A totally different view of the election: Obama won, not because of increased nonwhite vote, but because of mysteriously missing white vote
(Note: See the discussion following this entry. It appears that the reason Obama won was that many conservatives, including readers of this site, disliked Romney so much that they preferred to have Obamacare, preferred to have the contraceptive mandate, preferred to have the destruction of the private health insurance industry and of the private medical care industry leading to outright socialized medicine, preferred to have an annual trillion dollar increase in the deficit, preferred to have a president allied with and actively facilitating the spread of jihadist regimes in the Mideast, than to have Romney as president. In short, if what the commenters are saying is true, it appears that the most terrible event in the history of this country, the final destruction of the constitutional American Republic, was brought about by conservatives for whom McCain was conservative enough, but Romney was not conservative enough.)
I am aware of this issue. I don’t understand it at all. Here is a remarkable statement from the aptly named Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics, quoted at race42012.com:
if our underlying assumption—that there are 7 million votes outstanding—is correct, then the African-American vote only increased by about 300,000 votes, or 0.2 percent, from 2008 to 2012. The Latino vote increased by a healthier 1.7 million votes, while the “other” category increased by about 470,000 votes.
- end of initial entry -
This is nothing to sneeze at, but in terms of the effect on the electorate, it is dwarfed by the decline in the number of whites. Again, if our assumption about the total number of votes cast is correct, almost 7 million fewer whites voted in 2012 than in 2008. This isn’t readily explainable by demographic shifts either; although whites are declining as a share of the voting-age population, their raw numbers are not.
Moreover, we should have expected these populations to increase on their own, as a result of overall population growth. If we build in an estimate for the growth of the various voting-age populations over the past four years and assume 55 percent voter turnout, we find ourselves with about 8 million fewer white voters than we would expect given turnout in the 2008 elections and population growth.
Had the same number of white voters cast ballots in 2012 as did in 2008, the 2012 electorate would have been about 74 percent white, 12 percent black, and 9 percent Latino (the same result occurs if you build in expectations for population growth among all these groups). In other words, the reason this electorate looked so different from the 2008 electorate is almost entirely attributable to white voters staying home. The other groups increased their vote, but by less than we would have expected simply from population growth.
Put another way: The increased share of the minority vote as a percent of the total vote is not the result of a large increase in minorities in the numerator, it is a function of many fewer whites in the denominator.
Perhaps Romney was less attractive to some groups of GOP voters than
the RNC could conceive?
What you’re saying seems, on the face of it, absurd to me. McCain was a sub-mediocrity, an inferior candidate. He also was void of conservative principle and famous for his animus against conservatives and his constant reaching out to Democrats. Romney, whatever the problems with his flip-flopping record and (like McCain) lack of conservative principle, had obvious abilities and qualifications for the job. Yet seven million Republicans who voted for the pathetic, broken-down McCain found the capable and intelligent Romney unacceptable? This sounds like a nightmare repetition of the Republican primaries in 2008.
Could it be the Mormon thing? In 2008 we discussed the likelihood that many evangelicals would not vote for a Mormon. The issue receded in the 2012 cycle. But maybe the objection to a Mormon was still there.
[LA adds, Nov. 9: I had the number above wrong; it’s not seven million Republican votes missing as compared with 2008, but seven million white votes. But since a large majority—close to 60 percent—of whites vote Republican, the loss of the seven million missing white votes still represents a substantial net loss for the Republicans. Today I’m going to do more reading on this puzzling issue and try to get a better handle on it.]
Daniel M. writes:
I think the missing votes are explainable. Despite little media attention of it, many were simply not able to get over the fact that Romney is a Mormon. They just stayed home this time. I will bet that that explains at least a few million missing votes.
James P. writes:
Those whites didn’t “stay home”—their votes were suppressed.
Alan M. writes:
Voters gone Galt?
Terry Morris writes:
It isn’t Romney’s Mormonism. At least not solely his Mormonism.
