Why Romney Lost

This is a very thoughtful article on Mitt Romney’s failure to connect with voters. This is by Nicole Gelinas who writes for the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. — JH


Staying on message meant looking irrelevant, reminding voters of a certain someone.

7 November 2012

Governor Mitt Romney lost on Tuesday not because the country is divided, but because he failed to show how he would be more competent and relevant to today’s problems than is President Barack Obama. Faced with a Republican candidate who thought it was a fine idea to run stubbornly on a grab-bag of abstract ideas come hell and (last week) high water, Americans stuck with the guy who has been in the trenches with them for the past four years, for better or worse. Americans chose, but they sure didn’t benefit from a great choice.

Romney’s proposals to grow the economy were fivefold: tax cuts, energy exploration, cutting regulations, cutting the deficit, and freer trade. There is nothing wrong with any of these, except for two flaws. The first is that some of these issues were not top of mind with voters. The second is that, on some others, Romney’s suggestions seemed to ignore reality. When President Reagan ran on federal tax reform, for example, the top income-tax rate was 70 percent; today it’s half that. Moreover, back then, people still had to do their taxes with paper and pencil, and they became outraged by the complexity and the unfairness. Today, software does people’s taxes within minutes. Yes, people remain outraged about corporate unfairness—but they don’t see it so much manifested through the tax code as through recent financial-industry bailouts, a topic Romney addressed exactly once, in the first debate.

On energy, Americans are all for exploration at home. But we’re already doing much more oil and gas drilling than we were four years ago, except in places where state and local politicians think voters oppose it. That’s federalism. Moreover, people want exploration done safely, especially after the BP blowup two years ago. This explains why Romney’s comment in another debate—that it’s outrageous for the federal government to expect companies to protect a wildlife refuge from the effects of nearby oil development—fell flat with moderate voters.

Voters are interested in deficit reduction, or at least claim to be. But Romney never offered specifics on his plans to cut spending.

Meanwhile, as Romney stuck to his talking points, stuff happened—most vividly, Hurricane Sandy, viscerally highlighting why we sometimes need a strong federal government, which isn’t the same thing as big government. But before the storm, Romney hadn’t explained his view on what the federal government should or shouldn’t do—whether in disaster recovery, infrastructure investment, or much of anything else. Last year, Romney argued in a GOP primary debate that the states should handle disaster relief. Last week, his campaign claimed that he hadn’t said that. When Romney should have been looking like he could handle a disaster like Sandy as president, his staffers were bickering with the press over what was or wasn’t a flip-flop.

More important, though, was something else that had happened before Sandy descended: the economy began to recover. Romney, who touted his understanding of free markets and free people, should have understood that this would happen, and that people would notice it. Housing prices couldn’t fall forever; they had to hit bottom eventually and start inching up. When people saw, or thought they saw, that the worst was over, they ventured out and started spending money again. Romney never acknowledged that free markets were doing what they were supposed to do—correct themselves, regardless of who was in the White House.

Romney’s bet that Americans frustrated with the economy would turn Obama out of office would have worked only if Americans didn’t believe that the recovery was happening—and then only if Americans blamed Obama for it. But people understand that the economy is still suffering from the impact of the bursting, six years ago, of the biggest credit bubble in our lifetimes. Romney’s blaming Obama for the continued economic fallout seemed out of touch and ideological.

Issue by issue, it all added up to a perception that electing Romney meant electing someone who would ignore what was actually happening to push solutions to what he would like to be happening. For younger voters who helped decide this election, their childhood, teenage, and young-adult experience with the national GOP has not been very positive. They’ve lived through the real or perceived incompetence of the Bush era, economic and otherwise. Romney had to overcome this memory in order to win, but he never seemed to understand that it was even an issue.

Tuesday night starting at 6:30, I turned off the television, radio, Twitter, and everything else. At around midnight, outside my window, I heard cheering and screaming from Times Square and from Rockefeller Center, and I knew who had won. When exuberant young people can mean only one thing, it’s a bad sign for the GOP.

Republicans need to realize something: Barack Obama didn’t get young people so enthusiastic about electoral politics that they take pictures of themselves voting and gather in major squares to watch election results come in. George W. Bush did. When it comes to attracting young voters, Republicans’ major problem isn’t minority demographics or social issues. It’s that Republicans are still living with Bush’s legacy. They don’t even seem to realize it.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. She tweets at @nicolegelinas.

 

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11 comments to Why Romney Lost

  • And that’s exactly why some of we conservatives think that Romney losing may have been the best thing; as no meaningful change/recovery can come until American’s quit blaming the past and put the blame for what could be a decade long recession where it belongs – on overspending, faulty government, industry specific regulations and stimulative and historically did-proven Keynsian docrine.

  • Hans

    One of the worst article I have ever read on this website…

    I will not waste my time reading anymore of Ms Nicole Gelinas stellar narratives.

