Wednesday, November 07, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Mitt Romney swept away

“I just wasn’t made for these times.”

— Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney graciously conceded late Tuesday night. He realized a week ago that he could not win as President Obama kept gaining ground after Hurricane Sandy ravaged New York and New Jersey.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was the keynote speaker at the Republican convention, pretty much abandoned Romney after the storm, which all but doomed his candidacy.

What a difference a couple of weeks can make in a closely fought presidential race: Hurricane Sandy, decent jobs reports and a little help from Bill Clinton put Obama over the top.

The presidential campaigns spent $2.6 billion on a very close election, but a handful of battleground states decided the outcome in Obama’s favor, especially a small number of Hispanic voters in Florida, Colorado, Nevada and elsewhere who made the difference in the election. Obama won almost every battleground state he needed to put him on top in the electoral column.

After years of bashing Hispanics, the Republican Party has written off the fastest-growing minority in the U.S. Thoughtful Republicans warned against alienating this bloc of voters who, except for Cuban-Americans, trend Democratic.

Romney was unable to buck a trend that smart bloggers had spotted months ago. That trend, said polling aggregators like Nate Silver and Sam Wang, showed a clear lead for Obama in the Electoral College and a much closer popular vote.

Silver’s 538 blog set the standard for dependable forecasting. He, along with Professor Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium, predicted the election last summer. The numbers changed from time to time — most dramatically after the first presidential debate in Colorado — but as Silver and Wang analyzed state polls, they realized Romney had a steep hill to climb. Republicans cried foul, but Silver and Wang were right on the money.

The auto bailout, which Romney opposed, helped Obama win Ohio. But there were many other ominous trends for the Republican Party: Suburban voters outside the Deep South stuck with the President, while first-time voters cast their ballots overwhelmingly for Obama.

Romney could have waltzed to victory, but he was a poor campaigner and never set out a clear agenda. Even his personal wealth, estimated at $250 million, couldn’t propel him to victory.

Neither side had plans to help the true middle class. Obama’s policies aim at helping the working poor, and for Romney the middle class means the upper echelons and certainly not the 47 percent he dismissed as moochers during the campaign.

Could Romney have done better? He offered vague promises if he became president and seldom hit Obama very hard. Did Romney pull his punches because of Obama’s race and the Mormon Church’s ambivalent relationship with blacks?

There were many misleading ads and not enough ideas, apart from Romney’s insistence he would repeal the Affordable Health Care Act. He offered no alternative in its place. He didn’t even suggest replacing it with the health-care law that he pushed through in Massachusetts, perhaps because the two laws are almost identical.

A year ago, the presidential race was a foregone conclusion: President Obama could not get re-elected with a lousy economy and high unemployment numbers. Six months ago, when Romney was cruising toward becoming the Republican presidential nominee, Obama looked like a certain loser.

But as the economy and the jobs numbers improved, Romney looked less confident as he looked for new themes for his campaign. He never produced a serious tax agenda or explained how he’d reduce the deficit. Instead of polishing his game, he was awkward on the campaign trail, and there was worse to come: His foreign tour last summer was embarrassing as he made gaffes wherever he went. He did well in the first debate, but he could not get ahead after the next two debates.

His biggest problem was his failed attempt to disown his past as a moderate northeastern Republican and a venture capitalist who invested in companies with dubious moral principles (like the Arkansas-founded Stericycle, which disposes of fetuses around the country) while getting preferential treatment on his taxes.

Despite Romney’s success in the financial world, political success has eluded him except for one term as governor of Massachusetts and securing his party’s presidential nomination.

Obama beat a weak opponent, but he’s earned his victory. For the sake of our nation, the deadlock in Washington must now come to an end.