Romney should have won. He had a perfect storm of issues to his advantage: the economy, Washington gridlock, distrust of Obamacare, weariness over two inconclusive wars. But he ran the most inept, inane, and irrelevant campaign imaginable. Obama’s campaign was just good enough to win; but not a bit more. Not the inspirational effort of 2008.
Turns out that Romney campaign manager Eric Fehrnstrom’s notorious “Etch-a-sketch” remark of last March was completely accurate. Romney was to run as a right-wing gomer in the primaries and then “move to the middle” after he got the nomination. And that’s all there was! Campaigns for student council president at Podunk Junior High School have displayed more sophistication. And Romney’s vaunted move to the middle was ham-fisted, bone-headed, and flat-footed to a fault. It made Bob Dole’s dudfest in 1996 look brilliant. (And Dole never ran away from his own record.)
The cracks and crevices of Romney’s contentless campaign let the racially-driven hatred of Obama seethe and smolder. No dog whistle politics needed. Romney got the white vote. Congratulations.
All of this has consequences. Our family has lived in a small town south of Boston for many years. It’s solidly Republican, which means that many, if not most, of our neighbors and friends regularly vote Republican. And, yes, they say they like small government, magical markets, and the need for a 1982 foreign policy. But they are decent people who worry about their kids and grandkids and are genuinely perplexed about where America is heading. And if the Republican party is going to become anything more than a gaggle of misfits and malcontents it needs people like them. Romney let them down. He needs to explain to these folks why he did this. He can call this his apology tour.