    • dd

      as usual, i’m with Hans. i nearly stopped reading after the first few paragraphs, then so i could comment in an informed manner, i read the whole thing. that was trash, and worse, incredibly naive.

      Americans in the majority are now, without question, stupid and more interested in being takers while the crony capitalists reap the spoils. obama satisfies both. period, end of story.

      until fools like this woman wake up the problems will persist. not going to happen, it’s like the old pine in my backyard, if Sandy didn’t take it down then it’s unlikely to fall any time soon … until it does, and when no one expects it.

      • Hans

        The thank you Messrs DD and Duster.

        “Governor Mitt Romney lost on Tuesday not because the country is divided, but because he failed to show how he would be more competent and relevant to today’s problems than is President Barack Obama.”

        This is just one of many examples I can give regarding how poorly this OP was written…

        M.R. demonstrated that he was incompetent, while after four years in the sit of power, BO, did not ? Where in God’s name is her logic ?

        “On energy, Americans are all for exploration at home. But we’re already doing much more oil and gas drilling than we were four years ago, except in places where state and local politicians think voters oppose it.”

        There is a large segment of the American public which opposites BIG OIL, especially among the Enviro freaks. And if “Americans are all for exploration at home” why in the hell would it matter where it is being drilled..

        Her paragraph is a contradiction in terms..

        “Romney’s proposals to grow the economy were fivefold: tax cuts, energy exploration, cutting regulations, cutting the deficit, and freer trade.”

        How many times did M.R. tell us he was going to create 12 million jobs ? About a million times, Ms Gelinas…

        M.R. was not the best of candidates but certainly better than the thing in the WH…I am afraid there is more at work, regarding the election, than meets the eye..

    • Duster

      I agree with Hans. This is a feeble article. She skipped over one little fact: the media was totally in the tank for Obama.

  • dd

    and i did not mean offense to you Jeff on posting this article, not that you should care anyway, you have things pretty well figured out as far as i’m concerned. not meant as an attack on you.

    articles like this are helpful in that they provide insight in to what people of seemingly like minds (though often not in nuance) think.

  • Mark

    Romney was vague on solutions because he knew full well voters would reject free market principals. The Free Market is not a popular idea, big Government with Big Government solutions like redistribution and hand outs are what the people in this country want. This was the clear message of this election.

    • Hans

      You are correct, Mark…Socialist is hear and the Communists are on the way…

      RIP America! You God can save America and you..

  • REPUBLICANS DEFEATED BY COMMUNITY ORGANIZING AGAIN
    Republicans need to hurry up and get done tearing each other apart over who is responsible for losing to Barack Obama again. The simple fact is that the GOP snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by dumping Party Chairman Michael Steele in 2011, right after he managed the spectacularly successful 2010 mid-term elections. Steele funded local retail party offices in every county in the nation to build a ground swell of distain against Obama’s carefully crafted Metrosexual image as a socialist elitist. Steele’s successors failed to turn out Republican leaning voters by abandoning the grass-roots strategy in favor of trying to undermine Obama’s perfect media friendly image with media attacks.
    Despite the current screeching about new demographics, Americans have a negative view of socialism by a two to one margin. But the traditional image of the socialist community organizer is an angry and threatening protestor with scraggly haired. The brilliance of Barack Obama was to disguise his radical agenda under the image of a metrosexual. Mark Simpson in Salon Magazine article described the metrosexual as:
    “The typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis — because that’s where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are. He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference.”
    Barack Obama adopted Saul D. Alinsky’s community organizing Rules for Radicals to take power in 2008. He overwhelmed Hillary Clinton’s mega-bucks advantage in the Democratic Primary with a social media national movement by following Rule 1:
    “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.”
    In the Presidential election, Barack Obama contrasted himself as elegant, sophisticated and youthful, versus John McCain as a rumpled, bumbling old white guy. When the financial crisis hit, Obama ridiculed McCain as incompetent by employing Rule 3:
    “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.”
    Without a ground game to offset Obama’s strength, the bewildered Republicans squandered their cash on TV ads defending their brand in a few battleground states.
    After Barack Obama and the Democrats swept control of the Presidency, Senate and House in 2008, the Republicans were finally willing to look inward to discover that the flaw in their brand was ignoring the rise of women, minorities and young people who now made up 70% of voters. As the media declared the party’s death, Michael Steele was elected the first black Chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2009.
    Steele, a self-described “Lincoln Republican”, committed to an intensive national grassroots organizing and party building effort at the state and local levels. He poured cash and training resources into even the most uncompetitive states, such as California and Hawaii. Steele’s community organizing strategy was inclusive of the burgeoning Tea Party conservatives and young Republican moderates. Over the next 22 months the Republican National Committee broke fundraising records by raising $198 million for the 2010 Congressional cycle. The revitalized Republican ground game blitzkrieged the bewildered Democrats to capture six new Senate seats and take control of the House of Representatives with 63 new seats, the biggest pickup since 1938 House of Representatives with 63 new seats, the biggest pickup since 1938. The Party also gained 12 governorships and over 600 in state legislatures seats, the most since 1928.
    Two months later, Michael Steele was rewarded for his heroic leadership by being fired as Chairman and the gavel handed to the pasty face RNC Treasurer, Reince Priebus. For many of the Republican Party old guard, the perfect is the enemy of good. The new party leadership distanced the party from difficult to dominate Tea Parties and let the powerful ground game built by Steele just wither away.
    Mitt Romney was a highly qualified candidate who ran a great campaign and should have been elected President. But he lost by 3 million votes because the Republican National Committee ignoring the lessons of 2008 and sabotaged his efforts by surrendering the ground game back to the Democrats. The Democrats national community organizing strategy resulted in 300,000 more blacks and 1.7 million more Hispanics voting in 2012 versus 2008. Whereas the Republicans strategy of pouring huge amounts of cash on television commercials in the nine battleground states resulted in 6.7 million less whites voting in 20012 versus 2008.