Many of us are simply fed up with the GOP and its pandering to minorities while, year after year, election after election, further abandoning the interests of its base. And pandering to blacks, and Hispanics, and women, when all is said and done, is the exact same thing as eroding conservative principles, thus abandoning its base—productive white men. If the GOP doesn’t learn that from the results of this election, it will not ever learn it.
The objection to a Mormon president would most likely be found among southern fundamentalists. Those southern states went for Romney. States like Wisconsin, Ohio, Colorado are not heavily fundamentalist in population and were the states that Romney needed to win. I think there is some other explanation than the Mormon idea.
James N. writes:
I’m not sure it’s mysterious. Look, I was against Romney all through primary season. Given the catastrophic nature of a possible Obama victory, I became much too enchanted with Romney as a potential savior. He IS a good man, a very good man, and it is a shame that he will not become our President in January. But in terms of the needs of the growing (but still minority) Republican right wing, Mitt never “got” the fact that they would need SOMETHING from him that he never gave.
Is that “childish”? A little. Was it stupid? Maybe.
If some little gesture had been made, maybe allowing Our Lady of Wasilla a late-night convention speech, or a Gingrich summit, or a Rick Santorum family values task force—it might have been different.
But none of those things happened. A good politician would have done them all.
Romney took those people for granted, and they’ve been taken for granted too much.
Steve R. writes:
There was a good call to Rush Limbaugh this morning (I live on the West Coast). The caller gave Rush a rough time, explaining that he decided not to be part of sending us “off the cliff,” even though he realized that the Obama would send us off of it more quickly.
November 8, 10 p.m.
It seems he wanted the GOP establishment to get the message that they should have learned from the McCain fiasco. He wasn’t going to play along a second time—even if Romney was better than McCain. Both Rush and the caller alluded to millions on the right that felt this way.
Alan Keyes expressed this point of view before the election. He pointed out that Romney was a worse choice because, as was the case with Bush, the Republican legislators would more likely go along with Romney’s bad compromises than they would with Obama’s policies.
He had no confidence in Romney’s fighting spirit to move the Senate to overturn Obamacare.
I was somewhat persuaded by that argument. But being a Californian I decided not to think too hard either way.
Based on Keyes, Ann Barnhardt, Joseph C., and the Rush caller, many, many “Freepers” and others that I’ve read on the ‘Net, I’ll bet that at least half of those that stayed home didn’t mind one bit that Romney was a Mormon. They had much better reasons than that for staying home, whether or not I would ultimately agree with them.
With 10 million fewer votes for Obama this time around I’m finding it difficult to see the argument that “the browning” was nearly as big a factor as was the dissatisfaction with the GOP’s decision.
Jonathan W. writes:
My answer as to why there were so many fewer white voters is the same as the other commenters. I simply refused to vote for a liberal GOP candidate (I did not vote for McCain either), and went with Virgil Goode. I suspect there were millions like me. My reasoning (although anyone is free to disagree) is that by 2020, when I think Texas will flip blue, Republicans would never be able to win an election anyway, at least not without becoming a leftist party. Even that I don’t think would work because the Democrats will always be able to out-liberal liberal Republicans.
As I’ve written before, I don’t think white people will “wake up” until there is real economic pain, and at best, Romney would have staved off the inevitable collapse by another few years. Let Obama turn millions of illegal Hispanics into citizens, and with the white taxpayers retiring, eventually, the deficit will grow so large that China will no longer be willing to lend us the difference. In other words, I think this country is in such peril that I’d rather the collapse happen sooner rather than later. Is this a stupid desire? Perhaps, but it’s the way I feel.
Giuliano D. writes:
Consider this crushing irony. One of the most radical pieces of legislation (Obamacare) in American history will go into effect next year because a group of people declined to vote. The absence of a vote—such an immense effect. What is that old saying? “Every vote counts.” A modern twist: “Every non-vote counts.”
