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Friday, November 16, 2012

Romney's Parting Words

Surprise, surprise a lot of people voted for Obama because they thought Obama's policies would be good for them personally.  Doesn't everybody know that's how some voters behave?

Of course they do, and Romney used the same strategy.  That's why he was in Virginia promising to save the coal industry and to build more submarines, why he was in Ohio promising to build more tanks, and why he was promising to lower everybody's taxes.  So he was going after the coal vote, the military vote, the Ohio vote, the Virginia vote, and the taxpayer vote.

As for Romney's blaming his loss on Obama's successful get-out-the-vote effort, that just underscores one more of his own campaign's failures.  Yes, Obama's team did a masterful job of getting the people he had pandered to (as well as the people that Romney had alienated) to the polls.  That happens during every election, and every politician knows it (although I think Obama's "get-out-the-vote" effort this time around was more scientific and better-run than any in history).  But Romney had just as much or more money to devote to that purpose.  His team on that score was simply not as effective as Obama's.  Complaining about losing an election based on this factor is like blaming your loss in a basketball game on the fact that your opposition used better teamwork.  Complete lack of self-awareness.

In the traditional battle between the incumbent and the challenger -- each side has advantages and disadvantages.  Let's go back and consider them, and see if we can figure out what Romney should have done.

Incumbent Advantage:  Assuming the incumbent can get something past the opposition in Congress, he can actually follow through on some of his promises before the election.

Incumbent Disadvantage:  Can be blamed for whatever is bad that has happened in the last four years.

Challenger Advantage:  Can run as an outsider who will fix a broken Washington (as Obama did in 2008)

Challenger Disadvantage:  Can't actually pass legislation until he is in office.

Challenger Advantage:  There will be a certain class of people whom the President has rubbed the wrong way, and who would simply never vote for him.

That last-mentioned advantage is the flip side of Romney's "47%."  In this case, it's quite clear that it was more than 30% -- just listen to a little AM talk-radio.  And to be fair, let's acknowledge that Romney's "47%" is just wrong -- the figure of people who would vote for Obama "no matter what" was probably more like 30%.   So just to keep the math simple, let's say that each side had 30% in the bag, and there was 40% up for grabs.  In this economy, I think that's a fair assessment.

And yet the Republican primary system required Romney to pander shamelessly to the 30% that the Republicans already had (that would never have voted for Obama anyway), with the result that by the time of the conventions, he had already alienated a good deal of the 40% that was up for grabs.  While he tried to shift ground, he ultimately overdid it by becoming downright dishonest, and certainly a good percentage of the uncommitted held that against him.

If the Republicans had had any sense, they would have found a middle-of-the-road candidate early on and let him or her appeal to all of those in the 40% who were disappointed by Obama.  That candidate could have simply run on the "repeal Obamacare" and "fix the economy" message from the get-go while agreeing with almost everything else that Obama was doing or had done.

It would have been easy to run a campaign around repealing Obamacare that might have actually appealed to the majority of the country that does not like it.  The government had a chance to actually use its leverage -- as the biggest and growing-bigger consumer of health care in the country -- to do something to control the price of health care.  But instead, the administration essentially bought off the biggest profiteers in the health care industry -- the drug companies and the insurance companies -- by promising them as good or greater profits than ever before.  And put a big financial burden on a lot of hardworking Americans, although (of course) that burden was not set to really kick in until after this election.

By focusing on Obamacare rather than promising insane tax cuts, a Republican candidate with just a modicum of charisma could have been elected pretty easily this time around.

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