The Republican hand-wringing has begun.
Every GOP and conservative pundit worth the elephant pin on their lapel seems to have a reason for why Mitt Romney lost. The candidate ran a bad campaign, some say. Others say he was too conservative, while even more say he wasn’t conservative enough. Others even called out Mother Nature, blaming Hurricane Sandy for halting Romney’s march to the presidency. Not just a few have mumbled under their breath that Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie helped the Democrats win by praising President Obama’s leadership in the days after the storm. And some are even predicting that the defeat marks the end of the Bush era and opens the way for a return to the Reagan era, without Reagan of course.
What is shockingly missing from many of these post-mortems is an honest admission that arrogance, both on the part of the candidate and his campaign, was a major cause of Romney’s defeat. And nowhere was this more on display than on election night when the American public and the newly re-elected president were kept waiting by a candidate who hadn’t even bothered to prepare a concession speech. Not only was there no speech, the Romney campaign was so sure of victory that they had planned a fireworks display over Boston Harbor. Like a canceled Fourth of July, the fireworks stayed mute.
Concession speeches have often been a losing candidate’s finest hour. Once Romney appeared onstage, reportedly “shell-shocked” by the loss, he instead gave a short, routine speech, ending it by saying he wished the president well and that he would pray for him. Missing was the generosity evident in 2008 when Sen. John McCain spoke about the history that was made with Obama’s election as the first African American president of the United States.
The Romney campaign’s arrogance led to much more than a non-concession concession speech. It was the basis for serious miscalculations in the month leading up to the election. For reasons which remain unknown and still stun many political analysts, the campaign insisted that their own private polling, which showed Romney with a lead, was better than all the non-partisan polling which showed Obama ahead. They also discounted the power of the Democrats well-known and highly-respected Get Out the Vote “ground game,” reportedly downplaying the idea that Democrats could register more voters in the crucial swing states. Democrats did, however, and these voters came out and voted, some standing in line for hours in Ohio and Florida, the most crucial of the crucial battleground states. The Romney campaign seemed to take an “our way or the highway” approach. Unfortunately for them, the majority of Americans took the Democrats’ expressway.
The lack of a concession speech was also more than just about common courtesy. It also showed just how much the Republicans were out of touch with Americans’ basic belief and faith in President Obama, despite the economic hardships. The Associated Press has reported that according to exit polls, a majority of voters said the economy was the main issue on their minds, but about half of them felt that the problems related to it were the responsibility of former President George W. Bush, not President Obama.
These exit polls vindicated the Democrats’ argument that the American public both understood the depth of the economic problems that Obama inherited and gave him credit for the herculean effort it would take to right the ship. More important, these polls revealed that his struggles over the past four years resonated with middle and lower income voters, who in many ways could see their struggles in him. This connection was crucial to Obama’s re-election and couldn’t be severed, no matter how hard the GOP tried. In the end, Americans simply refused to turn their backs on the president, believing that he had tried as hard as he could during the first four years of his term and deserved to be re-elected to finish the job.
Like all presidential campaigns, there was more than one reason why Romney lost. What is more shocking is how their arrogance led them to be so unprepared to lose. And when they did, they didn’t even know what to say. The Republicans’ biggest winner on election night was hubris.
As for President Obama, his victory speech in Chicago brought down the house.
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