Timothy A. writes:
I suspect that many of those whites who didn’t turn up to vote are working class and not deeply engaged in politics. Here in Ohio, Romney was hammered relentlessly by Democrat TV ads as an off-shoring, plant-closing, blue-blooded plutocrat. Romney was denounced in ads by white, working class folks who supposedly lost their jobs due to Bain Capital and Romney. These missing McCain voters are probably not your typical Republican, but rather Republican-leaning independents who don’t vote in primaries or in off-year elections, but who will show up for presidential elections, if they are motivated. The demonization of Romney was effective in suppressing white working class support for his campaign. When faced with two candidates who represent his heartless boss and his shiftless black co-worker, respectively, Joe Sixpack decided to sit out the election.
I would note that support for Romney among whites in affluent suburbs was much higher than it was for McCain, otherwise the fall off in white voters would have been even greater.
Both George W. Bush and Mitt Romney were sons of privilege. Hopefully, in 2016 the Republicans will nominate a candidate who is better able to connect with lower and middle class white voters. [LA replies: G.W. Bush was elected twice to the presidency.]
David M. writes:
I believe Sean Trende may be overstating the number of missing white voters due to an error he made in his calculations. Total votes cast in 2008 was about 129.4 million. His data shows the total white vote to have been 98.5 million in 2008, which would imply that whites constituted over 76 percent of the electorate in that election. In reality it was about 74 percent. Furthermore, his 2008 numbers add up to a total of nearly 132 million votes, so he’s got more than two million extra votes in his data. So assuming his black and Hispanic vote totals were correct, these extra two million votes from 2008 would explain about 1/3 of the missing white votes he estimates in 2012.
So that leaves about four million missing white voters. Now consider that (a) many of those missing white voters were actually Obama voters driven by the enthusiasm of the 2008 election, (b) the fact that the black, Hispanic, and “other” categories increased by 2.5 million votes in 2012, and (c) the fact that the number of single women voters also increased. This means that even if the next Republican nominee could somehow recapture all of those lost white Republican voters without at the same time further driving up the Democrat vote tally, it would at best get the Republicans one or two more elections. After that point, the Republicans’ demographic disadvantage becomes insurmountable.
Alan A. writes:
“Could it be the Mormon thing?”
No, it’s a Republican thing.
Joseph C. writes:
Regarding the note you added at the beginning of the entry:
I acknowledge Romney was better than McCain. Last week I said that I would not be upset if Romney won, but he would do it without my vote. I would have been upset if McCain had won.
Regarding the contraceptive mandate, the destruction of healthcare and outright socialized medicine, an annual trillion dollar increase in the deficit, and a president allied with and actively facilitating the spread of jihadist regimes in the Mideast, I think Romney would be next to worthless on points one and two, indifferent on point three, and worthless on point four. He would not fight to repeal Obamacare (or fight for anything else for that matter) and would not enforce true spending cuts (as opposed to reductions in the rate of growth). On point five I agree that Romney would not be the ally of the jihadist enemies in the Middle East, I am sure as a transnationalist he would not tell the neocons to pound sand or do anything to restrict the importation of jihadist enemies into America.
Rhona N. writes:
I, too, am trying to come to grips with the low white turnout in this election, especially comparing McCain to Romney. It was a given that Republicans despised Obama and all that he stood for. Romney was clearly the superior candidate to McCain. I voted for Romney this time, and I don’t usually vote because it is a waste of time to vote in New Jersey. I feel that he is a good man and would have made a competent president, but I did worry about some of the policies he would implement with enthusiastic Republican support. I could envision immigration amnesty during his honeymoon period!
