America woke up last Wednesday to find its government essentially unchanged. After a campaign season that lasted for almost a year and a half and came with a price tag running well into the Billions, we are left once again with a divided government, featuring a Democratic Senate and a Republican House of Representatives battling it out to send bills to President Obama's desk for his signature.
But while the pre-election polls all pointed to the Congressional Balance of Power we now find ourselves with, it is not a stretch to say that many, especially on the Republican side of the aisle, seem genuinely surprised by the outcome of the Presidential race.
While pundits and journalists spin their theories of how Mitt Romney's demise began with Hurricane Sandy and the pictures of him working with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, I believe in a different story. I believe the truth is that Mitt Romney's candidacy was destined for failure before it even began. In this storyline, even before Romney became the party's presumptive nominee with his victory in the Texas primary on May 29th, he was such a flawed candidate that he was incapable of winning what should have been a very winnable election. I have singled out 3 of Romney's major flaws as a candidate that I believe doomed him prevented him from crossing the finish line:
1) "Let Detroit go Bankrupt". On November 19th, 2008, before Romney even knew he would be running for President, he wrote these fateful words in a New York Times editorial arguing against the auto bailout. While it is true that the Obama campaign did a terrific job hanging this around Romney's neck, it was Mitt's own words that made it impossible for him to compete in all-important Ohio.
2) Rick Perry and America's Demographic Destiny. Regardless of Mitt Romney's actual true beliefs on immigration, he decided to carry the water of the far right in the many GOP primary debates, spitting out non-sensical phrases like "self-deportation" and taking a stance opposing the DREAM Act. He did this to prove his conservative bone fides and seized a chance to move to the right of Rick Perry, which made it easier to win the GOP nomination. It came with a steep price, however, which can be seen in the huge and lopsided preferences among Latinos. America's demographic destiny is slowly pushing the GOP towards irrelevance. Mitt Romney is perhaps the first victim.
3). "The guy that fired your Dad". That is how Jon Stewart described Mitt Romney, and the comparison is apt. The current political environment is notable for its anti-wall street fervor, and Mitt Romney is, at his core, the very embodiment of everything that people see as wrong with Wall Street. The Bain Capital attacks on Romney faded from view over the past few months, but their damage was inflicted over the summer. One ad in particular, featuring an Indiana worker in a manufacturing plant who described how he and his coworkers were asked build a stage shortly after Bain Capital took it over, only to be told they were all fired from it, was just devastating in terms of turning off Blue Collar workers to Mitt.
The Republican Party is in for a lot of soul-searching in the days and weeks ahead. There will be lots of finger pointing, and there is lots of blame to go around. But I just don't buy the argument that Obama's win was the result of some late breaking surge or a win with last minute deciders. In an Obama vs. Romney matchup, the winner should have been clear all along.