Schott’s strategy memo: Don’t read too much into Romney’s convention loss

No, Mitt Romney is not in trouble.

Granted, it was not the best optics for his campaign when he lost to State Rep. Mike Kennedy at Saturday’s Utah GOP convention. But, as we’ve seen time and time again, Utah Republican delegates are wildly out of step with the rest of the Republican party.

Remember, the delegates are the people who sent Gov. Gary Herbert into a primary against Jonathan Johnson in 2016. Johnson ended up getting hammered in the GOP primary. 

GOP delegates roundly rejected John Curtis in favor of Chris Herrod in last year’s special congressional election. Curtis ended up winning that seat. On Saturday, delegates again pushed Curtis into a primary against Herrod.

Romney and his team wanted that convention win, no doubt. Anyone would want to avoid a primary. One member of his campaign staff who also worked on his 2012 presidential effort told me Romney worked as hard on convincing delegates to vote for him as he did during his national campaign.

The June primary is more of an annoyance for Romney than the sign of a campaign in trouble. If I were a betting man, I’d put next month’s mortgage on Romney handily winning the GOP nomination. That’s not bias. It’s simply acknowledging the facts that are staring everyone in the face.

Despite the convention win, Kennedy is starting way behind Romney.  Romney has a massive cash advantage over Kennedy. He’s also wildly popular in Utah, while most voters have no idea who Kennedy is. That’s not a knock on Kennedy, but there’s a big difference between a former presidential nominee and a mostly anonymous member of the Utah Legislature.

Fighting for votes at the GOP convention is just a skirmish. Now the battle shifts to an air war. I’ve watched enough History Channel to know that whoever can establish air superiority will likely win.

Kennedy needs to spend big ahead of the June 26 primary if he’s going to move the dial in his direction. He’s got just over 60 days to do two things – introduce himself to Utahns and convince them he’s a better choice than Romney. The only way to do that in such a short time is through a massive advertising blitz. A “grassroots” campaign won’t cut it. A “social media” campaign won’t get it done. Sometimes the traditional rules of campaigning still apply. This is one of those times.

Kennedy’s convention win was impressive, no doubt. But, it’s going to take more than 1,642 votes from GOP delegates to win a statewide primary battle. The 2016 GOP primary between Gary Herbert and Jonathan Johnson pulled in 246,529 votes. Yes, that was a presidential year, but Romney on the ballot should attract an equal amount of interest.

While Romney’s team is not happy he’s in a primary, rank and file Republicans should be ecstatic. Romney on the ballot in June will likely bring more moderate voters to the polls in other primary races. Who do you think Romney voters are more likely to support in the 3rd CD – John Curtis or Chris Herrod? 

Saturday’s convention loss injected some political drama into what was shaping up to be a tedious march to November’s U.S. Senate election. If it leads to more attention and turnout at the polls in June, that can’t be all bad.