Let’s start with who lost (besides Mitt Romney)
Paul Ryan – The conservative golden boy gave Mitt Romney new energy on the stump but not much else. Romney ran away from Ryan’s Medicare voucher plan and muzzled him. He and Romney both lost their home states. And while Ryan holds onto his seat, his party lost its Senate bid, and Wisconsin’s Koch brothers, Bradley Foundation access of unlimited cash wasted millions failing to unseat Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
Super PACS – The big money men (like Sheldon Adelson, pictured) spent about a billion dollars, particularly a handful of angry mega-millionaires, and all they accomplished was propping up News Gingrich and Rick Santorum long enough in the primaries to drive Mitt Romney to the unelectable right.
Karl Rove – The epic, on-air meltdown of George W. Bush’s former “brain” will go down in history as a Howard Beale classic, without the righteous indignation. Rove refused to accept his Fox News colleagues calling Ohio for Obama, and at one point, anchor Bret Baier even suggested he have his head examined by pundit Charles Krauthammer, who apparently moonlights as a psychiatrist.
Also, Rove is going to have to explain to all those rich people how he took tens of millions of dollars of their money for his Crossroads GPS Super PAC, but Obama is still in the White House.
Gallup – Once the gold standard of polls, Gallup’s daily tracker put Romney as many as six points ahead of Obama in the final stretch, before Hurricane Sandy saved the pollsters from themselves. So will Gallup change its “likely voter” screen, now that exit polls showed the share of white voters declining to 72 percent, rather than the 78 percent Gallup projected?
Florida – The state that brought us the 2000 election debacle embarass itself yet again, with chaotic voting in the three Democratic counties, where some precincts ran out of ballots and machines broke down, and excrutiatingly long lines produced by the Republican-controlled legislature and governor’s clumsy attempt to shut down early voting (which had the opposite effect; boosting minority voter turnout.) Adding insult to injury, for the second election in a row, Florida’s final tally (they’re still counting in Miami Dade, by the way)… doesn’t even matter. Ohio has taken over as the state that decides elections, and Virginia and Colorado are close behind.
Wall Street – The “masters of the universe” went to war with Barack Obama and lost. Not to mention the fact that their arch nemesis, Elizabeth Warren, who the Street managed to block from heading the new consumer protection agency, will replace hedge fund darling Scott Brown in the Senate. All of that wasted money because Obama called them “fat cats”? Not a smart investment.
Poll truthers – The polls (except for Gallup and explicitly Republican polls like Rasmussen) were right, and so was Nate Silver of the New York Times‘ FiveThirtyEight blog. Trying to “unskew” the numbers to make them fit conservatives’ alternate reality was silly, and a waste of time.
Jon Husted – The Ohio secretary of state emerged as a villain to Democrats – taking his fight to strop early voting all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and losing, purging tens of thousands from the voter rolls, installing mystery software on vote tabulating machines, and engineering a shady edit of the provisional ballot form that threatened to disenfranchise voters. And his party’s candidate, Mitt Romney, lost anyway.
Fact checkers – Mitt Romney ignored them; in fact his campaign said they would not be dictated to by them. And their existence didn’t stop Romney from making up all sorts of things, from President Obama “stripping the work requirement from welfare” (he didn’t) to Chrysler exporting Jeep jobs to China (they aren’t.) If the 2012 campaign proved anything, it’s that the fact checking job belongs to the media.
Benyamin Netanyahu – The Israeli prime minister really wanted Mitt Romney to win. Barack Obama probably really wants his opponent to win. And his attempts to scare up a U.S. war against Iran won’t work without Mitt’s neocons.
The Tea Party – The angry bloc of older, white voters that helped Republicans take over the House in 2010 is now 0 and 5 in Senate races. Senators they backed in ’10 ran away from them (Rubio and Scott Brown, who still lost in Massachusetts on Tuesday.) Their most extreme House members, Joe Walsh of Illinois and Florida’s Allen West, were defeated. Their Senate nominees in Indiana and Missouri and their offensive rape comments cost the GOP any chance of flipping the upper chamber. And their hardcore opposition to immigration reform, and their scary, angry rhetoric is driving Hispanic voters away in droves.
Racial carnival barking – Sorry, Donald Trump, John Sununu, Ann Coulter, Sarah “shuck and jive” Palin, Rush Limbaugh, The Daily Caller, Sean Hannity and friends. It didn’t work. The bottom of the barrel appeal to older white voters was a sad turn for the GOP. And while the “lazy welfare queens,” “voter fraud,” Obama derangement formula works well on right wing talk radio, it makes no sense to use it in a presidential year, when minority voters tend to show up to vote in large numbers, unlike midterm elections a la 2010.
