“No one realized it at the time, but the paces Rick Santorum put Mitt Romney through in March planted the seeds of the president-elect’s sweeping win Tuesday night. Even as Newt Gingrich had forced Romney to raise his rhetorical and debating game earlier in the cycle, Rick Santorum’s late winter surge pushed Romney to create the organizations and mine the data in Michigan and Ohio that helped deliver those crucial states on Tuesday night.
“‘It felt like Hell at the time,’ a jubilant Matt Rhoades mused on Wednesday morning after a late night of celebrations over a landslide most observers thought impossible even weeks ago, ‘but what we learned then, the people we turned out, the volunteer and donor base we developed, well, it made all the difference in the swing states.’”
“’We couldn’t have created a better primary map for building a general election campaign, even though none of us would have picked that particular training regime,’ Rhoades added.”
“The unrelenting hostility of ‘Obama’s hand puppets in the MSM,’ as one Romney senior advisor put it, helped push Team Romney into an aggressiveness that might never have surfaced had the president-elect not been pushed from Iowa forward, and even a despondent David Axelrod had to admit last night that his plan to bleed Romney in the spring had, in fact, backfired.”
“’Yeah, maybe a few Tweets too many,” conceded Axelrod, whose unrelenting anti-Romney campaign failed to kill off the president-elect’s bid for the GOP nod, and which many think turned a good candidate into a great one.
“’He created a monster,’ said an Obama loyalist, nodding towards the disheveled Axelrod. ‘He pushed the snowball down the hill, setting the labor goons on Scott Walker which basically gave them Wisconsin, and pushing our guys to vote for Santorum in Ohio and Michigan, forcing them to build a turn-out organization that just grew and grew thereafter.’”
“’They had nothing in Cuyahoga County, nothing. But we forced them to build a machine.’”
“And not just in Ohio. The GOP primary battles crated a network of surrogates, surrogates who became invested in Romney and his fall campaign, surrogates in effect called forth and trained up by Team Obama’s desire to wound Romney in the first quarter of the year: New Hamphire’s Kelly Ayotte, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Virginia’s Bob McDonnell, Florida’s Marco Rubio, Ohio’s Rob Portman, and Michigan’s Rick Snyder were all part of the Romney effort to gain the nomination, a collection of new names and new talent that infused the GOP general election campaign with real leaders who had been through the fire, and who helped deliver all of their states when it counted most. It is a network that not only produced the country’s vice-president elect, but which is also certain to staff his senior cabinet posts and smooth the path of his sweeping reform proposals through a GOP Senate led by a jubilant incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.”
We won’t know how the early contests shaped November until Mike issues his book, but Team Romney won when it needed to, again, and called to mind the old cliché: That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.