The Day After (VI)””Kendall Harmon: Why What Happened Happened

I always felt this election was between a weak incumbent and a weak campaign, and that view has not changed. I knew it was going to be very close at the popular level, and said to several friends that the only way Mitt Romney stood a chance electorally was to win Virginia, Ohio and Colorado. He lost all three.

So why did we have this outcome? There are a lot of reasons, but in my view the main ones are these:

The incumbency is a powerful thing–always has been, but all the more so today when the (office and position of the) Presidency has gained more power (too much power?) than before.

The Republican primary season was too long, and focused way too much on small ball.

Mitt Romney ran a weak campaign. He failed to criticize the President’s policies effectively, and to articulate a positive alternative vision that would excite the country.

The Democrats ran an effective campaign, and this in two senses. First, they made a strategic decision to make the campaign more about attacking their opponent than anything else. Further, they did this by deploying material early in order to paint Mitt Romney as someone from the elite upper class who was not able to identify with ordinary Americans. I have seen precious little good analysis on this, but class was one of the most important aspects of this election. It remains one of the biggest in this country (race is there for sure, but I believe class is the most important). The Republican campaign did not have an effective response to this attack.

Second, the GOTV (get out the vote campaign) and so-called ground game was more effective by the Democrats–again. I was surprised by Virginia and Florida both of which exhibit the skill here.

Finally, this is about electoral advantage. In the current make up of the country, the Democratic candidate has a much bigger starting Electoral College advantage than many have appreciated. The President invested heavily in the key battleground states as a result of being assured of so many easy wins in places like New York and California. It was this combined with the powerful ground game that won them a solid electoral majority, even though as of now it appears as though it will come from a narrow popular vote majority.

In the end, it is this simple: a weak incumbent beat a weak candidate because the election was always the formers to lose, and it didn’t happen, especially electorally.

Let me end on a positive note–I am so glad we have a clear victor, and it looks like in both votes. I really do not want to go through a 2000 contested election into December again. Thankfully, it was avoided.

Let us remember that governing is MUCH harder than campaigning, and the two are not the same. And let us continue to pray that God has mercy on America–KSH.

Update: I found it interesting to go back and reread what I wrote about the 2008 campaign–Why What Happened Happened in Election 2008.


Posted in * By Kendall, * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2012

34 comments on “The Day After (VI)””Kendall Harmon: Why What Happened Happened

  1. NewTrollObserver says:

    I think you missed one big, important factor: the tremendous support that the auto bail-out had in Ohio, Michigan, and other industrial states.

  2. Kendall Harmon says:

    I do not disagree, #1, I consider that a small piece of the Democratic ground and strategic investment game. You probably saw the data, but in Ohio, for example, the President did way better with white male voters than he did overall and also in many (most?) other states.

  3. BlueOntario says:

    I would not just say weak campaign, but weak candidate. I think the Republican Party is doomed as far as candidates because of how it now narrowly defines who may say they are Republicans and how that reflects on the rest of America.
    You said it all with the comment on “white male voters.” When Nixon initiated the Souther Policy that block of voters was still overwhelmingly dominant. Not so much anymore, or probably ever again.

  4. Kendall Harmon says:

    I agree #3 in the sense that the Republicans need to do much better with many more constituencies.

    It remains a mystery to me as to why Romney was such an effective business manager but did not put together an effective campaign team–and that reflects on his political skills as a candidate, as you noted.

  5. Katherine says:

    I am depressed this morning, but I think my view of this will endure even when I feel better. This was a straight ideological election, between those who favor state management of most aspects of our lives, and who expect gifts from the state, and those who prefer a different model. The statists won, and that’s the kind of nation we have become. We have also become intellectually and morally unserious. This President campaigned on late-night comedy shows, on vapid morning women’s talk shows, and with rap artists. We are a Jay-Z nation.

