Starting the day after the election, the bloodletting began, as Republicans began to analyze why the party lost so badly. And the response was near-unanimous -- it was Mitt Romney's fault. He was a bad candidate.
Republicans lost the White House, three seats in the Senate, nine seats in the House and received fewer House votes nationally than Democrats. All this in a weak economy when Republicans fully expected to gain everywhere. And Republican leaders have said it was all Mitt Romney's fault -- the White House, Senate, House, Mitt Romney's fault, all of it.
The finger-pointing got ratcheted up during the Republican Governors Conference. And then came the Sunday shows. More analysis, and more conclusions that it was Mitt Romney. All Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney All the Time.
Soon after, top Romney advisor Dan Senor went on MSNBC and vented against hypocritical Republican rats deserting a sinking ship. Mere days after assuming victory and trying "to position themselves for a Romney cabinet," he snapped, these loyal supporters were on television "absolutely eviscerating him."
The thing is -- he really was a lousy candidate. Standing for nothing, changing his positions regularly (at times hourly), hiding important details. Cayman Islands, dogs on roofs, un-released taxes, and, oh, that 47 percent...
And for all that --
These GOP crack analysts are wrong. Mitt Romney was not the problem for Republicans this year. In fact, he was the best candidate that Republicans had, by far. One of the best they've had in decades. Without Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket, Republican candidates across the country would likely have been crushed.
Consider who was running for president in the Republican Party this year.
How do you think Herman Cain and Donald Trump would have done against Barack Obama? Remember: at one point, they each were leading in Republican polls.
So was Michele Bachmann. She would have had independents ducking for cover to the Democratic side.
As much as Ron Paul's supporters were die-hard to the end, for a general election conservatives disliked him, and most of the rest thought he was a cranky old loon.
Jon Huntsman had much to offer, except to Republicans, and only registered 2 percent of the vote.
That leaves Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
Newt Gingrich has more negatives than electrons in uranium. He's a far-right ideologue who led the impeachment of Bill Clinton, shutdown the government, and left Congress soon after being sanctioned for ethics violations. Rick Santorum is so much father right that he literally wanted to make condoms a presidential campaign issue. If either of these candidates led the Republican ticket, it would have risked blowing the entire GOP back into the 19th Century.
All that leaves is Mitt Romney. For all his flaws, Mr. Romney was not only the best, but the only nominee Republicans could have challenged Barack Obama with this year.
In fact, going further, for all the GOP Expert angst about how disastrous Mitt Romney was for Republicans, he received 60,277,548 popular votes -- the second most that a Republican presidential candidate has gotten ever. It's six million more than conservative saint, Ronald Reagan ever received. His percentage of votes, 47.5 percent (ah, the whimsy -- Mitt Romney getting 47 percent) is the third highest percentage for a Republican in the last six presidential elections.
And Republicans are wringing their hands at how bad a candidate Mitt Romney was for the party. Closing your eyes to reality is never a good thing.
Here's the deal:
The problem isn't that Mitt Romney was a bad candidate for Republicans, but rather that Mitt Romney was the best candidate Republicans had.
Republicans can complain all they want about the candidates they had, and wish someone else had run, but they did this to themselves.
A year ago I wrote that when you spend four years calling the President of the United States a socialist Nazi Kenyan anti-American terrorist agent of the Devil killing old people and destroying the country, and you whip up your base to a frenzy that moves your party so far to the right that moderates become an endangered species, then you create a foundation where the only candidates you can possibly attract are Herman Cain, Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. And Mitt Romney ends up as your best chance.
In his play, Julius Caesar, Shakespeare wrote, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. It's in ourselves." And so it is with today's Republican Party. The fault is not with Mitt Romney -- he did better than most Republican presidential candidates have done in 24 years. The fault, dear Brutus, is with the Republican Party itself. When looking for a culprit for the 2012 Presidential, Senate and House losses, Republicans need only look in the mirror.
In the middle of a recession, Republicans should have won big. But they created their "#1 Priority." They created the direction of their party. They created their anti-women, anti-Hispanic, anti-health care, anti-Climate Change, anti-tax the wealthy, pro-legitimate rape agenda.
You make your bed, you lie in it.
Mitt Romney only went along for the ride.
Yes, he was a bad candidate. But he was the very best that today's Republican Party could have possibility come up with in the environment they themselves created. And he still did better than most Republicans have done in a quarter century.
Mitt Romney did not do badly this year. The Republican Party did badly for the past four years.
The Republican Party can turn their ship around. But they first have to open their eyes to see the real world around them.
I hope they do. I want two, vibrant parties that see reality and have a strong, honest debate. It's good for the country. Creating a fake-frenzy in a bubble is not good for anybody. Including oneself.
If Republicans don't get their ship turned around, it will hit that iceberg ahead. As the Titanic taught us, nothing is unsinkable.
Follow Robert J. Elisberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RobertElisberg