Ken Beatrice, Mitt Romney, Reason for Losing


As I read the harsh criticisms of Mitt Romney’s campaign (none more harsh than those made by Republicans), I recall the radio sports program hosted by Ken Beatrice back in the 70’s and 80’s.

It was a great show, informative, entertaining, and often provocative, although always civil. Beatrice was infinitely knowledgeable about sports, especially about football. As I recall, he was not only the host of the show, but had a football scouting organization, and he seemed to know everything about every football player in the country, from the Pop Warner league to the NFL. When a listener would call in, it went something like this:

Listener: Ken, what do you think about Billy Bob Paskoodnik?

Beatrice (instantly, in a rapid-fire manner): Billy Bob plays defensive end for Sagebrush High in Hootersville Texas, population 368. He is six-three and three-quarters, two-hundred ninety-three pounds, give or take an ounce, has a tattoo of the word ’Mom’ on his left bicep, dates a cheer leader named Betsy Bumgartner, has a D-minus GPA, and works out by lifting hogs on the family farm . . .

But the thing I remember best about Beatrice was his belief about losing. On almost every show, he would say something like this:

“You don‘t lose a game solely because of an error in the ninth inning in baseball or a last-second fumble in football. You lose a game because of every play that was made throughout the game, good things you did not do and bad things you did, how you prepared and how you played, every play. There is rarely one last-minute cause for a loss.”

True in sports, true in politics.

I have read and heard (and made) criticisms about Romney’s style (or lack of it), his staff’s incompetence or arrogance, his inability to communicate, etc. But he is not behind in the battleground state polls because of his “gaffes” or his staff’s errors. He is behind because of the totality of his campaign. From the beginning, the Romney campaign has been based on his expertise in business. He has made that argument well. But it would appear that many voters who ordinarily might be breaking for Romney, do not want a CEO of America, Inc., but a president who will not only rebuild the economy, but reform the way politics has been working (or not working) in Washington, and renew the American spirit.

Rebuild. Reform. Renew.

From now until election day, that should be the Romney-Ryan mantra.

Is the mainstream media biased toward Obama? Of course it is. Has Obama run away from the facts of his record? If he ran any faster he’d qualify for a spot in the next Olympics. But the mainstream media have always been biased against Republican candidates –nothing new there. And Obama isn’t the first president to suffer from selective amnesia when it comes to his record.

I believe Romney is having difficulties because of his initial decision that during an economic crisis, a candidate with a successful business background should remind voters of his success. But it would appear that while many voters admire a successful businessman, they want a president. If Romney loses, it will be because of the totality of his campaign, not because of stumbles and fumbles.

Don’t get me wrong–Romney can still win, but it will take a superhuman effort and a break here and there. One way he can begin is to stop reminding us of his virtues in business and start talking about his vision for America. He has to talk not just about our economy, but about our broken, dysfunctional politics. He has to emphasize the way the past four years have damaged the can-do, upbeat, never-say-die American spirit of confidence, and, yes, of hope.

Governor, since you first ran for president in 2008 you have shown us your past.

In the next forty-two days, show us our future.

Editor’s Note: William F. Gavin was a speech writer for President Richard Nixon and long-time aide to former House Republican Leader Bob Michel. Among his books is his latest, Speechwright, published by Michigan State University Press.