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21 Reasons for Obama's Victory and Romney's Defeat

By Tom Bevan and Carl M. Cannon - November 7, 2012

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Matt Bissonnette, the ex-Navy SEAL who went on the raid into Pakistan and wrote a book about it, describes how the members of the attack team joked with each other about how the president would take all the credit for it, which he did. But these hard cases in the Special Forces come across as pretty sharp about political realities. “We just got this guy re-elected,” one of them says after the mission is complete. Replies Bissonnette: “Well, would you rather not have done this?”

The question answers itself, but that was one of the Republicans’ problems, too.

7. No Help From His Running Mate: Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan cheered fiscal and social conservatives within the Republican Party and provided a much needed shot in the arm for Romney’s campaign, but in terms of its demographic and geographic effect, the choice was a net zero.

It did not help Romney in Wisconsin, where Ryan had never even run statewide. And by choosing Ryan, Romney passed over the more qualified Rob Portman, Ohio’s Republican senator who could have helped in the Buckeye State.

Ryan’s presence on the ticket might have actually hurt marginally in Florida, where his ideas about reforming Medicare were used, unfairly, to scare the bejesus out of seniors. Charismatic young Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would almost certainly have delivered the Sunshine State to Republicans -- an absolute must win state in any conceivable path for Romney to reach 270 -- and help attract Latino support in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada, three mountain states won by Obama.

Choosing a woman could have dulled the 12-percent gender gap Romney suffered on Election Day. Despite the likelihood of drawing unflattering comparisons to McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin in 2008, it might have been worth the risk, especially given the Democrats’ “war on women” attacks and the injurious gaffes about rape by two GOP Senate hopefuls.

8. “Obamneycare”: That’s the word former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty coined early in the Republican primary season to remind voters that the inspiration for the Affordable Care Act targeted by conservatives was inspired by a Massachusetts statute championed by Romney and signed into law by him -- and which contains the  “individual mandate” so loathed by conservatives.

In a debate before he dropped out of the race, Pawlenty refused to reprise his “Obamneycare” dig. But former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum -- the last challenger standing other than Romney in the GOP primaries -- termed his rival “the worst” possible standard bearer the Republicans could nominate to press this issue against the president. Santorum may have been right.

9. Op-ed II: Romney’s frequent defense to conservative voters during the Republican primaries was that the law he signed in Massachusetts was a state solution that should not be applied nationally. While perhaps too nuanced for today’s politics, this was a proper expression of federalism, which involves managing the relationship between Washington and the states.

The problem is that it wasn’t even true. In other op-ed, this one written for USA Today in July 2009, Romney urged Washington to look to Massachusetts as a model.

“Health care cannot be handled the same way as the stimulus and cap-and-trade bills,” he wrote. “Health care is simply too important to the economy, to employment and to America's families to be larded up and rushed through on an artificial deadline. There's a better way. And the lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find it.”

The old USA Today piece was unearthed by the website BuzzFeed just in time to be used as fodder by both Republicans and Democrats who accused Romney of having “no core.”

10. Contraception: Rick Santorum’s forays into the social issues that were his calling card when he served as a Pennsylvania senator did the eventual nominee no favors. In October 2011, when he was a blip in the polls and trying to gin up support among Iowa’s Christian conservatives, Santorum gave an interview with an evangelical blog called Caffeinated Thoughts, in which he asserted his view that he is “not okay” with contraception. Taking aim at a little-discussed aspect of Obamacare, Santorum vowed that as president he’d “get rid of any idea that you have to have abortion coverage or contraceptive coverage.”

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Tom Bevan is the co-founder and Executive Editor of RealClearPolitics. Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Editor for RealClearPolitics.

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