The three most prevalent answers for what happened last night are, in order: Romney’s flaws, demographics, and the Democrats’ ground game. All of them certainly had a role (the second of them still fuels my flirtation with rebooting the right with a different party), I think there is one “fundamental” that was more important at the end of the day.
Usually, an incumbent presiding over an economy as bad as what we’ve seen since January of 2009 is sent packing – emphatically. The president’s argument was, essentially, that 2008 was so bad and so out of character in economic terms that the normal rules of judging his record don’t apply.
Now where could the president possibly get this idea? Well, in 2008, a whole slew of Republicans insisted…things were so out of character in economic terms that they needed send $700 billion to major Wall Street banks. Among the GOPers who violated free market principles out of “necessity” were President Bush the Younger, his cabinet, now-Speaker Boehner, most of his caucus, Senate Minority Leader McConnell, most of his caucus…and both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Now, it helps that I fervently believe the bank bailout (a.k.a. TARP) was a terrible economic mistake (and yes, I said it back in 2008, too). That said, a candidate who opposed TARP could explain why it made a touchy economy much worse, how the deepest part of the Great Recession came during the bailout’s passage and implementation, and that those who backed it (Bush and Obama) made a serious and critical mistake.
That would have separated the candidate from TARP and Bush (the latter still blamed by 53% of the voters for the current stagnation – Fox News). Instead, Obama’s argument about the dangers of 2008 were echoed – however subtlely – by Romney and Ryan themselves.
Simply put, those of us who picked Romney over Santorum or Gingrich (both of whom opposed TARP) made a mistake. Could Obama have beaten either of them? Perhaps, but he certainly wouldn’t have been able to use the “inheritance” argument, because both of them would have insisted the economy did not need the bank bailout; that the president made things worse by his support for the bailout as a 2008 candidate; and that as such, the economic hardships from 2009 on should be placed solely at his feet.
Whatever the Republican party chooses to do in 2016, if they wish to win back the White House, they must nominate an outspoken opponent of TARP – preferably a member of Congress who voted against it.Otherwise, voters will continue to hold the Democrats innocent of their economic record until the next peak in the economic cycle – which could be as late as the mid 20′s.
Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal