Four Reasons Why Romney Lost

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney came pretty close, but in the end he lost the election to President Obama. Here are the four most important reasons, in my view.

His Etch a Sketch didn’t work. Romney waited and waited and then sprang his trap at the first debate, catching President Obama flat-footed when Romney suddenly reversed his previous positions on taxes on the spot—before an audience of 70 million people, many of whom were paying attention for the first time. That paid off in the polls for a while, but the president was able to whittle away at that in the last two debates by exposing the sharp contradictions between the severely conservative Romney of the primaries and the Moderate Mitt of the general election campaign. For Romney, in the end, it was a bridge too far.

Romney’s position on immigration and abortion drove off Latinos and women. He never came back to the center on immigration, holding to his extreme anti-immigration stance of the primary season. That helped him hold older anti-immigration white voters, but doomed his effort to win Hispanics, who went for Obama by huge margins. Similarly, Democrats successfully tied him to the extreme social conservative positions of candidates like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock (and his own running mate, Paul Ryan). That likely kept away many women who might have voted for him on pocketbook issues, possibly the margin of victory in key swing states.

Mitt Romney says farewell to supporters in Boston after conceding the election to President Obama. Photo: NBC News.

His stance on the auto bailout hurt him deeply. The New York Times editor who slapped the headline “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” on Romney’s now-notorious 2008 op-ed may have cost him the election. The piece said auto companies should go through a managed bankruptcy without government funds—the only way they could get funding in the depths of the financial crisis. Team Obama had a field day on that in Ohio and Michigan, forcing Romney to play defense. But politically, his position was indefensible: The president saved a critical industry and Romney was in favor of letting it go. One guess which view would carry Ohio.

There were too many questions about him. Throughout the summer, the Obama campaign cast Romney as a wax-mustached villain through attack ads on his record at Bain Capital, his tax returns, his tax shelters in the Cayman Islands, and his Swiss bank accounts. Though Romney was able to turn that perception around to a remarkable degree in the first debate, some of it stuck, depressing his likeability and especially voters’ perception that he couldn’t understand people like them.

Ultimately empathy and likeability matter—and voters gave the edge to the president on both those counts. The patrician Romney ultimately couldn’t persuade people he felt their pain and the president did, so more of them decided to stay the course. Whether they get the benefits in the next four years remains to be seen.

Also read: Four Reasons Why Obama Won

President Obama Wins Reelection

9 Responses to Four Reasons Why Romney Lost

  1. Argiro Morgan November 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    From one voter–I never believed that Romney was “patrician” and “not likable.” On the other hand, I firmly believe that Obama is the most unlikable, elitist President we have ever had. His political strength came from his ability to use language that most would superficially interpret as positive but filled with secondary semantic meanings, i.e. “justice,” “revenge,” “women’s rights,” etc. From one thoughtful woman, I do not know how the nation will survive four more years of the Obama administration. Many personal changes in financial choices and lifestyle will be made by many in order to face the years of drought ahead.

    • HowardRGold November 7, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

      Argiro: Thanks for your thoughtful comments. You\’re expressing an opinion I\’ve heard a lot from Romney supporters.

      As someone who saw him speak in person several times, I got the sense he was a fine family man and very kind and generous to the people closest to him. However, I also found him remote and stiff as a campaigner and I was troubled by his ability to change his views so radically on a dime.

      Incidentally I also think President Obama is remote and distant–in a way that even his supporters think have hurt him politically. But I don\’t see him as demagogic and manipulative as you do. Just one person\’s opinion, but thanks for sharing your views!

    • Marcus Zayjac March 15, 2013 at 1:03 am #

      I second your comments. Romney, and his campaign staff, unfortunately ran an incredibly weak campaign. The GOP’s general unwillingness to engage in bare knuckle political combat came through loud and clear as the donkey party engaged in their usual relentless smearing,(racist, misogynist, evil rich person) that gets the attention of the no information voters. The GOP as usual did nothing to rally and inspire its base. Reflecting again that the party leadership really has no common interests with the people who incline to vote Republican. Rank and file Republicans came out of the election feeling more alienated from their party than ever. No one articulates the case for a much smaller federal footprint, foreign policies that have clarity and sense, and drastic surgery to the federal regulatory and environmental bureaucracy and an end to meddling in what should be the business of communities or at best states. The donkeys will overreach because it is in the mentality of liberals to try and grab as much power as possible to bully and push mainstream middle class Americans around and provoke a eruption of national outrage eventually. If the GOP doesn’t get its act together to get in front of this explosion it is going to be as irrelevant as the Whig Party or the Federalists.

  2. Bertha November 7, 2012 at 11:59 pm #

    The GOP has gone over the edge, and Romney went with them…his “binders full of women” comment went viral, while Obama has steadily supported equal pay for equal work, and a woman’s right to choose what is best for herself. I am very excited that all the PAC’s that supported him are a billion dollars in the hole, maybe they can get him to reimburse them.

  3. Nick Washington November 8, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    Mitt Romney’s Reason for Not Bailing Out the Automakers

    Mitt Romney wanted the auto industry to go broke for two reasons. 1. If the automakers went broke that would have given him and his vulture venture capitalist an inside move to privately finance the bailout with money from some of the wealthiest people in this country. 2 With the automakers owing these wealthy but extremely evil people they could have crushed the UAW and issued in a new era of unionless automakers and made the workers at GM and Chrysler like it or leave. Which do you think they would have chosen?
    If the auto industry had of went belly up it would have been just another cash cow for Romney and his vulture capitalist. Billions more dollars would have been made for Romney and the “vulture?” on the backs of the American auto worker.

    • HowardRGold November 8, 2012 at 3:35 am #

      I’m sure Romney’s antiunion but none of the private equity people would touch GM and Chrysler back in 2008. That’s why they needed government money to survive bankruptcy. Thanks for your comment.


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