Messina: Romney’s Chrysler Ad One of Campaign’s Biggest Missteps

Photograph by Frank Polich/Getty Images

Jim Messina, center, campaign manager for the re-election of President Barack Obama, talks with reporters during a tour of the re-election headquarters in Chicago.

President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, Jim Messina, said one of the campaign’s biggest missteps by Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign was a controversial ad suggesting that Chrysler Group LLC is moving Jeep productions to China.

“They were spending the last 14 days of the election in the Midwest on the defense,” Messina said at a breakfast sponsored by Politico. “Day after day, they had to answer for that ad,” he said, because “it fundamentally wasn’t true.”

The “smartest thing” Romney’s campaign did was “they were amazing fundraisers,” said Messina, who spoke in his first televised interview after the election. He said they got more checks for the maximum amount than any other campaign in history.

Messina also took a swipe at polling companies, in particular the Gallup Poll, which he said “has been wrong repeatedly in the past” six presidential elections.

In particular, many pollsters failed to properly weight their voting samples to reflect the young and minority voters, often reached exclusively on cell phones.

“They did not think our coalition was going to vote, they thought the electorate was going to look more like 2004 than 2008,” he said.

Messina said the Republican candidate who may have had the best shot of beating Obama may have been John Huntsman, the former Utah governor who became U.S. ambassador to China. “We were honest about our concerns about Huntsman,” said Messina. “I think Huntsman would have been a very tough general election candidate.”

The Obama campaign ran the largest grassroots operation in history, and Messina said much of their success owed to harnessing social media including Facebook and social media tools that allowed supporters to encourage their friends to vote. He also said the campaign was able to identify potential volunteers, voters and donors based on their voting and donation history.

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