NEW YORK -- Everything seems so clear the morning after.
A Manhattan friend, one of the shrewdest guys in media, public relations and politics, just sent me an email that pretty much summarized it all.
"Obama ran a flawless campaign except for the first debate, and they pivoted correctly every time. Very impressive," he wrote. "Romney ran a ridiculous campaign and the primaries killed him and he was never able to fix that. He wound up being one of two things: either a liar with no center or a right wing nut case."
I probably should stop there. But given the line of work I'm in, I can't let it rest. I will be brief. Here are summaries of the analytical pieces I won't inflict (in full) on Huffington Post readers:
• Organization. In 1960, Jack Kennedy's team revolutionized presidential politics, taking it away from the state party bosses and putting it all in Bobby Kennedy's famous "little black book" of JFK friends. Their winning strategy became the template of campaigns for a generation after. President Barack Obama's team has worked another revolution in method, using social media, micro-targeting and distributed grassroots activism. Now they've proved that victory wasn't an accident in 2008. Their model will be studied and followed for decades.
• Not a Status Quo Election. Sure, the numerical line-up didn't change much: a Democratic president, a narrowly Democratic Senate and a Republican-led House. But under the circumstances, the results made an extraordinary statement about commitment to change: in health care (Obamacare), in taxes (a push to raise rates on the wealthy), on environmental action and for activist government. The vote was an expression of hope for more change in the future, along the lines of what the president has done so far.
• Where's Reagan-Kemp? The plain fact is that, his tactical errors, flip-flops and flat-out lies aside, Mitt Romney was -- as a type -- the very worst kind of character to defend our free market system. The Obama campaign ruthlessly painted him as a corporate raider and quick-buck flipper of companies, and they were successful because it was true. If Republicans are going to sell the virtues of the market, they need a self-made, affable person who knows that a blue collar is not what you see on a hunting shirt from Orvis.
• Billionaires Haven't Destroyed Us Yet. People such as Linda McMahon, Sheldon Adelson and Karl Rove spent hundreds of millions of dollars and did not get what they wanted. Obama and the Democrats aggregated small donations in a way that blunted the billionaire advantage. It's no reason to give up on overturning Citizens United, but it was reassuring.
• Latinos. People make fun of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his daily-briefing Rosetta Stone Spanish, but he has a point. This is now a bilingual country, culturally and politically. Hard to see how the GOP avoids putting a Latino on the ticket in 2016. Keep an eye on a Bush: George P. of Texas. He's half Mexican, moderate on immigration, fluent in Spanish -- and he already has a PAC.
• Determinism 'R Us. I complained about the role of poll aggregators and economic modelers who predict the results of campaigns using algorithms and regression analysis, whatever those are. But experts such as Larry Bartels of Vanderbilt, Nate Silver of The New York Times and Mark Blumenthal of HuffPost were right on target. Bartels, a political scientist, told me weeks ago that the president was likely to win because U.S. personal income growth was good enough in the second and third quarters of the year. He was right. Silver called the final numbers almost exactly. There is still a role for us anecdotal reporter types, I am assured. I'm not sure.
• Cynical Pundits. President Obama called out the "cynical pundits" who belittled the supposed majesty of the campaign, the aims of his presidency and the earnest notion that politics is about helping people. I took the criticism personally, of course, though he at times ran a cynical campaign. And let's hope that, in his second term, he lives up to his own inspiring view of the aims of politics and of government. Freed of electoral constraints, he has a chance to do so. If he can restore faith in our ability to govern ourselves, I'll applaud. I promise.
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