Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama's win and Romney's Loss

So, there it is. President Obama has been re-elected in what ultimately turned out to be a pretty comprehensive victory.

A look at some of the top-line Obama results is not happy reading for a Romney campaign team that was confident it could win:

  • 303 Electoral Votes, with the possibility of 29 more from still-counting Florida;
  • a majority of the popular vote;
  • a campaign that got to 270 without Ohio, Florida or Virginia;
  • winning a strong majority of women's votes (with women accounting for 53% of the entire electorate); and 
  • a lock on the African-American, Latino and youth vote. 
Add to this the ongoing demographic shift in America which favours the Democrats and you can glimpse a future that could prove challenging to a Republican party that is already struggling with how to balance the more traditional elements of the party with the Tea Party supporters.

While the future of the GOP is something that will be written about in countless post-mortems, today offers an opportunity to make some observations about the current state of the party and in particular the Romney campaign.

1. Paul Ryan

In 2008, the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee became a large part of the campaign story for almost all the wrong reasons. Four years later, I would posit that questions will also be asked about the choice this time around.

Paul Ryan was not a bad choice in Palin-esque kind of way. But he appears to have been a bad choice in terms of how little he benefited the campaign. Over the course of the campaign he seemed to evolve from a being a choice that would ignite the base to almost being a "Oh yeah, Ryan, forgot about him."

When one looks at Ohio and Virginia and the central part they would play in a Romney campaign strategy, it seems odd that the Republican nominee chose to look elsewhere for a running mate. It also seemed odd that he failed to choose someone who could enable him to close the "he does not get me gap."

2. He doesn't get me

A candidate's ability to connect with their voter is crucial. The candidate who conveys empathy will always be more likely to garner the support of the voter who feels understood. This is a big part of what happened last night.

In this campaign, Mr. Romney basically made half an argument. He successfully made the economy the number one issue for voters, and in so doing was able to convince a majority that he was the man to tackle it. But that was only half the job.

The half he failed to do was convince people that in addressing the economy, he would see their interests as his. Mr. Romney could not demonstrate that he sufficiently understood their interests and that he was prepared to use that insight to guide policy. The choice of an ideologue like Ryan only compounded that problem. As did...

3. "47%"

Way back when in that fundraising dinner video, Mr. Romney infamously commented that there are 47% of Americans who would not vote for him. He described them as being a group that could not be convinced to take personal responsibility for themselves.

First, those remarks simply reinforced the "he doesn't get me" line of thinking. Second, I suspect those remarks helped drive to / keep with the Obama campaign the swaths of the electorate that carried them to victory - women, Latinos, African-Americans and youth.

4. From severely conservative to moderate Mitt and all stops in between

If you asked voters what Romney stands for and the values he represents in the spring, you would have gotten one answer. If you asked him last week, you would have gotten another.

And therein lies the problem.

The Republican primaries forced Romney to the right to such a distance that it would be difficult to come back without leaving the impression that this was a politician prepared to say anything to get to the Presidency. The primaries also left the Obama campaign with a wealth of material with which to frame Romney as out of touch and not aligned with the concerns of middle-class America. 

And frame him they did. Romney spent most of the summer and the early part of the campaign trying to chip away at that image. In the end he was unsuccessful.


The points above are by no means meant to suggest that the Obama campaign lucked into victory. From the narrative they set, to the convention they held and the ground game they put in place, it was all in all a superlative campaign - particularly in light of the economy they faced.

They also impressively recovered from the Denver debate and in the process made the race a whole lot more interesting for those of us watching.  Thanks for that, team Obama!


So, the campaign is over. The Nate Silver's of the world were proven right and Americans woke up to the same Congress and Executive that they had the day before. And all for the low price of $6 billion.

For the Obama campaign, deserved success. For the Romney campaign, a sense of a opportunity lost given issues and challenges facing America. And for this Guy Watching Politics, a thoroughly enjoyable and intriguing political roller coaster. 

To those who took the time to read, thanks for joining me in following the long and winding the White House.

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