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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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11. A Fluke and a Rush to Judgment: In early March, Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee told panel Chairman Darrell Issa, a California Republican, that they wanted prominent liberal Barry Lynn to testify at a hearing on the contraception provisions of Obamacare. Instead, they asked at the last minute to hear from an obscure, third-year Georgetown University law student named Sandra Fluke.

Issa declined to let Fluke testify before the committee, but Democrats went ahead and had Fluke speak to them. She cited the case of a lesbian classmate who said she needs the estrogen in birth control bills to stave off ovarian cysts. Fluke turned out to be a 30-year-old seasoned activist and her example seemed dubious: Why couldn’t the woman in question get a prescription for her condition?

But right-wing radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh didn’t impeach her argument on that basis.

Instead, he called Fluke a “slut” and “a prostitute” (“What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke,” he said, “who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her?”)

This was the last kind of conversation that Mitt Romney wanted to be having this year, and it fit into the Democrats’ “war on women” narrative, which was trumpeted in thousands of Democratic Party attack ads aimed at convincing suburban women in swing states that Republicans were antediluvian.

12. Gay Marriage: Santorum also spent a surprising portion of his time debating college students -- and sometimes even high school students -- in support of traditional marriage. This, too, was not an issue that Romney particularly cared about or wanted to be front-and-center.

The same was true of the president, who was dragged reluctantly into the fray on this issue (by his own vice president, actually). But the way it played out actually helped Obama, as it became clear at the Democrats’ nominating convention in Charlotte that the party’s more liberal wing was prepared to challenge the status quo on this issue. Obama’s grudging embrace of same-sex marriage avoided all that.

13. The Thurston Howell III Factor: On more than one occasion, when it came to matters of wealth, Romney found himself with a silver shoe in his mouth.

Throughout the campaign, he agreed to release only recent tax returns, leading to speculation that he had something to hide. In January, Romney said he received some income from speaking fees, though he again termed it “not very much.” It turns out that the “not very much” he referred to totaled $374, 327.62 -- nearly seven times the average annual household income.

Later in the primary, in an attempt to appeal to Michigan voters, Romney told a crowd that he drove a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck before adding, “Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually.” Asked if he was a fan of NASCAR, Romney demurred before adding inexplicably that he was friends with NASCAR owners.

All of that might have been forgotten had it not been for a single stream-of-consciousness riff at a March fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla., where he asserted that 47 percent of Americans will support Obama’s re-election no matter what, presumably because they rely on big government while paying no income taxes themselves -- and refusing to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

This was a sentiment not easily explained away as a gaffe, and it played perfectly into the Democrats’ narrative about Romney: that he didn’t care about the middle class.

14. Romney’s National Lampoon Vacation: That was how MSNBC characterized Romney’s summer trip to Europe. And while that characterization was unfair -- his gaffes abroad, such as wondering aloud whether Britain was ready to host the Olympics -- were minor, it contrasted starkly with Obama’s triumphant trip to Europe as a candidate four years ago. In the process, it reminded voters of one of the original rationales for Obama’s unlikely 2008 run for the presidency: restoring the United States’ image abroad.

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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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