Electoral College Results and Analysis: Why Mitt Romney Lost Election 2012
The Electoral College results are likely to end with President Obama scoring 332 and Mitt Romney 206. Obama crossed the 270 line and won the presidency. Florida's 29 votes were delayed as counting continues, but Obama was far enough ahead to call that state for him. Take a look at the final map and I'll walk you through my analyis of why Mitt Romney lost election 2012.
An election is determined by who gets more votes. More votes are delivered to the candidate that emotionally connects with the most people and lines up best with where the country is on the issues. Mitt Romney lost because he failed to connect with enough people and his approach to issues turned off key voters.
Politics is local. The positions a leader takes on the national stage must be those that play well across the entire country. The way a leader frames his positions on the issues are more important. More important than that is the consistency of a leader's position on the issues. A leader must hold solid enough positions that a wide coalition of people can get behind him. Romney failed at this.
Core issues and key voters
Despite national polls, which had Romney ahead on how he would handle the economy, the top issue of the campaign, Obama won the election on trust in his handling of the economy. When Ohio was called for Obama the election was over. Ohio favored Obama's handling of the economy. While Obama led an auto industry turnaround that impacted one out of eight jobs in the key battleground state, it was more than that. Romney's Op-ed was titled, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." What if he framed his position on the issue as, "Restructuring the Auto Industry for a Thriving Economy." Not only was President Obama's leadership in the key battleground state, on the key issue, impecable, but Romney damaged himself.
Romney's approach to fixing the auto industry also had a few core problems, which I cover here.
Despite all the pundits stating that the election came down to demographics, this is wrong. Romney failed to address key demographics in a way that appealed to them emotionally and on the issues. Romney lost by one of the largest margins in history amongst the Latino population. Not because they are Latino, but because he directly turned them off.
All politics is local, and Romney's horrendous treatment of the issues that matter to the Latino population was the nail in the coffin for Florida electoral votes. There is also a huge Latino population in Virginia. While President Obama was speaking to the dreams and aspirations that brought this hard- working population to America at great risk in the first place, Romney proposed "self deportation."
Then Romney says he would veto the "Dream Act," which helps children of illegal immigrants who have lived here their entire lives get an education and build a future. Watch the video on YouTube here.
Watch Mitt Romney when confronted by a "Dreamer," who asks him to support the Dream Act. Then watch as a woman says, "In Florida you are going to need the Latino voters." Romney fails to listen, he passes up Latinos in person and on the national stage. View how dismissive he is in this video and you can see why it's not "demographics," but the candidate himself:
That auto bailout and Dream Act issues cost Ohio, Virginia, and Florida. The election was over. It didn't matter how much money was spent. More money can't convince people in Ohio that Obama was not their hero. More money can't convince Latinos that Romney will be concerned for them.
Romney faced similar problems on his handling of Medicare and with women voters as he called for the end of abortion rights. Abortion is the top issue to women voters and women were a top voting block in 2012.
Over and over again, Romney is cutting down key voting blocks. Take a look at the New York Times analysis of voter demographics here. Romney turned these groups off one-by-one.
Problems with Romney's core lines of attack
"President Obama's policies made the economy worse." This line was repeated over and over again early in the campaign. Romney was saying this as it was becoming evident that the economy was improving. There was a key transition moment when the Romney campaign just decided to convince people that the economy was worse than it is. It was dishonest. Republicans today believe the economy is horrendous and Democrats believe it is greatly improved.
Americans don't look at a 7.9% unemployment number and say, "That's too high, new President." They vote based on where things are headed. All the data and charts showed that job trends and unemployment rates were headed in the right direction. View charts and analysis here.
Romney's campaign message was "Believe in America." Things were improving for enough people that they were starting to say, "I do." Americans credited Bush for leading to the collapse. They don't blame Obama. So, as Romney tried to pin blame on Obama for economic conditions that no longer exist; Romney failed.
Even worse, as Romney was attacking Obama on the national stage for his handling of the economy, people in Ohio had seen a dramatic improvement under Obama. Romney wasn't connecting because his message was counter to the experience in this key battleground state.
We all believed that Obama's health care plan was unpopular and Rasmussen polster wanted us to be reminded every day. Hardly any other polster was covering this. Just Rasmussen who was the Fox News polster and has a strong conservative bias. They were constantly putting out polls asking, "Do you want to repeal Obamacare?" Romney followed these polls and felt that if he attacked this issue very hard calling for repeal, he would win. View my analysis on this with videos here.
The problem with this is that other polls showed that Americans liked many of the individual parts of the plan once they found out about them. The Republican smear job was committed on the overall Affordable Care Act, but not the individual parts, which people understood benefited them.
Women didn't want repeal. It would mean they lose insurance coverage for contraception. Women were paying 150% of the rate men were for insurance and the law requires men be charged the same as women. Who wants repeal when it means insurance companies will be given back the ability to drop your insurance when you get sick?
Small businesses are slowly learning from their tax advisers that a tax credit will cover 1/3rd of the cost of health insurance; even if they are already providing it. My accountants told me that now is a good time to insure people. The top concern for hiring before health care reform was passed was skyrocketing insurance costs. Business owners like myself saw this year the slowest growth in premium cost in 51 years. Why would we want repeal? Prior to the ACA we saw a decade of 113% premium price increases.
