Presented by Fisher Investments: Election Analysis; Bernie vs. Liz; 2012 Revisited

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Good morning, it’s Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. On this date seven years ago, Americans woke up after a tedious and sometimes disheartening status-quo election. Meet the new president, same as the old one. The political establishment was neither shocked, as it would be four years later, nor exhilarated, as it had been four years earlier. After waging an exceptionally inspirational campaign in 2008, Barack Obama had not always taken the high road in 2012.

The media didn’t make the Democrats pay a price for their low blows at Mitt Romney, but when it was over the Republican nominee himself didn’t seem to bear any grudges. His election night concession call to President Obama, and subsequent remarks to the GOP faithful, were uncommonly gracious.

Something tells me that won’t happen a year from now -- no matter who wins or loses -- though I’d love to be proven wrong. I’ll have more on Mitt Romney, who is now a U.S. senator, in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

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2019 as Precursor to 2020? Results Say Yes, No, and Maybe. Phil Wegmann reports on the two parties’ interpretations of Tuesday’s outcome.

Three Takeaways From Tuesday’s Elections. Sean Trende has this analysis of the results in Virginia, Kentucky and Mississippi.

Restoring Our Faith in Redemption. By Foster Friess spotlights examples of forgiveness that exemplify the values on which America was based, and which the nation needs more of in this contentious age.

Sanders vs. Warren Is the Battle to Watch. Reed Galen questions whether either of the progressive candidates has what it takes to go after the other as the primary contest moves forward.

Why Warren’s Plan Will Lead to Worse Health Care. Brian Blase argues that Medicare for All will replace choice, competition, and innovation with bureaucracy, lobbying, and stagnation.

Chicago Punts on Looming Teacher Pension Disaster. In RealClearPolicy, Nat Malkus and RJ Martin decry the strike settlement reached last week, which doesn’t address a gargantuan $11 billion funding shortfall.

Afghanistan Election Isn’t Cause for U.S. Withdrawal. In RealClearWorld, Farhat Popal argues that the democratic gains remain fragile and need ongoing protection.

The Biggest Myth About Protein. RealClearScience editor Ross Pomeroy explains why the “health halo” around the dietary nutrient is somewhat undeserved.

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During the autumn of 2012, the presidential election seemed competitive, with polls in the swing states showing the race within the margin of error or close to it and with enough undecided voters out there to put the outcome in doubt. On Election Day, however, Democratic Party voters turned out for their guy and the undecided chose not to swap horses in the middle of the stream, in the words of another famous Illinois politician. In the end, nearly every one of those states we were watching closely -- Virginia, Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, Pennsylvania -- went for the incumbent.

When you lose an election thought to be winnable, as Mitt Romney did that year, no single reason is to blame. There are many factors. Tom Bevan and I came up with 21 of them. The last element on our list was attitudinal -- on the part of the nominees, not the electorate: Romney seemed to view the presidency as a management job. And though U.S. history is rife with presidents who didn’t manage things well (many believe the current president is a prime example), the American people are usually looking for a leader, not a manager.

Tom and I thought of this while watching Romney’s brief speech to his loyalists in Boston. We weren’t alone. Many commentators made a point of noting how classy he’d been in defeat, and this was true. But Democratic consultant Paul Begala and former Republican White House press secretary Ari Fleischer both found the speech notable for what wasn’t in it:

There was no litany of issues and causes that Romney vowed to fight for in the years to come; no discussion of the policy choices Americans would have to make in the future. It was simply not, Fleischer and Begala observed, a concession speech from the leader of a political movement.

This wasn’t a surprise. Romney’s adversaries on both the right and the left often accused him of lacking “a core,” but those closest to him found this critique to be widely off the mark. Core values to Mitt Romney were, and remain, his church and family, and to those two venerable institutions he is a consistently devoted servant.

Mark McKinnon, a confidant of George W. Bush, described Romney to me at the time as a good man whose values run deep, but whose politics are “transactional.” That’s hardly a sin, given that the politics of America’s two major parties are also transactional.

To liberal journalist Ezra Klein, Romney’s problem -- in terms of how he was perceived in 2012 -- is that he demonstrated to voters that what he most valued was empirical information, which complemented his natural management skills.

“A lifetime of data has proven to him that he’s extraordinarily, even uniquely, good at managing and leading organizations, projects and people,” Klein wrote that year. “It’s those skills, rather than specific policy ideas, that he sees as his unique contribution. That has been the case everywhere else he has worked, and he assumes it will be the case in the White House, too.”

Mitt never got the chance to prove his theory. The American people, albeit by a respectable 51% to 47% margin, didn’t choose a manager. For better or worse, the majority gravitated toward a man they viewed as leader -- and it was a measure of Romney’s core that when he said publicly the night he lost that he’d be praying for Barack Obama to succeed, the people who knew him best believed what he said.  

Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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