Though Mitt Romney lost the election by several states, many of them were quite close, and Obama’s margin in the popular vote was slim. What would it have taken to put Mitt Romney over the edge and defeat Barack Obama? There is plenty to say on how he could have courted the Hispanic vote more effectively or made a better case to women, but there are two major deciding factors that swung the election for Obama: Romney’s likability and the lack of compromise on the far right of the Republican Party.
Exit polls showed predictable results: that Obama did far better with women and minorities while Romney won with men and whites. Where Obama did best was on the question of which candidate actually cared about the voters more. Romney was able to convince America that he was a capable manager and economist, but he also never shook the image of a cold businessman. This lent to the positive ideas that he was efficient and effective, but also that he could cut off your benefits and subsidies without thinking twice if it made his budget work. Americans are happy to make sacrifices for the communal good, but only if it is for someone who understands what that sacrifice means to them. The voters believed Obama understood them, and that to Romney, they were just numbers.
Then again, Romney did quite well given the balancing act he had to do. During the nominating process, he described himself as “severely conservative,” and it doesn’t seem like his party would have selected anything closer to the center. Of the candidates deemed prominent enough to get invited to the major debates, only John Huntsman was to the left of Romney (the dude believes in actual science!), and Huntsman never had a real shot. Maybe in 2016, but not in this election. By the time Romney was done massaging his views on immigration, abortion and tax cuts as far right as they would go, he had alienated a wider audience of Latinos, women and working class Americans, who, months later, would vote to reelect Barack Obama.
Romney’s loss is a lesson to all Republicans: teach the most extreme members of your party to compromise, or expect more losses from candidates who couldn’t be everything to everyone.