  6. Br. Michael says:

    Katherine sums up my feelings exactly. In order to win in the future the Republican Party will have to become the type of party that NPR thinks it ought to become–a sort of Democratic Party lite. That is a party that adopts the liberalprogressive world view but is a little more conservative.

    All of which is to say that this country has no room for people like me who believe in the United States as a constitutional republic with a federal government of limited powers. The republic is dead and the social democratic state has arrived and this election proves it.

  7. C. Wingate says:

    Katherine, I think the only people who see this message are radical conservatives; the statist perspective is their alone. As something of a Rockefeller Republican, I see Obamacare as the fallout of a medical payment system which was evolving in an unsustainable direction. The Republican design to go back to that wasn’t sellable; they would have had to propose something entirely different, and they didn’t bother. Likewise, the resolute will to ignore the influence of moneyed interests in the party hurt them. Ordinary people, correctly, see their employers as people of power, and the trope that this was not so hurt Romney. Finally, the Republicans wasted too much time on people who were either spectacularly underqualified or conspicuously loopy, before settling on Romney because, at least, he wasn’t either of those. And let’s not forget all the bald-faced lying about Obama’s personal facts.

    The trope of Obama as some sort of leftist is just not in line with the facts. Real leftist don’t like him; they put up with him because they have to. He’s too militaristic, too caught up in Security Theater, and not hard enough on corporations for them. I think the libertarians might have had a chance in the election if they weren’t so stupidly wedded to the notion, inherited from the Austrian economists, that corporations aren’t powerful. As it is, the Republicans have damaged their ability to push back against the administration, unless they can straighten out their act a lot.

  8. Katherine says:

    The sad thing is, C. Wingate, that I’m not a “radical conservative.” I do not march around with “End the Fed!” signs nor lean in Ron Paul’s direction. The statist theme will become more and more apparent as Obama’s second term progresses. He already governs around Congress. He will accelerate that tendency, in spite of the Senate gains for his party.

  9. Br. Michael says:

    If a believer in the Constitution and government under law makes me a “radical conservative” then so be it. The point is that there is no longer any place for us.

  10. samh says:

    Br. Michael,

    There most certainly is a place for you. But it’s going to have to mean conservatives must do a better job articulating sensitively and empathetically what they believe without backing down.

    The way many young people perceived the Republican campaign this time around came down to two themes:
    1. “Look at Obama–duh, of course you should vote for me.”
    2. Attacking candidates for being liberal–as though that was an [i]obvious[/i] fault that needed no explanation. As though “liberal” was almost a slur.

    What need is for conservatives to stop apologize for what they believe, and yet to honor those whose ideas are different. BOTH sides are guilty of the “of course your wrong and stupid and worthless because your ideas disagree with mine” type of rhetoric. I get embarrassed when Republican congressmen and senators stand up and say “We’ll do everything in our power to make sure this president can’t get anything done.” Everybody is so focused on winning political points nobody even APPEARS to be thinking of what’s right for the country as a whole.

    It doesn’t help that conservatives come across (not saying they actually believe this, but it’s the perception of many) of “well of course the conservative viewpoint on topic XYZ is better, it’s conservative, duh” and then demonizing anybody who disagrees with them on any single topic as anti-America anti-freedom anti-democracy haters of the country.

    Just my somewhat-rambly $.02.

  11. tired says:

    IMHO, the mainstream media was a distinct and higly effective player in the outcome. It is hardly an observer.

    Perhaps a rare communicator may some day emerge who is capable of overcoming the bias, but it will be a challenge given its depth and pervasiveness (e.g., whether in approach, such as attacking Romney for Benghazi and ignoring the administration’s role/diversion, accepting certain assumptions or word choice on issues, or simply the choice of news headlines critical of Romney on a small player like Yahoo news – indeed, when was the last widespread news report on high gasoline prices that criticized an administration?)

    One might well ask, why is it that a candidate from one side only must overcome such a hurdle?

    That said, the outcome will render this uncritical media even more irrelevant. I look for its decline only to accelerate – which given its current state, would be a good and appropriate thing.


