If Romney loses tonight, there are going to be a lot of shocked Republicans and conservatives. If you’re a reader of the Greek New Testament (and who isn’t?) the appropriate word is “skandalon.” Such a result will be a “scandal” or a “stumbling block” to your friends who were sure that good Ohioans would vote for Mitt Romney and that this Nate Silver guy at the New York Times was cooking the books on the polls, along with the rest of the media.
Conservatives will say, with some good reason, that unemployment is unacceptably high. Obama didn’t bring hope or change. And there is no way all those flaky college kids and minority voters could be excited enough to show up to the polls this year. So how did this happen?
Here are some things to remind them:
Lots of Republican voters died, and lots of Democratic voters came into being: The winning modern Republican coalition goes back to Richard Nixon. It includes lots of white ethnic Catholics, Southern Evangelicals, and the odd country clubbers. This coalition is much older and whiter than the America that is rapidly coming into being. About two and half million Americans die every year. That means something like 10 million Americans died since 2008. More of them would be Republican voters than not. And at the same time, younger voters are much more likely to take President Obama’s side on the culture war. They are more likely to be non-white and secular. About 16.8 million Americans turned 18 between the last election and this one. So, yes, Democratic enthusiasm may be dampened, but demographic changes make it easier for Democrats to turn out the same number of voters year after year.
Romney could not take advantage of Obama’s weaknesses with the working class: Since his primary run in 2007 and 2008, it has been obvious that Barack Obama has distinct problems with white working class voters. Republicans gained congressional seats from Scranton to Des Moines in 2010, the exact area where Romney needed to do well. But Mitt Romney was almost exactly the wrong kind of Republican to reach out to these voters. He looks like upper management, the guys that get bonuses for laying you off. In fact, Obama successfully painted him as just such a vulture capitalist in these states. Romney’s “47 percent” remarks also demonstrated that he has no natural feeling of solidarity for “working Joes.” Meanwhile, Obama had been making amends with this group of voters by claiming to have saved the American auto industry, and portraying Mitt as the man who wanted to destroy it. When Mike Huckabee said Mitt looked like the guy that fired you, you nodded in agreement.
You heard lots about Benghazi on talk-radio and Fox News, but Mitt Romney botched the issue then ditched it. So hardly anyone else heard about it. Romney was always going to have a tough time on this issue because he wants to position himself as “tougher” than Obama. But Obama’s error in Libya may have been being too promiscuous with the use of force. There is almost no doubt that the president’s administration made poor decisions when our mission in Libya pleaded for more security. There is almost no doubt that the administration stuck with a bogus story about a YouTube video causing a riot that killed the Ambassador to Libya long after they had good reasons not to believe it. There is almost no doubt that the president’s decision to intervene in Libya made America responsible for the chaos in the region and an unwitting accomplice in the rise of Al Qeada in Mali and elsewhere. But when our ambassador was killed, Romney held a press conference implying that Obama sympathized with the attackers. Not only was this wrong, it was easy to rebut. Instead of letting the press go after the president, Romney strode out like a matador and waved a big red flag at them. He got gored for “jumping the gun.” At the second debate, Romney didn’t lay out his own views of what happened in Libya, but tried to get into a semantics debate about when Obama used the word terror. It backfired and became a disastrous moment for Romney. By the third debate, Romney just ignored the question on Libya.
America isn’t what you thought it was: Please remember, in 2008 Barack Hussein Obama absolutely trounced Republicans in Virginia. Virginia! The Old Dominion that is littered with landmarks dedicated to Robert E. Lee voted for the first black president overwhelmingly. You have been saying that Obama was going to change America. It turns out that America had changed already. That’s why you got Barack Obama in the first place.
Finally: you didn’t like Romney that much either. So are you really surprised? The entire Republican primary was a search for a “Not-Romney” candidate. In fact, you probably once contemplated voting for Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, or Rick Santorum precisely because Romney was a flip-flopper who invented Obamacare in Massachusetts. Just a year ago, my dear conservative friend, you were likely very much against the idea of Romney being your nominee. So how can you be surprised that other Americans never warmed to him as a choice for president?