Hardball | February 06, 2013
>>> may have just seen president obama inaugurated a second time. here at "hardball" we're reminiscing about the 2012 election campaign whether it was the carpet bombing of newt gingrich and the iowa airwaves or romney 's 47% comments i think cost him the election. or the debate that didn't cost president obama the election. our own chuck todd got the inside scoop from campaign operatives of both sides who shared the uh-oh moments. they had a different word for it. let's start with the republican primaries . top romney advisers described the points at which they thought uh-oh. here it is.
>> the oh s moment for my was south carolina . it put newt in the drivers seat for a period of time and forced us to go into florida.
>> there were some big states that cost a lot of money to put up on tv. there were moments in the campaign where we took our bank down close to zero.
>> the night that we lost denver or colorado, minnesota, and missouri. because it was just totally oh s. another month of this really?
>> losing michigan would not have been a positive experience. we went into an expensive state. and it was a state that had a lot of symbolic ghosts. and it was really hand to hand .
>> here we are to walk down memory lane with us joan walsh . salon's editor at large. and msnbc political analyst crawly. let's go to joan . this is joy through others' tragedy. everybody loves that. here you have a butterfly collection. flattened out butterflies of things that went wrong. i have to be reminded here the first sign that romney wasn't such a great candidate for president was he was losing consistency to people like newt gingrich and rick santorum who know one would have ever thought of running for president. and still could never get into their heads they could imagine them as president. yet republican primary and caucus voters were choosing them rather than this good looking guy with credentials. something must have been wrong with him.
>> right. watching his advisers it's like they never registered that. like you said they carpet bombed newt. the fact that newt came back and hit them hard.
>> like freddy krueger .
>> right. came back like freddy krueger like he always does seemingly. but newt and rick perry did unveil the bain attacks. they did romney 's work on one hand, but there was a way to say perry and gingrich isn't going to win. but they are both revealing something disturbing about your candidate and we better get a story ready. we better figure out how to counter that. they never figured out how to counter it until election day .
>> one winning strategy for the obama campaign , an uh-oh moment for team romney was to define romney early when he was in primary mode. while the romney campaign was raising tons of cash in the late spring and early summer , they were legally barred from using it until the general elections . obama going after romney , romney unable to respond because of election law .
>> during this period we were raising a lot of money, but it wasn't all money that we could immediately send out the door.
>> the donors would call saying why aren't you on tv? i was saying let me explain what money we can use. very frustrating to us.
>> one of the biggest decisions we made was to bet on the front end of the campaign. in the month of october, ads mean much less because there's so much coverage. debates are so dominant. and that we had an imperative which was to define the race and frankly to define mitt romney before the conventions. and that, you know, it was better to -- it was a hilarious proposition to bet on a -- take money out of september and october, put it into may, june, and july. so the other big thing that happened in june was we started running ads about mitt romney .
>> so one thing, michael, it's one thing to say you spent a lot of money and time in the beginning defining he was a rich guy not caring about people. then to come along completing the alley-oop with the 47% comment.
>> he said too much has been made of the idea that the obama campaign was hitting rearview mirror in the spring and summer. that the numbers were actually pretty stable. but i think what they did was they kind of set up as you say, they kind of dug a trap that he ended up walking into. so did they decide the race? did they crush and destroy romney in that interrag numb before he was able to spend his own money because of campaign finance restrictions? no. they didn't completely destroy him. what they did was they set him up.
>> the alley-oop play. that's when one of the players throws the ball up high over the net and the tall guy at the post, he jumps up in the air and stuffs that baby down and makes sure everybody sees. it's great. who can forget that first debate? that's one you and i can't forget in denver , joan . he stunned his supporters and gave me a disaster in my brain. let's look at mitt romney . he might have made a lot of obama supporters say uh-oh. it didn't hurt his poll numbers though according to jim messina . the first debate apparently didn't register heavily in the polling. let's take a look.
>> it changed the structure of the race. and we saw that our polling. people who may have closed their mind to governor romney suddenly reopened it. and it made for a much better october than september. because in september we were dealing with the fallout. from the 47% video.
>> what we saw in our internal numbers was they got back what they lost from the 47%. we never went behind. we never went down less than -- never went -- our lead never shrunk less than two and a half points. we were pretty sure we were okay the entire time.
>> joan and michael, it's a key question. i didn't know this. i thought obama had dropped below after that bad performance. is that your reading? he never really lost the lead even though he had a bomb of a night in denver ?
>> i'm not going to call john a liar. the polls i looked at it in the swing states , he did fall behind. when you're within the margin of error, you have a lot of anxious people. i think lots of national democrats and local democrats are going to say we probably spent a lot of money and a lot of energy that we would have spent on, you know, house races or senate races. he took a beating in the polls. maybe didn't fall under.
>> but i think he's wrong and you're right. i'm right. i think it almost killed him. one more night like that, he would have lost the race. thank you michael crowley from time magazine and joan walsh from salon.
>>> turning to the far right to find candidates for the senate. this time it's paul broun the guy who called evolution a lie from the pit of hell. he's running in georgia, probably win down there. that's good for the ds. this is "hardball," the place for politics. are probably