It could have been different. We could have seen the election go the other way and Romney enjoying the fireworks, the adulation, and the spotlight of being president-elect. But if we have learned one thing is that mathematics trumps belief when it comes to elections. Who shows up to the polls, and not a feeling of “momentum” that is hyped in the chattering class, determines who’s going to win. Yes, there’s more to an election than just people showing up to the polls (though, that’s the most important part), but it seems that Romney’s campaign was too wedded to what they were seeing on the road (like crowds who were excited to see him) and too dismissive of what the math was saying about voter registration, Obama’s “ground game,” the slim but real lead Obama had in the polls (when aggregated), and the fact that while Obama was getting hammered about the economy, people generally liked him and were more understanding of the Great Recession and what he inherited than the slowness of the recovery. And the fact that there has a been a recovery (albeit, a very tepid one) speaks well of the economic theory that helped dig us out of this mess. Plus, I don’t think the slim majority of voters forgot George W. Bush and what his administration what like for the eight years they ruled the roost.
But Romney and his handlers wanted people to forget who essentially started burning down the house, and then handed Obama the keys and said “Good luck with all of that” in 2008. Voters also haven’t forgotten that the Republicans had only one mission on their agenda for the last four years: deny Obama a second term by blocking every initiative he proposed. Since 2010, when the Democrats lost a crap-load of seats to Tea Party Republicans, it was clear to political watchers that for Obama to win in 2012, he had to remind the voters who elected him not to sit this one out — as many did in 2010. So the “ground game” meant a number of things: 1. get new voters registered. 2. Get people motivated to vote for Obama and the Democrats 3. Find ways to counteract the Right’s voter suppression tactics that have been in the works since 2010. 4. Raise a ton of money to fight the media battle. 5. Use technology to help identify voters and constantly pelt them with messages telling them about the importance of voting. It was, in short, the triumph of organization over Romney’s more old school political campaigning — which included the use of their right wing media network doing what they do best. That is to say, scream and shout about socialism, loss of freedoms, birth certificates, etc… But that only goes so far. What that does is solidify a shrinking base and does very little to expand support for the GOP and Romney. Now, the GOP’s method of turning out the vote has worked very well for the past 25 years, but because of demographic changes, the kind of racist and sexist BS that the right has been dishing out is now reaching the “law of diminishing returns.”
For Romney to be “shellshocked” about losing the election means that he’s was not thinking beyond what his echo chamber was telling him. The depth of his loss must have hit him on many levels. The sense of mission Mormons have when they engage in the world is replete with signs, symbols and a sense of destiny. If they “fast and pray” about what they should do, and look for a signal from the Almighty that they are doing the right thing, there’s a real sense it is to be. So for Romney (who, as a good Mormon, would have seen his campaign as endorsed by his Heavenly Father) to lose — and lose as badly as he did– has most likely shaken him to both the religious and political core. And he’s not alone. I’m not the only one who has suggested that a Romney loss will start a bit of war within the GOP. It’ll be the purists against what’s left of the practical ones. And we all know that there are more purists in the party who are wedded to belief and ideology than practical members who do their math and understand the way in which our culture has changed.