Little did we know that the Democrats were sitting ducks because their turnout was down by so many millions. It bothers me about how the media portrayed the Democrats as geniuses with a great ground game, when in fact they lost so many voters this time around. Particularly irksome is the notion that the Republicans need to reach out to Hispanics, when in fact, they had to reach out to whites. In looking at the election numbers, Rush Limbaugh said that he didn’t even notice the disparity in whites voting since 2008 until he focused in on the returns. I doubt the media will spend any time changing their narrative.
However, with all of the talk of the bogus Democrat ground game, what is lost in this discussion is the terrible Republican ground game. Didn’t the Romney team have any inkling at all of the dissatisfaction in their ranks? Didn’t they pick this up when they were calling on the phone or making home visits? Didn’t they have focus groups that would give them an idea of what the rank and file was feeling? They had months to tease this out. They must have been tone deaf, overly confident, or just plain stupid, or all of the above. I find this amazing.
James P. replies to LA (who asked him to explain what he meant by “white votes were suppressed”):
I was never very excited about Romney. During the primaries, I often thought that if he got the nomination, I’d stay home on election day in order to “send a message” to the GOP. But, as election day drew near, I realized that the gap in decency and worthiness between Romney and Obama was so huge—far larger than the similar gap between Bush Sr. and Clinton—that I could not stay home. Furthermore, I did something I’ve never done before—I volunteered for the campaign. On the weekend before the election, I knocked on doors to find out if people had already voted, and if they said no, to encourage them to vote on election day. On Tuesday, I spent the day at the local campaign HQ, calling people to urge them to vote if they had not done so. This was not just about my feelings; I wanted to tell my children someday that I’d done what I could to get this incubus off America’s back.
I would say that I knocked on dozens of doors, and on election day, I made about a thousand [?] phone calls. By this I mean calls that actually got through to a live person. At the end of each call, I pushed a button, depending on their response, that enabled the campaign to tally the responses (voted Romney, voted Obama, or didn’t vote). The vast majority of these people assured me that they had voted for Romney. Hardly anyone said they didn’t vote or voted Obama. Yes, these were Republican voters, but the point is that from all appearances, Republican turnout had been HIGH. Before I left, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, a woman who worked there said that the turnout had been very strong and there was every reason to think Romney would easily carry the state (in fact, he did not). I will also note that in driving around, I saw a high level of enthusiasm (bumper stickers and yard signs) for Romney, and a low level for Obama, compared to evidence of enthusiasm for Obama in 2008.
In this voting district, the Republicans crushed the Democrats in 2011 [?], ousting Democrat incumbents. Yet in 2012, Obama and the Democratic Senate candidate carried the day. This simply does not seem credible to me based on my personal observation on the ground.
There are two possibilities: (1) hundreds of people lied to me, for no reason, about who they voted for; or (2) a large number of Republican votes were not tallied, for some reason.
Now, multiply this process in cities and counties across the country.
Patrick H. writes:
I think it quite likely that the majority of the missing white voters were whites who in 2008 voted Obama. They would therefore be “moderate” or “centrist” whites who would have disdained Romney in any case. After all, it was Obama’s vote that fell by almost ten million. I see no reason that those who voted Obama in 2008 would be particularly terrified of another four years of Obama, since they appear to view him as a disappointment rather than a disaster, as incompetent rather than sinister. I think they stayed home more than Republican whites, and would be much more comfortable with not voting for Obama, and not voting against him either. I did not get the impression from Trende’s article that he was able to rule out the possibility I have described.
Terry Morris writes:
For the record, I didn’t vote for McCain either. And perhaps you’re forgetting or discounting the importance of the addition of Sarah Palin to the McCain ticket. I said then, as I say now, that Sarah Palin brought a lot of (otherwise missing) votes to the McCain ticket. Perhaps even more than were missing in this election. Ryan brought nothing to the Romney ticket.
Robert B. writes:
I don’t know if this is real or not, but it would explain Romney votes flipping to Obama if the code was not input properly. As a former high ranking Democrat said to me on Monday, “It’s not who casts the ballot, but who counts the ballot that matters.”
