Four years ago, Americans voted for hope and change. This time, they voted for the status quo — same president, same party controls each house. The nation remains divided about 50/50.
The election was more about why Mitt Romney lost than why President Obama won. Though Romney made his mistakes, fellow Republicans may have cost him the presidency. The bruising Republican primary put Romney in a deep hole in terms of likability and drained his resources, badly needed in the summer months when the Obama Team was pounding away at him. Gingrich and Santorum, with their shameless class warfare, spent a fortune attacking Romney.
Two Senate Republican candidates (Akin and Mourdock) made ridiculous statements on rape that were quickly wrapped around Romney’s neck. Romney’s gender gap was not all his own doing.
Had there been no storm, Romney may have won. He had the momentum and the polls were clearly moving in his favor. Then, the storyline changed and Obama capitalized on the moment. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie dealt the final Republican blow. Yes, his responsibility in a time of crisis was to have a constructive relationship with the president. But that is a different thing than his over-the-top praise of the kind of leader Obama was. This was a central issue in the campaign and Christie knew it.
Christie no doubt feels genuine compassion for those affected in his state. But he also seized the political opportunity, grabbing the national spotlight to show how “bipartisan” he was. It was a calculation based on his own political self interest, fully aware an Obama win would create an open seat for president in 2016. This criticism gains validity given his “Christie Fest” keynote address at the GOP convention.
Mitt Romney was an imperfect candidate. His 47% remark hurt greatly, as did his “self deport” plan for illegal immigrants. The “Hispanic problem” looms as a great GOP challenge, especially given the key role they play in many swing states. Hispanics are a fast-growing group and they gave about 70% of their vote to Obama. The GOP must develop a workable immigration policy acceptable to their base and to Hispanics.
The voters did not reject Republican values on Election Day. Indeed, “the people’s house” remains firmly Republican. Candidate Mitt Romney found his stride demonstrated by his historic first debate performance. He came up just short in a race where Republican misbehavior may have been the difference.
The writer, a speaking and media coach, is a former elected official who has managed a number of campaigns that unseated entrenched incumbents.