Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rove: GOP primary debates hurt Romney

RCP's Alexis Simendinger reports on Karl Rove and James Carville's retrospective on the presidential race last night.

Karl Rove on Tuesday argued that President Obama won re-election despite his weaknesses with voters because Mitt Romney was a so-so candidate lured by the media into conservative positions during the GOP primaries.

“I think that’s right,” he answered when former newsman Ted Koppel asked if Romney had been undone by that early phase of the presidential race. “I do think the primary was destructive to him.” Rove then added that he placed “blame” with journalists who hosted the debates.

If reporters and TV anchors had not posed questions about abortion and other social issues during umpteen Republican jousting matches, things might have turned out better, Rove harrumphed.

Rove is kind of right and kind of wrong.

It is, indeed, nearly impossible to participate in 20 debates in front of a primary audience and not say something that will hurt you in the general. I don't care what the moderators are like. You just can't avoid saying something you'll want to avoid in a general election.

At the same time, Romney owes a ton to debates. His debate before the Florida primary helped save his candidacy, and he owed his viability in the general election to that stunningly good first presidential debate (not to mention two more solid performances.

In the end, only one primary shift hurt Romney in the general election and that was related to immigration and that was huge. But all this other chatter about Romney going too far right on other issues is usually a thinly disguised attack on those positions themselves, and there's no evidence they actually hurt him.