November 9, 9:30 a.m.
It appears that the reason Obama won was that many conservatives, including readers of this site, disliked Romney so much that they preferred to have Obamacare, preferred to have the contraceptive mandate, preferred to have the destruction of the private health insurance industry and of the private medical care industry leading to outright socialized medicine, preferred to have an annual trillion dollar increase in the deficit, preferred to have a president allied with and actively facilitating the spread of jihadist regimes in the Mideast, than to have Romney as president. In short, if what the commenters are saying is true, it appears that the most terrible event in the history of this country, the final destruction of the constitutional American Republic, was brought about by conservatives for whom McCain was conservative enough, but Romney was not conservative enough.
Thank you for writing this. I knew in my gut that there was something very wrong about the argument presented by some conservatives for not supporting Romney, but I could not figure out how to put it into words. It seems like some conservatives have a real difficulty when it comes to prioritizing, and this election was an example of that.
You have hit the nail on the head: the conservatives who withheld their vote from Romney failed to prioritize. Sure, they had plausible and thought-out reasons for not voting for Romney, but those reasons, on a larger and more balanced view, are secondary to the reasons that made a vote for Romney imperative. For example, one reader wrote that it will be better to hit the fiscal cliff sooner (under Obama) rather than later (under Romney). And he gave that intangible and speculative argument priority over the absolute necessity of stopping Obamacare, a law which is not speculative, a law which will, as a result of Obama’s election, instantly bring about unprecedented tyranny in this country, for example, nightmarish oppression on businesses, crippling fines on them if they refuse to obey the contraceptive mandate.
November 9, 12:30 p.m.
But no. These conservatives’ speculative and philosophical arguments, or their dislike of Romney, or their anger at the Republican Party, were more important to them than stopping this imminent tyranny which will now be coming upon us all.
Ron K. writes:
About the Mormon question: history might be a guide. 1928 offered a Catholic candidate, and 1952 and 1956 a divorced Unitarian. They carried the Deep South handily, while losing or running poorly in the rest of the Confederacy.
The Bible Belt is in the hills, not the lowlands. So maybe the candidates’ religious divergence dampened the Democratic vote in that region. But the Republicans put up highly popular candidates those years, and that could explain their success, too.
It would be interesting to analyze how the Deep South treated Romney and McCain. But clouding the picture in the Bible Belt is the fact that McCain is a stereotypical Scots-Irishman, i.e., “one of us,” and his vote was duly inflated.
This article might explain the missing voters:
Could you summarize in a couple of sentences what it says? That way, people will know whether they’re interested in the article and want to click on it or not.
The article basically says that the total number of votes has yet to be counted but turnout will ultimately by fairly similar to ‘08, with most differences being attributed to lack of turnout in the areas devastated by Sandy. Voting in the swing states is expected to have increased by three percent over the last election.
Hal K. writes:
The Trende article says that there were 98.6 million white votes in 2008 and 91.6 million white votes in 2012. McCain got 55 percent of the white vote in 2008, and Romney got 59 percent of the white vote in 2012. Multiply by the percentages, that works out to 54,044,000 white votes for Romney in 2012 and 54,230,000 white votes for McCain in 2008. This means that Romney only got about 200,000 fewer white votes than McCain. The white Republican vote is essentially unchanged from 2008 to 2012. The real story is that millions of whites who voted for Obama in 2008 stayed home this time.
James N. writes:
The blogger Half Sigma has an interesting take on the white vote problem, which had not occurred to me.
He lists some states that Romney lost:
Maine: 94 percent white Vermont: 94 percent white New Hampshire: 92 percent white Iowa: 89 percent white Minnesota: 83 percent white Wisconsin: 83 percent white Ohio: 81 percent white Pennsylvania: 79 percent white Oregon: 78 percent white Michigan: 77 percent white Rhode Island: 76 percent white Massachuetts: 76 percent white and Romney used to be the governor!
