Well, you Obamaniacs can rejoice. The “skinny kid with the funny name” won’t be evicted from the White House just yet. Though Obama only won the popular vote by a point or so, he won by a landslide in the Electoral College.
I will say that I was rather impressed with Obama’s campaign. Winning so many key battleground states despite losing some leverage with particular segments of the population was pretty impressive. But, as well as I think Obama’s campaign went, I’d say Romney lost this contest just as much. Here are my top ten reasons I believe Romney lost the election as much as Obama won it:
(1) A lopsided fight over the battleground states. In his electoral college route of Mitt Romney, Obama carried Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin; nearly sweeping all the battleground states. As of today at least, Obama is also holding a narrow advantage in Florida. Romney’s campaign to victory diminished as the night wore on, with Obama winning at least 303 electoral votes.
(2) Fringe Republicans betrayed him. In short, Tea Party zealots, homophobes, race-baiters, and misogynists all co-opted Romney’s campaign, costing him precious support among Independents. By the end of Romney’s campaign (but unfortunately much too late), his message, tone, and positions grew increasingly moderate, allowing him to connect better with the electorate. His final push in the polls provided evidence that he was a least partially successful. But infusing Tea Partiers, evangelicals, and other fringe elements into his campaign (including, by certainly not limited to John Sununu) ruined any legitimate chance he had to win this thing. But we can’t blame this entirely on those fringe elements of the party. As I’ve repeatedly stated, one of Romney’s problems is that he’s an empty suit; aligning himself with whomever, whenever. He spent too much time pandering to the fringe subset of the base, making it possible for the Obama campaign to portray him as a right-wing radical. Fear that he didn’t have the base secured kept Romney from moving smoothly to the center once he had secured the nomination. It further encouraged his choice of Paul Ryan, a popular figure with the Tea Party. But perhaps if he had a more definitive image – AND STUCK WITH IT! – he would’ve been in a better position to win.
(3) Viva la voter! Taking a quick look at many exit polls, Latinos made this year a nightmare for Romney. As one of the fastest growing segments of the population, Latinos played a critical role in this year’s election. Their share of the vote expanded from around 8% in 2008 to over 10% this time around. Of that amount of participation, Obama won 71% of the Latino vote. Given the GOP’s oppressive stance on immigration reform, Romney’s loss of traction with the Latino community was a foregone conclusion. If this trend keeps up, you can almost anticipate seeing places like Arizona and Texas leaving the red for good.
This should be a wake up call for the Republican party. They clearly haven’t learned their lesson with the black voter.
(4) Young, female and white voters. Speaking of shifting demographics, another thing that spelled Romney’s doom was the increase of younger voters, female voter turnout, and the decrease of white voters…a key Republican constituency. First, despite the fact Obama won less of the youth vote this year, the increase in the actual number of youth voters made up the difference. In that same vein, female voters turned their back on Romney in alarming numbers. While the economy mattered to women, things improved just enough for them to turn their attention to social issues: reproductive issues, education and healthcare, to name a few things. They trusted Obama more on these issues. Plain and simple. Finally, though Obama lost more of the white vote in 2012, the overall number of white voters also increased enough for it not to be a huge blow.
The Grand Old Party’s legacy of exclusion is coming back to haunt them. Baby Boomers are starting to die off, leaving women, youth, and minorities as the emerging constituencies. If the GOP doesn’t expand their umbrella, they’re doomed.
(5) The Auto Bailouts. For months, Obama has highlighted the success of auto bailouts, in an attempt to play to the blue collar crowd. It worked. Not only did Obama win Michigan (as predicted, since Michigan is making a gradual change from purple to blue), but his strategy also worked in Ohio, a major hub in the auto industry and an important battleground state. Meanwhile, Romney opposed the bailouts and pushed for a privately financed bankruptcy of the struggling automakers. The kiss of death.
(6) Superstorm Sandy. As a mentioned before, Sandy – disastrous as it was to the country – was the best thing to happen to Obama. It gave him an opportunity (provided that he didn’t squander it) to look presidential, assume leadership, and show that he had the chops to handle emergencies. Meanwhile, Romney opposed FEMA during the Republican primaries. Again, not a good look.
(7) Crappy surrogates. Say what you want about Slick Willy. But Obama should be thanking the political gods for his help during this campaign. Who knows more about campaigning in a hostile and divisive environment than Bill Clinton? Even his speech at the convention – self-centered as it was – put Obama over much more effectively than anybody at the RNC could do for Mitt Romney. But in addition to Bill, Joe Biden and Michelle played a big part as surrogates. Meanwhile, Romney’s surrogates were too busy trying to do damage control over bone-headed comments they continuously spewed.
(8) The economy, stupid. Let’s be clear on this point. The economy is better, but it’s far from great. Nevertheless, the recent declines in the unemployment rate were helpful. Before those boosts a few months ago, it was pretty easy to pin the bad economy on Obama. Truth be told, even I thought it was a smart move by the Romney camp. But as the unemployment rate dropped, so too did Romney’s chances of using that as an Obama liability. Romney tried to cite a “five-point plan” to boost the economy, but his rhetoric was mostly subjected to mockery by Obama, the mainstream media, and social media. It ultimately fell flat on its face. Romney pretty much abandoned that “plan” for the rest of the campaign.
(9) Elitism and the 47 percenters. Oh God. Talk about suffering from “foot in mouth” syndrome. Nothing will turn off poor to middle class voters more than a private conversation at an exclusive ‘wealth-only’ event, where you talk about how you could care less about them. Whether or not there was context to be explored in his comments is irrelevant to the average voter. They only know what they know. That video blew Romney out of the water while strengthening core support for Obama.
(10) It just wasn’t the year of the Republican. As long ago as last summer, many of us were blasting the GOP establishment for giving us such a weak and unelectable field of candidates. It seemed as if there was a new “frontrunner” each week. But each of the candidates eventually faded under the intensity of the campaign. Even though Romney was able to use his money and, frankly, the fact that he was the least crazy one in the bunch to his advantage in securing the nomination, his party wasn’t too thrilled with him. That made it hard for any of us to take him seriously either.
I suspect now that the outcome of yesterday’s election would have been similar, regardless to who would’ve been the nominee. But those are my thoughts on Romney. What say you? Agree? Disagree?
Holler at me!