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Five reasons why Romney lost

Looking back at the election campaign, it seems inconsistency and mendacity can be blamed for the Republican's failure.
Last modified: 8 Nov 2012 02:05

Mitt Romney has always been much more of a businessman than a politician.

The majority of his election campaign was based on the business expertise he’d bring to the Oval office and how he could translate his successful and lucrative time in the private sector to creating a stronger American economy. He had a five-point plan. He mentioned it at every campaign event, at the debates and in TV ads. The people didn’t buy it.

Here are the five reasons why Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election:

Inconsistency: No one knew what Mitt Romney really stood for. He had no base of support in the party and shifted from being a moderate to win office in Massachusetts to claiming he was a "severely conservative governor" when he decided to run for president. In a fight against Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachman and Newt Gingrich, he had to step away from moderate positions. If he hadn’t, he feared the core of the Republican Party would never support him. Yet in the last few weeks, he moved back to the political centre ground to try to convince independents to vote for him. Over the course of his political career, he flipped on gays, guns, abortion even tax cuts. He may be a pragmatic businessman but it left voters unsure of which Mitt they would get in the Oval office.

Mendacity: Romney’s campaign team – when confronted with a number of errors in statements and speeches – famously explained that: "We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers". Or in other words: "We shall say what we want to win and we don’t care if you say if it’s true or not". He accused Barack Obama of going on a foreign tour and "apologising for America". He didn’t. He criticised the president for breaking a promise to keep unemployment under 8 per cent. He never said such a thing. He insisted his economic policies would create 12 million new jobs in four years, but the figures his campaign supplied simply didn’t add up. Those are just three examples from a candidate described by one critic as being engaged in "foundational lying". In the last week of the contest, campaigning in Ohio, the Republican hopeful suggested a local car maker was planning to shift production to China. The company boss, in a fairly unusual intervention in a presidential election, said the claim was false. In the final few days of the election, the row badly damaged a candidate who desperately needed success in Ohio.

Lost women: The gender gap in the election was significant. While Romney took the majority of men, Barack Obama won the woman’s vote by 11 points. That’s a huge constituency to lose. Romney hammered on about the poor economy, but during the final weeks of campaigning, things started to look a little better. That let women concentrate on social issues such as reproductive care, healthcare and education. He wasn’t helped by refusing to disown a Republican candidate who suggested a woman made pregnant by rape had received "a gift from God". Women simply trusted Obama more on these key issues. In general terms, Romney never managed to convince Americans he cared about them as much as Americans believe Barack Obama cares about them.

Secret video: The moment Mitt Romney was secretly filmed telling wealthy donors that almost half the voters in America believe they are "victims" and expect the government to provide free healthcare, food and housing did him significant damage. That simply reinforced the image Democrats had created of a wealthy out of touch millionaire. He initially explained that he had simply expressed his thoughts and ideas "inelegantly" before later apologising completely saying: "That was wrong". At later campaign events he insisted if elected, he would care for 100 per cent of the American people. That simply reminded voters of the comment and rang hollow and untrue.

Poor candidate: Mitt Romney was widely regarded, even privately by people on his own side, as a poor presidential candidate. Only a late surge put him close to Barack Obama in the polls. He was behind the entire time. He seemed to lack core convictions. To quote one journalist – "There seemed to be an air of entitlement around Mitt Romney; that he wanted to be president to say he was president". His one foreign trip was a disaster and reflected badly on him and the US. And he would talk about his policies in only the broadest of terms. People needed a good reason to ditch Obama and vote for Romney and he failed to provide. It was a strategic mistake.

Some Republicans I spoke to at the Romney event in Boston on Tuesday night tried to blame Hurricane Sandy for the loss. They insisted it blunted the Romney momentum and had the election been delayed a week, they would win. Unfortunately that ignores the ugly truth that the Republican party failed to greatly expand its support into key demographics and ultimately, their candidate wasn't good enough.