  12. magnolia says:

    imo, race won the day. almost all minorities went obama and just enough of the whites to push him over the top; same as last time. there were simply more of them at the booth.

    i’m not with either party because i think they are both morally bankrupt but both have aspects that i agree with.

  13. Br. Michael says:

    10, not really.

  14. Katherine says:

    I find I am not settling down over this as the day progresses. I also am unable to agree with our host that a large part of the problem was a poorly-run campaign or a weak candidate. Mr. Romney very adequately presented a positive agenda for ending the recession and repairing our national economic woes. This positive vision was rejected, and drew fewer votes than an even weaker candidate in 2008. We did our part in North Carolina, but other key states could not bring themselves to vote for a positive agenda or a sensible understanding of our economic problems. As Rush Limbaugh is saying now, and I think he’s right about this, we are a nation which no longer will vote against Santa Claus for something more real. Our vote was selfish and childish.

  15. C. Wingate says:

    Katherine, Romney’s economic program looked to me like a promise to do everything that got us where we are now. If you think that deficit spending is a problem, which on some level it is, then I say to you that I didn’t see Romney’s ideas as doing anything but the opposite. There is no way to cut the deficit without taking a big bite out of defense, which is the opposite of what he proposed to do; and cutting taxes would mean bigger short falls, as it has meant since Reagan’s first budget back in 1981. I may be the only Keynesian to bother responding here, but I don’t think you have to be a Keynesian to see that Romney was proposing the same deficit spending Republican budget planning as each of his three last Republican predecessors.

    And Rush Limbaugh is a lying blowhard who is at the core of what is wrong with American conservatism right now. I read some conservatives, but I refuse to listen to him, not just because he’s a jerk, but because he stands for fake discourse and political insularity. Besides, given his flatly wrong prediction (“I do not see how President Obama gets over 300 electoral votes”) he would, under my regime, get to announce at intervals in each show about how he got it wrong.

  16. In Texas says:

    Interesting to note that Obama received 7 million less votes than 2008, while Romney had roughly 1 million less than McCain. With everything I heard about Republican intensity and enthusium, how did he end up 1 million less votes? Although having this extra million would have still left Romney 1 million below Obama.

  17. Charles says:

    Katherine, C. Wingate has a good point. Those of us who voted for Obama (the majority in this country) disagree entirely with the idea that a vote for Romney was a vote to end the rescession and repair our national economic woes. It was not a positive vision: it involved reducing taxes on the wealthy and NOT reducing defense spending. Any deficit reduction plan that goes down either of those roads is a non-starter for me.

  18. Katherine says:

    C. Wingate, Charles, we exhibit what’s biting the country now. We don’t even agree on what the two candidates proposed. Your views reflect what opinion shapers have told you, because if you’d examined or listened to Romney and Ryan you would know what they proposed, even if you didn’t agree. The distortions in which you believe won the day. I accept that. There is no point in re-fighting the campaign which we have lost. I do not think the economy will recover robustly from more of what we’ve had the past four years. If I am wrong I will be glad.

  19. In Texas says:

    I forgot to add, did Romney being Mormon result in a lot of Christians not voting for him, regardless how that might throw the national election?

  20. Charles says:

    Katherine, enlighten me, then. How am I misstating it?

  21. tired says:

    Overall turnout of eligible voters was down from the 2008 presidential election to about 60%, so the 50.4% popular vote represent about 30.24% of all eligible voters.

