Now that the 2012 presidential election is history, here’s a political postmortem on this race that did not end as I had thought it might.
For those of you who have been living under a rock, or who just came out of a coma, last Tuesday, defying historical precedent, President Barack Obama managed to eke out a 50-48 victory in the popular vote over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
It’s an especially remarkable achievement that Obama managed to win re-election in spite of his unwillingness and inability to do anything to improve the limping economy, and in spite of his record of fiscal insanity and his unpopular and unprecedented reinvention of U.S. health insurance.
Many people and pundits with far greater insight into American politics than I have already weighed in with their analyses and explanations of why Obama won and Romney lost. I’ve read a number of their analyses, and after giving it some thought, I believe the outcome of the election was due chiefly to two things:
First, even though Obama lacks the traits and skills to hold and properly exercise offices of public trust, and is a mediocre debater, he is highly competitive by nature and apparently is a gifted, shrewd campaigner.
Second, while Romney is better at debates than Obama, he is by nature cautious, and nowhere near as good at campaigning as Obama, and he also favors a pragmatic and politically opportunistic style that alienated a significant portion of the Republican base of supporters.
I think the analysis of National Review’s Yuval Levin probably comes closest to the truth of how Obama managed to secure re-election. As Levin has said, Obama knew he had lost popularity and would not even be able to replicate, let alone improve upon, his 2008 success. He had little in his record he could run on and little to offer in the way of a second-term agenda.
As unpopular as Obama was, the only way he could win would be to make his opponent even less popular by running one of the most viciously negative and mendacious campaigns in U.S. history.
It had a two-pronged strategy: on the one hand, shore up the flagging support of the disillusioned and demoralized Democratic Party base by stoking their passions and fears and bigotry (i.e., class warfare, the fictitious “GOP war on women,” painting voter ID laws as the second coming of Jim Crow, etc.) and make sure his supporters got to the polls; and on the other hand, bombard all of the states that Romney needed to win with false or misleading and very brutal attack ads.
Like probably most political stratagems, it was grossly immoral — but it was Obama’s only hope for re-election, and it was highly effective. Even though most of October went Romney’s way, it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome Obama’s formidable re-election machinery. The result: even though 8 million fewer people voted for Obama than in 2008, Romney didn’t even get as many votes as Sen. John McCain got that year — about 1.8 million votes less than McCain.
Obviously, the overwhelming majority of those 8 million votes that Obama lost in this election did not become Romney votes. Rather, displeased with both Obama and Romney, many of them opted for a third-party or write-in candidate, while most of them simply did not vote at all, choosing to sit this election out.
Among those sidelined voters were probably black evangelicals who objected to Obama’s support for homosexuality, but could not bring themselves to vote for a Republican or to vote for a white man when faced with a choice between a black candidate and a white candidate.
However, central to Romney’s loss were the Republican and conservative voters who went third party or chose to sit out the election. Some of them may have objected to Romney’s Mormonism (like many Democrats did), but most of them simply did not like Romney and, understandably given his penchant for political opportunism which Obama’s negative ads stressed, did not trust him.
In the end, while Romney is hardly the monster Obama claimed he is, and has governing skills and experience superior to Obama’s, he just isn’t as talented a campaigner and, to put it bluntly, is not as good and convincing a liar as Obama is. And just in case anyone actually believed one Obama lie in particular, Romney isn’t even close to being a “stark conservative,” which is why so many conservatives refused to vote for him or voted for him only reluctantly.
That’s basically how I think Obama pulled it off. What next, then?
We can expect the president to continue to implement his rigid leftist ideology any way he can, to continue to project American weakness internationally, and to continue his war on religious freedom. The unjust regulations and crushing taxes of “Obamacare” are also here to stay (at least until they have accomplished their purpose of wrecking U.S. health care, thereby justifying the imposition of so-called “single-payer” or worse).
As for the economic and fiscal outlook, something tells me last week’s post-election sell-off on Wall Street is only the beginning.
Jared Olar may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the newspaper.