The biggest problem is that reading the polls and then attacking health care reform caused Romney to aggressively attack everything he was the first to pass, which worked in his state, and that he proposed nationally. The individual mandate was Romney's. He said it was the "Republican solution to the Democrats free rider problem." (I explain that here.) He called the mandate, "Essential to getting everyone covered and bringing down the costs." Watch it yourself here. So Romney is attacking like crazy a plan that has all his best ideas in it. Making matters worse Obama had hired the Romneycare team to write the Affordable Care Act. They were pissed that Romney was attacking. Take a look:
Television pundits kept saying, "Romney is having a hard time connecting with voters." Well, he as out of sync with where voters were on the economy; particularly in Ohio. He was trying to dredge up past feelings of upset when people were feeling better. And he was coming from an untrue place in his heart and mind when it came to repealing Obamacare. When calling for the repeal of a plan that he believed in Romney was separating himself emotionally and thus unable to connect with voters.
Contrast this with President Obama. If you watch Obama's 2004 Democratic National Convention speech that launched him on the national stage, you can tell he will tackle health care reform and be a supporter of the Dream Act years later. Watch this here.
Leadership requires one to hold strong positions and keep them. Not only was Romney out of sync with core populations, out of sync on the economy and health care, but he was shifting positions like crazy. During the Republican primary his own party began calling him "The Etch-a-Sketch." President Obama later diagnosed "Romnesia," and said he's in luck because Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions. This is a key reason American's chose against Romney and for Obama.
People will follow a leader for key issues. If the leader shifts positions then he loses those people. When people see a leader shift a lot they stop believing what they hear. I covered this by providing a set of videos that capture Romney's huge shifts here. Romney shifted to whomever was in the room, whatever the polls said, and people began to realize this.
After being all over the map. Moving from being a more liberal governor, to "severely conservative" for the primaries, and then tacking hard to the center during the debates; something interesting happened. In the foreign policy debate Romney was almost endorsing all of Obama's approach and saying he would do the same thing. And then, watch how the concession speaches lined up. After all the shifting Romney starts talking about change and then eventually begins to look like Obama.
Beyond the issues is the moment that the issues arose.
Republican Missouri senate candidate Todd Akin made his legitimate rape remarks right after Paul Ryan was chosen to run as vice president. This was a black eye for the entire party, but Romney had just nominated Ryan who had co-sponsored a bill with Akin. You can learn about this issue and see the bill in my previous coverage here.
The Akin problem occurs at the beginning of the general election and is bookended at the end of the election with Richard Mourdock stating that children born from rape are a "gift from God." The timing here was one day after Romney had recorded a TV ad endorsing Mourdock.
Romney had then associated himself with leaders that were far too extreme for the general population and which lost him support from women.
Not only was the video insulting to half of Americans, but it was also factually wrong, and then here comes that timing problem again. The Obama campaign had just spent an entire summer before the general election kicked off, painting Romney as a guy who is out of touch and only cares about the wealthy. Then, a shortly after, Romney is in a room with extremely rich people explaining why he only cares about the wealthy. Awful, awful timing. The video was not only bad because of what Romney said. It was horrible because it validated how the Obama campaign defined Romney.
Then a superstorm comes up the coast a few days before the election. Talk turns to how badly Bush handled Katrina and we get to see Obama succesfully lead us through another disaster. It halts major campaign events where Romney is now drawing up to 20,000 people and creates a problem with the optics for Romney as he bounces to Ohio for a campaign ralley that turns into a "relief event."
It looks like this:
But, here's the problem we learn later. Reports begin to say that Romney went to WalMart with $5,000 and a truck to buy the supplies you see on that table. Then, people were handing him the donations he bought. After that we learn that the Red Cross wants blood donations and money and not supplies which are very costly to move and use. So Romney also led people to the wrong solution.
Next, we learn that Paul Ryan's budget slashed FEMA funding and Romney endorsed that budget. Then video, right before the election, emmerges of Romney from the primaries explaining that FEMA is immorral and the states should handle disaster relief. This happens right as a large number of Americans are depending on FEMA.
This happens while Obama is touring the coast with New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie. Right before the election one of Romney's strongest attack dog surrogates is praising Obama's leadership on the hurricane as together they are consoling victims.
A week before Christie had attacked the President saying, "he doesn't know anything about leading," "he is like a man walking around in a dark room, hand up against a wall, clutching for the light switch of leadership and he just can't find it and he won't find it in the next 18 days." Watch the video of Christie's attack. Then, after working with Obama (within the 18 days) Christie is all the sudden praising Obama's effective leadership. I cover this here.
Horrible, horrible timing. It could not have been any worse. Nobody could have planned such horrendous timing for Mitt Romney.
Election day comes and all this stuff about "legitimate rape," is back out there. FEMA is a major issue for Romney, his surrogate is praising Obama's leadership, and you have one more issue:
President Obama's success
Unemployment has been coming down, jobs are being added in larger numbers, and Obama showed expert leadership through hurricane sandy. All the attack lines used by Republicans are slowly being nullified. One month before an election where Romney had attacked Obama for having unemployment above 8% it falls below to 7.8%. Horrible, horrible, timing for Romney.
And it ends with this chart of President Obama's job approval:
Usually, when an incumbent has been unseated he has had a primary challenger from his own party. Obama did not. Only once in history have Republicans unseated a Democratic president and that was Jimmy Carter. Not only was Carter running against Reagan; an extremely popular film actor with immediate likeablility and recognition, but Carter had Ted Kennedy as a primary challenger, which weakened him, and his job approval rating was 35%.
In stark contrast, President Obama's job approval was at 52%, which was nearly as high as Bill Clinton's during his re-election. We don't replace presidents with 52% job approval rating and there were days it had been higher before hurricane Sandy hit.
There you have the complete anatomy of why Mitt Romney lost election 2012.