    “First, they made a strategic decision to make the campaign more about attacking their opponent than anything else…”

    And this should speak volumes about his record and plan for the next term, but with a cooperative media…


  22. drummie says:

    If Obama is not some sort of leftist then what is he? The mans economic policies are straight out of the writings of Karl Marx. His political theories are straight out of Frank Marshall Davis writings. That equals socialist and communist. If that isn’t left, what is? The man is a secular immoral progressive. What good has he done?
    From, October 3, 2012: “In an effort to make the economy look a little rosier than it is, the Obama administration is basically coercing defense contractors so as to prevent news of layoffs hitting voters before the election. With sequestration about to result in some major cuts to the defense budget, contractors will lose government business — and that means, employees will lose jobs. But to prevent poor numbers ahead of the November election, the Obama administration has made it very, well, fiscally unwise
    for companies to issue layoff notices too early.”This amount to telling companies to violate the law. He even went so far as to tell them that if they were sued, the taxpayers would pick up the tab. And he is NOT LEFTIST? Check this article out and tell me he is not a “leftist” :

  23. Sarah says:

    RE: “And Rush Limbaugh is a lying blowhard who is at the core of what is wrong with American conservatism right now.”

    Well of course C Wingate believes that — but then, as Katherine has quite rightly pointed out, he merely demonstrates why the chasm is so deep and broad.

    I was happy to listen to Rush today — he was magisterially accurate and realistic about, as C Wingate’s comments so well demonstrate, how we are outnumbered by those who do not share the same foundational worldview, values, or morality.

    I’m as disinterested in engaging with the various collectivists and central planning wanna-bes as Katherine — there’s simply not enough in common to engage in any meaningful dialogue.

    But for the conservatives on this thread, there has been some fascinating blogging on the chasm between the two groups:

    And of course, there was Rush’s excellent opening today.

    I’m glad that the divide is so clearly evident now. Having a realistic assessment of the situation is the first step to engaging wisely in the conflict before us.

  24. Capt. Father Warren says:

    [i]And Rush Limbaugh is a lying blowhard who is at the core of what is wrong with American conservatism right now[/i]

    There truly are two Americas. And the one in power has already done considerable damage to the nation and is preparing to do extremely serious damage to the nation.

    How typically liberal to viciously attack someone in an ad hominem way with out any factual argument to make.

    I have kept silent all day and marvelled at the malevalence from so many liberals; here, other blogs and especially on FB. I even reminded one that “you won”…….that just made that liberal even madder!

    We are in dangerous territory; name any issue [economy, foreign policy, energy, military, internal security, immigration, border control, Constitution] and we are living on the edge of each one of those. A serious catastrophe in one area can harm any nation; it is possible we may see serial catastrophies; I pray folks are prepared to weather the storm better than the New Jerseyites and New Yorkers with Sandy.

    The divide is crystal clear, there will be no walking it back. Just one more thought; as I told my congregation on Sunday, we are justified by our faith in Christ; not by faith in the principalities of mankind. The nation voted for a savior government, I believe they are going to be crushingly disappointed.

  25. Sarah says:

    RE: “I have kept silent all day and marvelled at the malevalence from so many liberals; here, other blogs and especially on FB.”

    You know — I have practically zero libs on FB — so I’ve seen practically zero lib response except on a few Anglican blog threads, mostly T19. We’ve got so much more important things to think through then what people who don’t share our values are thinking or feeling.

  26. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) says:

    The choice was between the status quo and a successful businessman/turnaround specialist. I also find it a mischaracterization to state that Obama is a different “class” from Romney. That’s some seriously nice real estate in Chicago he’s got.

    I agree with Captain Warren that “savior governments” are for the birds. America voted for the status quo, so we’ll see if it slouches towards Greece. Choose your action, choose your consequence.

  27. Ross says:

    #19 In Texas says:

    I forgot to add, did Romney being Mormon result in a lot of Christians not voting for him, regardless how that might throw the national election?

    I don’t have data, but I seriously doubt it. I know — because I ran across his blog once — that there exists at least one evangelical who said he was going to vote for Obama rather than Romney specifically and solely because Romney was a Mormon; but I don’t imagine he had very much company at all. There were probably a few more who voted for a third-party conservative candidate instead of Romney just because of Romney’s Mormonism, but again, I don’t think it was a significant number on the scale of the election.