He then points out (correctly in my opinion) that these are states where abortion has strongly positive poll ratings, especially among whites. It certainly has not escaped anyone’s notice that the pro-death faction is quite fanatical in their opposition to evangelical Christianity.
The “War on Women,” absurd though it was, was a political home run. It had enormous appeal to the white pro-death majorities in these states. The fact that Romney ran well in states where evangelical Christianity is not toxic (in “Jesusland,” as some wag put its few years ago) only served to energize the Prius-driving, female empowering pro-death crowd in these majority white states.
Half Sigma makes the case that unless the national GOP can somehow disconnect from abortion (he says that’s impossible, and I agree) that they are doomed to permanent minority status in these white-majority states, because the pro-death position is so popular therein. There may be something to this.
Laura Wood has posted a lengthy entry by Jesse Powell: Race Was Not the Key Factor in Romney’s Defeat.
Giuliano D. writes:
The media is now picking up this fact. At CNN “low voter turnout” is mentioned:
“Was it the wrong candidate, low voter turnout, a few dumb comments, a superstorm or falling out of touch with a shifting American demographic?”
Andrew B. writes:
The problem is not too hard to figure out. Look at which large states have a lot less votes than in 2008 that are primarily white. This points to about 500,000 fewer whites voting in each of the following states—New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois, 250,000 fewer whites in Missouri and Indiana. That is three million. A number of smaller states seem to have about 100,000 fewer votes each, like Maryland and Oklahoma, which may account for another one million. The rest of the missing voters are probably in California, which looks like it will be a few million votes short of its 2008 turnout. The only state the missing voters could have made any difference in was Pennsylvania. The voters are probably missing because these states were not contested, and also because of effects from Hurrican Sandy in the northeast.
The whole problem is overblown and is not why Romney lost.
The exit polls provide a snapshot of state’s ideological divides. Romney only won states where the Conservative vs. Liberal population share in ideology was 18 percent or more, because Romney lost the moderate middle. The following states have between 4 and 18 percent more conservatives than liberals, and a share of liberals that is 21 to 27 percent vs. a share of conservatives of 31 to 37 percent while moderates are 38 to 45 percent. In order from most conservative to least they are Iowa, New Mexico, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, Michigan, Colorda, Virginia, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. To win, you just need conservatives and between 33 percent and 48 percent of moderates.
The moderate middle he could have won, but did not, can be defined as middle class casually or non-religious whites, plus a marginal amount of white Catholics and midwestern mainline Protestants (mainly Luthern and Methodist) and as a grouping, predominantly white, and skewed female. Many of them are trade union workers, public school teachers, and local government workers. Romney’s vote share among religious whites was 55 percent and up. Among the non-religious, it was 20-30 percent. Non-religious whites were 10 percent of voters, so the drop from 65 percent to 25 percent is four percent of the electorate, and Catholics in these areas were around 20 percent of the electorate and he got 55 percent of them vs. 65 percent of Protestants. That is another three percent given up. These voters were enough to move every swing state, and thus the election, to Romney. Their economic concerns were unemployment, high prices, and health care. It should be patently obvious why a man belonging to a bizzare religious cult who had made his living as a financial plutocrat and running on platform of more tax cuts for the wealthy and reducing the scale of government employment was not going to get their vote.
Ed H. writes:
Wayne Lutton at Social Contract has a pretty good handle on what happened. The missing—and decisive—voters were all whites. And they were whites living in declining industrial states like Ohio. They didn’t vote for Obama, they stayed home, because they werent going to vote for the party that destroyed their lives when it shipped American jobs to China and strip mined companies. Under Republicans 55,000 American FACTORIES were lost. And the Repubs went to these people and asked them to support the party? The answer was a resounding “**** YOU! I’m not voting.” And can you blame them?
