The following memo is being circulated via email among Romney supporters. (I happen to know the authors, Scott and Becky Vanatter of Fairfax, Virginia. Top notch people.) I though it might spark some interesting debate. Incidentally, I’d love to see similar documents on Rudy, Fred and Huck.

Five M’s: Why Romney Failed to Win (This Time)

A couple days after Romney dropped out of the race my wife Becky looked over to me and said, “Three things kept Romney from getting the nomination: message, manner, and Mormonism. Three M’s.” Later that night two other M’s popped into her mind.

What follows is our view of what went wrong with Romney’s (first) campaign to lead our country as president.

The Five M’s:
1. Message
2. Manner
3. Mormonism
4. Metrics
5. Management


Romney did not craft a compelling way to relate his impressive back-story, as an accomplished leader in several areas — business, sports, and politics. (In another time, or if he was a member of another church, one might have been able to add ‘religious leader’ to the list.)

He seemed to resort too often to simply listing his basic accomplishments, “I was a successful businessman, then I saved the Olympics, then I was a successful (one-term) governor, and now I am running for president.”

Important and impressive as his background is, he needed to translate these successes into a better overarching story – and one peppered with personal stories of how what he did as governor impacted the lives of people in his state; how leading the Olympics gave him international experience; how he was a uniter of nations, not a divider.

When he did speak to the issues he staked out the toughest – and seemingly harsh and simplistic — positions of any of the candidates.

Campaigning is more art than science. Romney may have missed on the science of what to say; and he didn’t hit his stride on how to say it all till too late.


Romney took too long to develop a comfortable manner or style of speaking; even then it still tended toward MBA-speak. This professional MBA-style, no matter how accomplished and desirable it may be in actually getting important things done, is not a positive thing in an Oprah-dominated world where Bill Clinton and even Bush 43 feel our pain.


Addressing Mormonism earlier in the campaign might have helped or may not have made a difference, but of the various problems his campaign failed to overcome, Mormonism was probably the least deadly.

Many evangelical voters didn’t so much fear the political policies or accomplishments of a Romney presidency, but rather did not want to give Mormon missionaries that much more of an advantage.


Not only was Romney’s manner sometimes too impersonal, but his natural tendency to use and rely on ‘metrics’ (stats, lists, citations, etc.) worked against him connecting with voters. Numbers, and even lists of accomplishments, paint only part of a picture — and they lack the human side.

One example of this missed opportunity happened in an ‘Ask Mitt Anything’ forum. A young boy who suffered from autism asked Mitt a question. Romney addressed the metrics of how much money was being spent by NIH, then pivoted into his policy on Stem Cell research. One can imagine Bill Clinton or Bush 43 first hugging the boy, commenting on how challenging it must be to in their shoes, and then going on to a formal answer which might have included a few statistics.

Numbers paint part of the picture, but by themselves they lack the human side. Romney is a numbers guy, and needs to transcend his tendency to rely on numbers.


In every unsuccessful run for office the case can be made that the campaign management team failed their candidate. This truism obtains by default. One could argue Romney’s top campaign managers were ill-advising him on what to say and how to say it.

This aspect of management was supposed to be where Romney shined most — attracting very talented people and managing them to success.


Losing one’s first run for the presidency need not be a deal killer for future campaigns. Time will tell whether this 2008 campaign was Romney’s political high-water mark, or just the beginning of something great. If he learns hard lessons from this first campaign — and also does productive and interesting things over the next four years — we will find out.

After all, Romney is supposed to be the “turn around” guy who knows how to get things back on track. If he is as smart as we think he is and if he does turn things around in his own future potential campaign, he may well unseat and interrupt the presumptive Clinton/Obama era. (assuming McCain loses)