From the conservative point of view, why did Mitt Romney lose a presidential election that Steve Forbes and many others were predicting would be, in Steve’s words, a “decisive victory” for the Republican challenger?
Here at Forbes, opinion editor John Tamny writes that it was Romney’s economic advisers who cost him the election. Columbia business school dean Glenn Hubbard is too much of a skeptic on China trade, and he was misguided when he advocated policies that would increase demand for housing at a time when markets were calling for less investment in the sector. Harvard economist Greg Mankiw supported a cheaper dollar, a policy that is damaging to Americans’ efforts to save and invest. American Enterprise Institute economist Kevin Hassett supported a misguided work-sharing idea where companies would reduce hours for some employees and create more jobs for others, missing the point that job creation comes from expanded investment, rather than slicing a finite pie. On taxes, Romney failed to explain his plan in the debates, and retreated from the idea that the 1% boost the economy, rather than drag it down. In an election that should have been a landslide, writes Tamny, Romney “had the wrong people whispering in his ear about economic policy.”
At The Wall Street Journal, today’s lead editorial calls Obama’s victory “the definition of winning ugly” because instead of laying out an inspiring agenda for his second term, he portrayed Romney “as a plutocrat and intolerant threat” to various voting blocs that ultimately supported Obama, including single women, young people, cultural liberals, union workers and minority voters. The Journal also notes that Obama got a boost from Hurricane Sandy, as it gave Obama the chance to rise above partisanship and appear to be a strong leader. Obama also owes thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts, who “provided a salve of legitimacy” to Obamacare, and to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, whose monetary policies lifted asset prices, boosting the stock market and consumer confidence. The Journal says Romney failed effectively to defend his Bain Capital record, and faltered in his efforts to distinguish his economic plan from George W. Bush’s. When it came to the minority vote, Romney also failed, sticking to immigration policies that were unpopular with Hispanics.
At The National Review, Kevin Williamson says Romney’s downfall was his failure to sway Ohio voters, but Williamson does not so much blame Romney as attribute Obama’s victory to the president being a “skillful demagogue,” who capitalized on Ohioans’ support of the auto bailout, their opposition to low capital gains taxes for the wealthy and their reluctance to see a repeal of Obamacare.
Also at the Review, Michael Tanner writes that it was not the Romney campaign that lost the election, but the Republican Party, which has failed to expand its demographic reach beyond white men. Republicans also failed to persuade young voters and Republicans’ hard-line stance on immigration failed miserably with Hispanics, who helped Obama carry Nevada and Colorado. On social issues, Tanner says the Republicans have struck the wrong tone, sounding “intolerant and self-righteous” as they have opposed abortion rights and gay marriage. “The Republican brand was too easily associated with the words of Todd Akin,” he writes. The Republicans also made a mistake when they indulged the “birther” proponents, and ultimately failed to offer an agenda for the future that was positive and hopeful enough to persuade swing voters.
Carrie Lukas, managing director of the Independent Women’s Forum, writes on the Review’s blog that Republicans needed to counter the Democrats’ “war on women” argument. Romney and his camp should have clarified that they were not trying to restrict women’s access to contraception, and they never made a winning argument about why Republican economic policies would be more likely to create jobs for women and reduce the deficit.
At The Washington Examiner, Byron York has a revealing piece where he describes a meeting late last night between top Romney aides, including Beth Myers and Eric Fehrnstrom, who gathered at the Westin Hotel in Boston to discuss the reasons for Romney’s defeat. Hurricane Sandy had arrested Romney’s momentum at a critical point in the campaign. Another factor: the Romney camp didn’t effectively counter the barrage of Obama ads over the spring and summer that attacked Romney’s personal wealth and his record at Bain Capital. Romney’s aides also acknowledged the candidate’s failure to appeal to Latino voters, and his lag in moving to the center after the polarizing primary season.
Erick Erickson, editor of RedState, writes that Romney lost because Obama simply ran a superior campaign. Says Erickson, “there was just a really good ground game from Barack Obama and a lot of smoke and mirrors from Team Romney and outside charlatans,” including those who worked for Republican Super PACs, who never communicated an effective message. Erickson says, “Neither side put forth a serious agenda that stood for much of anything.” While Obama’s message was an attack on Romney, Romney “stood for nothing and everything at the same time.” Romney’s position-shifting blurred his message and made it tough for voters to know what he stood for. Also he didn’t even try to win the support of Hispanic voters. Erickson adds that the weak slate of GOP senate nominees, including Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, hurt Romney’s prospects.
John Podhoretz at The New York Post agrees with Erickson that Obama’s campaign was far superior to Romney’s. Not only was the president’s message more effective, but he ran a strong state-by-state get-out-the vote effort that delivered his victory. Obama also effectively persuaded voters that he inherited an America that was in dire straits when he took office, and worked hard to make things better, rallying the Democratic base and spurring those who had stayed home during the 2010 midterm elections to come out and vote. That included young people, African-Americans, Hispanics and, as Podhoretz says, “the killer app of 2012,” single women. Concludes Podhoretz, “I fear very much what [Obama] is going to do to the country, but you have to admire this political master and his amazing handicraft.” (Source)