The 2 simple reasons why Republicans lost the presidency

Nov. 14, 2012

By John Seiler

An enjoyable part of the entertainment politicians give us is the barrage of explanations of why someone lost an election. We’re still getting that. Tony Quinn blames it on Republicans playing the “race card.” Charlie Cook says Republicans are too conservative. David Horsey insists Obama’s “data geeks” plotted victory.

But there there are two simple reasons for the Republican disaster:

1. Mitt Romney was a terrible candidate.

2. Barack Obama was a popular president who ran a disciplined, efficient campaign.

Let’s look at them.

First, Mitt Romney. His worst aspect was that he’s a flip-flopper. Nobody knew what he would have done in office because he had taken every position on every issue.

I knew many conservative Republicans who strongly opposed Romney in the primaries, then gradually came to endorse him in the general election as a way to stop Obama. That wasn’t enough.

Contrast that to Ronald Reagan, who had strong, deep support in 1976, when he narrowly lost to Gerald Ford, a sitting president, for the GOP nomination; then built on that support to be elected president in a landslide in 1980, defeating an incumbent president.

Barack Obama was a flip-flopper, too. For example, he promised to curb the abuses of the Bill of Rights perpetrated by the Bush administration. Instead, he expanded the abuses by signing the tyrannical National Defense Authorization Act (something that “Me Too” Romney, typically, also endorsed, losing an opportunity to score points against the president).

Yet a president doesn’t run on his promises but on his record. Although Obama failed to increase employment as much as he had promised, he successfully shifted the blame back to Bush. Romney never successfully countered that.

Tax plan disaster

Second, with economics the focus of his campaign, Romney’s tax plan was a disaster, as I wrote on this Web site. It supposedly “balanced” tax cuts with ending deductions. I never could figure out if my own taxes would go up or down. Romney should have just proposed cutting taxes, period, as Reagan did in 1980. Then he could have looked the middle class in the eye and said, “Elect me, Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class Americano, and your taxes will be slashed by one third. No gimmicks. Nothing else. One third.”

But Romney’s Harvard education, where he learned Keynesian whim-wham economics, got in the way, as it has for Obama on the president’s economic policies.

Romney’s failure on taxes let Obama refocus the campaign as one of “fairness,” with tax increases on the “millionaires” — people and small businesses with $250,000 income — hit for more.

Republicans blab a lot about attracting more Latino voters. And there are millions of Latinos who own small businesses; they also have millions more relatives. But what more did Republicans have to offer than, “I’m Mitt Romney. I’m a businessman worth $250 million and you’re not.” And: “I’m Mitt Romney, and I might get rid of your tax deductions as part of my tax-cut scheme that nobody understands.”


Meanwhile, Obama played on his likable persona. He ran a tight, focused campaign that broke down only once, when he blew the first debate. But even Reagan blew his first re-election debate in 1984, then went on to win 49 states. So Obama, staying cool, got back on message and recovered on the road to victory.

Grand old Party of losers

Since 1988, Democrats have put up a couple of dud candidates: John Kerry and Al Gore. But they also ran two candidates who, whatever you think of their policies, knew how to be politicians: Obama and Bill Clinton.

By contrast, the GOP has offered up nothing but duds.

In 1988, Bush Uno won only because he was seen as the heir to President Reagan. After breaking his “Read my lips! No new taxes!” pledge of 1988, Bush Uno was wiped out in 1992, getting just 38 percent of the vote. And that was a year when Latinos comprised just 2 percent of voters, instead of 10 percent today.

In 1996, Bob Dole was eager to lose so he could cash in doing Viagra commercials.

In 2000, Bush Dos lost the popular vote, but was elected in the electoral college and the Supreme Court after the chad flap.

In 2004, Bush almost lost to Kerry, despite a booming economy and the aftermath of 9/11.

In 2008, after vaunting to the lead when he picked Sarah Palin for veep, John McCain canceled his campaign for a week during the financial panic, then backed Bush Dos’s TARP bailout of Wall Street at the expense of Main Street.

Speaking of Republican candidates in 1960, Jack Kennedy quipped, “Where do they get those guys?”


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