Election 2014  
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How Mitt Romney Suckered His Fat-Cat Donors

Contrary to reports, the Romney camp probably wasn't terribly surprised by the election results.

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Two weeks later, the campaign held a major “retreat” for those big donors at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. According to the Washington Post, the luxurious three-day event gave deep-pocketed conservatives a chance to “mingle with Romney’s running mate, eat lunch with his wife, talk shop with his strategists, dine with his most colorful surrogate [Donald Trump] and talk jobs with entrepreneurs who are inspirations for his stump speech.” The Post called it “their reward for infusing a record-breaking amount of money into Romney’s operation.”

It's far more likely that the campaign was telling these fat-cats that Romney had a great chance of pulling out a win if they'd just dig a bit deeper. They showed their supporters their unskewed internal polling and assured them that their money wouldn't go to waste.

Reality re-asserted itself three weeks later, when Barack Obama won re-election with 332 Electoral College votes. And those deep-pocketed Republican sugar-daddies weren't happy with the results. "The billionaire donors I hear are livid," an unnamed Republican operative told the Huffington Post. "There is some holy hell to pay.”

Having sold them a bill of goods during the final months of the campaign, the Romney camp – including Karl Rove, who raised an estimated $300 million for his pro-GOP super-PAC – had no choice but to feign utter and complete surprise at the results. While Mitt Romney can slink off with Ann and the boys into a wildly rich retirement from public life, his running mate, Paul Ryan, his campaign staff and big GOP bundlers like Karl Rove need to go back to those donors again in the years ahead. Such is the reality for the GOP in the post- Citizens United era.

As Bob Biersack, senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics, told CBS, the GOP's big donors “have to feel a little bit embarrassed,” which is “not a common experience for them. They'll have to evaluate how they spent the money and what might be a better use of that kind of resource." He added that "it'll be a harder sell" for Rove and other big-money bundlers the next time around.

With so many big dollars at stake, it would have been disastrous for the GOP's fattest cats to catch on to the fact that they'd been conned; that the campaign had intentionally exaggerated Romney's chances in order to keep the cash flowing. So a few of Romney's senior staffers went to a couple of reliable Beltway reporters and sold them a story of a campaign that had been utterly shocked to have lost – as shocked as they'd be to discover that there's gambling in Casablanca.

That scenario is far more likely than the notion that they were completely suckered by their own rather obvious spin.

Joshua Holland is Senior Digital Producer at BillMoyers.com, and host of Politics and Reality Radio. He's the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy. Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter

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