Also the Democrats knew it would play out like this. Remember when the Dems were pushing Romney in all the early debates in the Republican primary contest? The Washington Post had downright favorable articles on Romney. It was all a set up of course They knew they could use Bain Capital and Romney the Plutocrat to alienate the white working class, which is the KEY demographic. The Republicans have lost any right to lead, but the Republicans and most of all the Dems don’t want things to change. Of course the Democrats would never want to let go of such a bunch of useful and predictable morons now would they?
This is a perfect example of the white conservatives’ failure to prioritize which Natassia mentioned and I expanded on. Various conservatives make the abstract point that the “Republicans have lost any right to lead” more important than than the absolute necessity of stopping the horrors that would be instantly upon us—and now are upon us—in the event of an Obama victory.
Paul K. writes:
An article in The New Republic argues that there aren’t as many missing voters as Sean Trende claims—the number of as-yet untabulated votes will substantially wipe out the discrepancy.
Howard Sutherland writes:
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 08, 2012 03:56 PM | Send
McCain was a sub-mediocrity, an inferior candidate…. Romney … had obvious abilities and qualifications for the job. Yet seven million Republicans who voted for the pathetic, broken-down McCain found the capable and intelligent Romney unacceptable?
And did the Mormon factor suppress pro-Romney turnout? I wonder about the same things, especially as Romney failed to carry any of the key Midwestern states and lost Virginia and Florida. Because of other factors in play, I suspect it was not the Mormon question, except perhaps among some evangelical Christians and maybe a few Catholics.
McCain was as poor as you say, but he is also ballyhooed as a Genuine War Hero for his time as a prisoner of war. Romney has the virtues that you mention, but is too easily portrayed as a Greedy Vulture Capitalist. Most voters, no matter whom they might favor, are not well schooled about politicians’ real records. Often they can’t see through propaganda.
Romney’s poor showing in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, states he had a fighting chance to win yet lost, may reflect that. There is still a large remnant in those states of white industrial workers, usually with union ties and ethnic links to the Democratic Party. While less susceptible than they once were to Democrats’ distortions, that alone may not be enough to get them out to vote for Republicans. Republicans need to offer them something tangible. Richard Nixon was able to do that; Ronald Reagan even more so. Both McCain and Romney failed and in truth did not really try. Instead they chased Hispanic rainbows (a predilection that often irritates the very people we’re talking about).
Here image—in this case shaped by Democratic operatives who were all over the Midwestern battleground states, especially Ohio—might have been decisive. McCain could still get some votes from former Reagan Democrats because they didn’t realize he would sell them out for illegal aliens, and they all knew he had suffered in the Hanoi Hilton for Our Freedom.
Romney’s task was far harder. He was tagged as the rich, private equity asset-stripper of companies, wholesale destroyer of American jobs, whom Democrats quoted constantly as saying “I love firing people.” (Out of context, no doubt, but context is less important than perception.) It was Romney who wrote an op-ed in 2008 that The New York Times titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” Romney’s argument was far more nuanced than that damaging title—which I’m sure the Timesmen stuck on there deliberately. But the perception was set. And the fact that George Romney was the Chairman and CEO of General Motors probably hurt Mitt Romney with automotive workers and others like them. Had George worked on GM’s assembly line, different story.
The sad truth is that the Republicans picked the kind of guy that Midwestern industrial workers instinctively hate, in a year when they would desperately need to get back those Reagan Democrats’ votes. Thus, notwithstanding Romney’s overall superiority as a candidate compared to McCain, he had a great handicap vis-a-vis the very bloc of voters he most needed to convince. And it does not help that neither he nor Paul Ryan, both Midwesterners themselves, really made the case to this critical group of white fence-sitters.
Maybe in 2012 many people who in the 1980s would have been Reagan Democrats, but who can’t stand the sight of pampered Wall Street rich boys like Mitt Romney (I’m writing of their perceptions, not the truth), either succumbed to pressure from their union bosses and voted Democratic or just stayed home.