  • REPUBLICANS DEFEATED BY COMMUNITY ORGANIZING AGAIN
    Republicans need to hurry up and get done tearing each other apart over who is responsible for losing to Barack Obama again. The simple fact is that the GOP snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by dumping Party Chairman Michael Steele in 2011, right after he managed the spectacularly successful 2010 mid-term elections. Steele funded local retail party offices in every county in the nation to build a ground swell of disdain against Obama’s carefully crafted Metrosexual image as a socialist elitist. Steele’s successors failed to turn out Republican leaning voters by abandoning the grass-roots strategy in favor of trying to undermine Obama’s perfect media friendly image with media attacks.
    Despite the current screeching about new demographics, Americans have a negative view of socialism by a two to one margin. But the traditional image of the socialist community organizer is an angry and threatening protestor with scraggly haired. The brilliance of Barack Obama was to disguise his radical agenda under the image of a metrosexual. Mark Simpson in Salon Magazine article described the metrosexual as:
    “The typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis — because that’s where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are. He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference.”
    Barack Obama adopted Saul D. Alinsky’s community organizing Rules for Radicals to take power in 2008. He overwhelmed Hillary Clinton’s mega-bucks advantage in the Democratic Primary with a social media national movement by following Rule 1:
    “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.”
    In the Presidential election, Barack Obama contrasted himself as elegant, sophisticated and youthful, versus John McCain as a rumpled, bumbling old white guy. When the financial crisis hit, Obama ridiculed McCain as incompetent by employing Rule 3:
    “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.”
    Without a ground game to offset Obama’s strength, the bewildered Republicans squandered their cash on TV ads defending their brand in a few battleground states.
    After Barack Obama and the Democrats swept control of the Presidency, Senate and House in 2008, the Republicans were finally willing to look inward to discover that the flaw in their brand was ignoring the rise of women, minorities and young people who now made up 70% of voters. As the media declared the party’s death, Michael Steele was elected the first black Chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2009.
    Steele, a self-described “Lincoln Republican”, committed to an intensive national grassroots organizing and party building effort at the state and local levels. He poured cash and training resources into even the most uncompetitive states, such as California and Hawaii. Steele’s community organizing strategy was inclusive of the burgeoning Tea Party conservatives and young Republican moderates. Over the next 22 months the Republican National Committee broke fundraising records by raising $198 million for the 2010 Congressional cycle. The revitalized Republican ground game blitzkrieged the bewildered Democrats to capture six new Senate seats and take control of the House of Representatives with 63 new seats, the biggest pickup since 1938 House of Representatives with 63 new seats, the biggest pickup since 1938. The Party also gained 12 governorships and over 600 in state legislatures seats, the most since 1928.
    Two months later, Michael Steele was rewarded for his heroic leadership by being fired as Chairman and the gavel handed to the pasty face RNC Treasurer, Reince Priebus. For many of the Republican Party old guard, the perfect is the enemy of good. The new party leadership distanced the party from difficult to dominate Tea Parties and let the powerful ground game built by Steele just wither away.
    Mitt Romney was a highly qualified candidate who ran a great campaign and should have been elected President. But he lost by 3 million votes because the Republican National Committee ignoring the lessons of 2008 and sabotaged his efforts by surrendering the ground game back to the Democrats. The Democrats national community organizing strategy resulted in 300,000 more blacks and 1.7 million more Hispanics voting in 2012 versus 2008. Whereas the Republicans strategy of pouring huge amounts of cash on television commercials in the nine battleground states resulted in 6.7 million less whites voting in 20012 versus 2008.