The lesson I learned? It is smart not to alienate powerful, well-placed people of influence and authority, especially those who might assist you.
7 Be true to yourself. Romney was a moderate, pro-choice governor who worked as bipartisan chief executive in Massachusetts to deal with a health-care budget crisis. He created a statewide health-care program that was the basis of Obamacare. But Romney ran from that record, tacking hard to the right to win over the base during the GOP primaries before shifting to the middle during the general election campaign.
He would have been much better off running on his credentials instead of morphing into a series of personas trying to please everyone. That is an important lesson to anyone running a business: Understand who you are and what you do best. Focus on providing that.
8 Choose your business partners well. The vice-presidential choice is a major decision any presidential candidate makes. Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan added nothing to his electoral chances. Ryan failed to deliver his home state, Wisconsin. He fumbled his debate to a grinning and goofy Joe Biden. And Ryan’s plan to “voucherize” Medicaid probably hurt Romney with Florida seniors.
9 It takes more than money. No one is happy about all of the money in politics, but the impact may be more muted than we believe.
Consider the outsize money interests in this election cycle. Sheldon Adelson poured $100 million into six races, and lost them all. Karl Rove’s super PAC put more than $300 million into myriad races; he found success in Indiana – but was shut out everywhere else. And the $91 million dollars Connecticut candidate Linda McMahon spent in two Senate campaigns yielded her exactly zero electoral success.
A threshold amount of money is necessary to be competitive in any business endeavor, but only to a point. Beyond the marginal utility of a minimum dollar amount, pouring more money onto a project is no substitute for substance, a clear value proposition and a product consumers want.
10 It helps to make your own luck. In the waning months of the election, two tragedies presented each campaign an opportunity to respond. The first was the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, were killed by terrorists. The second was Hurricane Sandy, which became a superstorm and devastated parts of New York and New Jersey.
The responses to these to circumstances were markedly different: Obama put partisanship aside, worked closely with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and focused on managing the response to the storm. Christie, the keynote speaker at the GOP convention and vocal Obama critic, was effusive in his praise of the president.
Romney’s response to Benghazi was not nearly as bipartisan. He came across as opportunistic, even craven in response to the tragedy. He was, in the light of American deaths, not especially presidential.
Emergencies are opportunities to demonstrate an understanding of priorities, a sense of what matters most. How you respond to circumstances is important. There are times to focus on your business, and times to put that aside and focus on your people.
Ritholtz is chief executive of FusionIQ, a quantitative research firm. He is the author of “Bailout Nation” and runs a finance blog, the Big Picture. On Twitter: @Ritholtz.