reflected in his record in Massachusetts, where foreclosures skyrocketed on his watch, increasing every year he was governor.
Romney’s Problem with Seniors: In a state with 3 million seniors, Romney’s positions on Medicare and Social Security will present problems. His support for the Congressional Republican plan to end Medicare as we know it will come as unwelcome news to those Americans who have worked hard, contributed to Medicare for decades, and earned their benefits. Instead of strengthening the program, he proposed privatizing Medicare with vouchers, a plan that would leave traditional Medicare to wither on the vine and force seniors to negotiate with their insurance companies for their coverage and the care they receive. It would also increase costs for seniors, who would lose the protection they have paid into and earned through a lifetime of hard work.
And his Social Security plan cuts benefits for Florida’s seniors. By means testing the program and raising the eligibility age, he would cut benefits for current workers by as much as 40 percent. He previously supported privatizing the program, which would have decimated seniors’ savings in the Wall Street recession.
Romney promises to repeal President Obama’s landmark health reforms, which is closing the prescription-drug doughnut hole for 3.4 million Medicare beneficiaries in Florida. The law also has helped 172,000 seniors save nearly $100 million on their prescription drugs, 1.7 million seniors have gotten free preventive care thanks to health reform, and it will save the average Medicare beneficiary $3,500 over the next decade.
Romney’s Problem with Hispanics: Finally, Romney’s immigration position, which would be the most extreme of any nominee in recent history, will hurt him with Hispanic voters. He derided as a “handout” the DREAM Act, which lets responsible young immigrants who came here as children through no fault of their own earn citizenship by serving in our military or studying toward a college degree. It’s a bipartisan bill that more than 90 percent of Hispanics support – but Romney has vowed to veto it. Romney also kicking immigrants out of America – even families who’ve lived here for a generation, raised children and grandchildren here, paid their taxes, obeyed the law, are members of their churches and communities, and even serve in the military.
Voters are looking for someone they can trust, who shares their vision for a level playing field for everyone from Wall Street to Main Street, where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded. The more they learn about Mitt Romney, the more they realize he is not that person.
This week Florida’s voters will meet a candidate with no core values who believes he’s entitled to play by a different set of rules. Like their predecessors in the other early states, they will see a career politician willing to say and stand for anything to get elected and is out of touch with working and middle-class Americans.
Mitt Romney prides himself on being a great businessman. But the American people aren’t buying what he’s selling.