    I think that for the most part the voters who had an issue with Romney’s religion either (a) held their noses and voted for him regardless, on the grounds that Obama would be in their eyes much worse; or (b) would have voted for someone else anyway on purely political grounds, whatever Romney’s religion was.

  28. AnglicanFirst says:

    As a retired naval type I am now far more concerned about the Presidential aspect of what did not and did happen at Benghazi in Libya.

    A President’s performance and non-performance at what appears to be a clear ‘up or down’ decision to come to the aid of Americans under attack by terroris-led forces when sources indicate that there were U.S. forces available and the time available to utilize those forces is a critical measure of his ability/temperament to handle a crisis situation as a Commander-in-Chief.

    He did not and will not offer an acceptable explanation reagarding this event to the American people.

    Appearances indicate that he also summarily relieved (or made it clear that they should be relieved) General Ham and Rear Admiral Gaouette. Two officers who had been carefully screened for their commands and for their promotion to their flag ranks.

    Two officers who were bound by miltary law, Article 99 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to go to the aid the beleagured Americans in Benghazi.

    I expect Congress, the House of Representatives, to demand and answer.

    If that answer is not given clearly and without reservation regarding the detailed facts of the situation, then I expect the House to take some sort of action.

    Whether that action amounts to anything depends up the Senate.

    But in any case, when the facts are out, the President may face a collossal loss of confidence on the part of the American people.

    There has yet to be an explanation for that sudden and immediate firing of these two officers.

    This has damaged the military/naval chain-of-command. There may well be a lack of confidence in the senior military leadership in the President’s competence as Commander-in-Chief.

    However I expect certain senior officers to be ‘tapped’ by the Administration to give disclaimers to the contrary.

  29. Br. Michael says:

    28, you underestimate the ability of the White House criminals to cover up.

  30. Charles52 says:

    Aided and abetted by a media actively campaigning for President Obama. The question now is whether they will ridicule the House Committee(s) investigating Benghazi, or report the hearings honestly.

  31. tired says:


    Given that this was glossed over during the election – I do not expect anything different from the pandering media or the adminstration. It may take alternate sources to raise the issue. Yet even if an alternate source were to arise – given the outcome of the election – I have serious doubts the American people would really care. Perhaps they are too dazzled by promises, champagne fountains, benefit checks, and slurring celebrities.

    I too am retired navy – I recognize in our nation a vast departure from traditional American values. I also share the sentiment in [9].

  32. Adam 12 says:

    I was astonished by the huge turnout, long lines and fascination in this election by the voters, especially given the few lawn signs this time around and lack of national advertising until the very end. This is different from two years ago, when Republicans swept the state, and I can’t help but feel that a Presidential election generates intense feeling in everyone in our area, including those who don’t always vote. Given the outcome, I also think that large numbers of people somehow feel disenfranchised from our economy and are looking at untraditional ways of getting ahead, even if that lack of traditionalism is identified with the political establishment at the moment. I think most of the people on this blog feel that spending is out of control and that the problems it will cause will change the America we know into a European socialist democracy that votes great privileges to the people while industry and productivity withers. Only time will tell how events are perceived, but I sense a storm and am wondering about financial shelters.

  33. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) says:

    I don’t know about the RADM, but the moles I hear say that General Ham was probably relieved for taking serious issue with “no action”. In this case, a ridiculous reason to be relieved, IMHO.

    The whole thing reeks and it should have come to light long ere this, election or not. But we’re not supposed to question the MSM or its Golden Boy, even if the country or US foreign policy/action on this score is a shambles.

  34. magnolia says:

    imo, minorities voted race and anglos voted class. i’m sorry but romney saying he would have done nothing to save the car industry except bankruptcy but then would implement tax cuts for the rich did him in with a lot of white working class voters.

    republicans use social issues to implement their financial reforms that benefit only the wealthy. dems use financial issues to implement their odious social engineering reforms. different sides of the same bad penny.