Chris Christie – He may be a Cory Booker-style superhero to New Jersey residents for his strong response to Hurricane Sandy, but Gov. Christie’s name is mud with the GOP base — at least for now — for getting too cozy with Barack Obama (and icing Mitt Romney’s attempts at getting in on the bromance.) That could hurt his chances in a GOP primary should he want to run for president in 2016.
Grover Norquist – The Americans for Tax Reform leader demanded a president “with enough working digits” to sign Paul Ryan’s Medicare voucher budget. He didn’t get it. With the “fiscal cliff” looming and tax rates set to rise January 1st, will anyone return his calls?
The “narrative” – From Mitt Romney’s “momentum” following the first debate as the end of history (and the end of Obama’s presidency), to the “enthusiasm gap”, and the unemployment rate deciding the election … Toss all of those tried and true media narratives on the dustbin of history. What matters is a superior campaign organization, demographics, and a personal connection to a majority of voters.
So who are the big winners?
Mother Jones reporter David Corn had arguably the most important scoop of the election season: that secretly recorded video of Mitt Romney dissing 47 percent of Americans as deadbeats. That video was the most watched of any during the campaign, including ads by either party. And it cemented the image of Romney as out of touch. Exit polls show Obama beat Romney on the issue of “cares about people like me” by a 2 to 1 margin.
Latinos – America’s fastest growing demographic delivered big time for Obama, giving the president 72 percent of their vote (and 60 percent in Florida, where Puerto Ricans are overtaking GOP-leaning Cuban Americans.) Democrats and the president know they owe the Latino community. Republicans know they can’t survive without making amends with them. That is what you call political leverage.
Modern campaigning – Team Obama relentlessly, and ruthlessly, spent the summer defining Romney, then used data specific micro-targeting to get out the vote. Republicans relied on advertising, ideology, and their niche media. We now know which strategy was smarter.
WomenA record 20 women will now serve in the Senate, and women pushed back on GOP assaults on contraception and abortion rights, defeating radical candidates like Todd Akin (MO) and Richard Mourdock (IN).
Marriage equality Two states either approved gay marriage or stopped attempts to bar same sex couples from marrying. And the idea of extending marriage rights gained greater acceptance among a number of groups, including African-Americans. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay member of the United States Senate.
Nate Silver of The FiveThirtyEight – The statistical probability guru became the object of Republican hatred and paranoia for his prediction of a near-certain Obama win. Skeptics, from Politico writers to poll truthers, were wrong. Silver was right. And that is all.
The Clintons – The former president emerged as Obama’s single best surrogate, even losing his voice stumping for his now fellow two-termer. Clinton validated Obama’s handling of the economy, reminded voters of “arithmetic,” and cemented what is arguably the most significant political partnership since LBJ and JFK. And if Hillary runs in 2016, she inherits the Obama election machine.
Nina Turner – The once obscure Ohio state senator is now a certified Democratic rock star. Her Cuyahoga County delivered for Obama, and so did Turner, an unofficial campaign surrogate, who was also arguably Obama’s most passionate, eloquent advocate on TV and on the campaign trail the swing state that mattered most.
Obamacare – Health care reform will now be implemented on schedule, and that means 30 million people will gain access to needed medical care.
African-Americans – What enthusiasm gap? Black voters defied pundit claims of dampened Obama love, worries that gay marriage would turn them away, and egregious attempts to keep them from the polls, by voting early in droves, in key states like Ohio, Florida and even North Carolina, which Obama narrowly lost. The black vote remained a steady 13 percent of the total in 2012, matching 2008. Now, black leaders must find a way to turn victory into vision, on unemployment, education and other issues of importance in the community.
Chrysler and GM – The Obama administration saved them, and then their executives clobbered Mitt Romney for falsely accusing them of advertising. Then Chrysler gave its workers the day off to vote. Standing up for themselves and their workers is seriously winning.
Paul Ryan – Sure, his team lost. But ironically, Ryan was placed enough in the background by the Romney campaign that he won’t get blamed by the GOP faithful. The base still loves him, he can still have an impact on “fiscal cliff” negotiations, and with all that Koch-Bradley cash swirling around in Wisconsin, he could mount a comeback at the top of the ticket in 2016.
Chris Christie Who cares what the GOP base thinks — at least that’s what Christie might be thinking. His bipartisan Sandy behavior helped his state, and boost his chances of re-election as governor in Blue Jersey in 2014.
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The seemingly endless 2012 campaign has finally come to an end — a happy one for supporters of President Barack Obama, who won re-election; but not so much for those who backed Mitt Romney.
But beyond the obvious victors and vanquished, who else won the night on Tuesday and who came up empty handed?