Bryan Caplan  

Reality Check

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A Bet I Forgot to Make... My Election Outcomes...
The lessons people want to draw from Romney's defeat:

1. He would have have won if he were more/less socially conservative.

2. He would have won if he were more/less economically conservative.

The lessons people should draw from Romney's defeat:

1. He would have won if he were much more personally likeable.

2. He would have won if the economy tanked in the last three months before the election.

I say this even though I (a) strongly favor less socially conservative policies, (b) strongly favor more economically conservative policies, (c) dislike all politicians - especially the "likeable" ones, and (d) scrupulously avoid myopic retrospective evaluations.



COMMENTS (29 to date)
MikeP writes:

Romney's single biggest error was his choosing one day to reinforce three nationalist positions: tough on China, oil independence, and unapologetic belligerence in foreign affairs. Had he not taken those stances -- stances which gain zero votes, worry moderates who otherwise want a change from Obama, and provide no distinction from Obama at all save for shrillness -- he would be president-elect right now.

This is weak compliance with your lesson people should draw #1: It made Romney look like an irrational jerk without distinguishing him at all from Obama. Dumb.

David R. Henderson writes:

@MikeP,
I'm not sure that he would be President-elect, but I do think he would have taken the election count into the wee hours.

Mark writes:

First, Romney has a hard time connecting with the median voter, but I would not necessarily say he was "unlikeable." Too many people can't identify with him, and he certainly didn't show that he could identify with the plight of too many people. But I would not say that equates to him being unlikeable. I believe that many people found he was likable and not the monster Obama painted him as being.

Second, Romney did not really articulate well the policy prescriptions he would follow. Yes, he preached about lowering the tax rate and broadening the base, but didn't say how he would broaden the base other than talk about how he would NOT cut mortgage interest deduction or that he would NOT cut Social Security and Medicare and national defense. These are not valid indicators that he had much intention of cutting government spending and balancing the budget.

Third, he appealed to the masses that follow what you refer to as anti-foreing bias. Republicans are the stupid party and prove it every time they alienate a constituency that is a) largely Christian, and b) largely pro-life. More talk about sending them back simply drove them to the other party.

Ben writes:

Might Romney have been more personally likeable among most of the electorate*, however, if he were seen as somewhat more socially tolerant? I mean, it's kind of difficult to be the life of the party when you're known for expressing somewhat stodgy views on social issues, as he had to do during the primary season.

* Especially young people, women, and hispanics.

Sonic Charmer writes:

Actually, the only real lesson is,

1. He would have won if he were "cool".

That - and pretty much, that alone - is what America now wants of a 'President'.

Methinks writes:

I'm not seeing this as a Romney loss, but rather as an Obama win. That this unknown won an election against a tired statist in the wake of the financial collapse and in the presence of "Bush fatigue" is almost understandable. But to re-elect this rot as a known quantity means that American culture has changed; it has become more government-dependent, more parasitic, more sympathetic to putrid collectivism, envy and a strong central authority. It also illustrates just how much the "peaceniks" care about peace - they don't, they just want a piece. Obama is even worse than Bush on many of the issues that progressives screamed so loudly about during Bush's presidency. In reality, they don't care about those things so long as it is their guy in control.

Once the culture shifts, it's over. I'm calling it. America is toast. It's just going to take a while to sink as all big ships do.

Matt writes:

Would like to point out. Pennsylvania’s Hispanic population grew 83 percent between 2000 and 2010; Iowa’s increased by 83.7 percent; Virginia’s increased 92 percent; North Carolina’s increased by 111 percent; Ohio’s increased by 63 percent; New Hampshire’s increased by 79 percent; and Iowa’s grew by 84 percent, according to U.S. Census data. I have to look at the population who voted.

Perhaps there are lessons to learn here. Would anyone imagine NC as a swing state in 2000? NC is a swing state because it went from 27% minority to 34%, Texas is next. The state has elected a new people and they have been rewarded.

I think likability is over-ratted. Clinton was probably the most charismatic politician in my life and he got elected with less than 50% of the vote. Would Reagan have won if the economy was doing better? Kennedy, Nixon was a really close and punctuated by cheating. When has likability played a big role in an election?

Greg G writes:

Methinks,

Since the topic of the post is "Reality Check" I suggest you take a deep breath and remember this country has come through Valley Forge, the burning of Washington in the War of 1812, a brutal Civil War, a Great Depression, a hot war with Japan and the Nazis and a Cold War with the Soviets.

And now the sure sign of the apocalypse, the sign that "America is toast" is .....Mitt Romney losing to Obama? Hilarious. Send me a postcard from Singapore.

Andrew writes:

1) I think 'trustable' would have been a much greater asset to Romney than likable.

2) Unemployment would have to be > 12% to overcome #1. The 'solutions' Romney would have offered for any rate

Methinks is correct. The culture has shifted. That alone will be too insurmountable for any 'conservative' to be elected to the Oval Office.

Maniel writes:

Bryan,
Presidential elections are big media events, almost as big as a Super Bowl or even an American Idol final. So, it is hardly surprising that they would generate a wide variety of commentary from us, the cognoscenti. With the disclaimer that, since 2004 I have moved toward the Libertarian persuasion, allow me to offer a couple of observations on the major party contenders.
The (newly re-elected) prez is an animated, articulate speaker, with a biting sense of humor and a talent for pointing out weaknesses in his adversaries. His shortcomings – a lack of interest in economics and a somewhat parochial understanding of business in general – are mitigated by the same weaknesses in the electorate.
The contender was born to a highly visible, successful father, was well educated and has been successful both in business and the public sector. Among his shortcomings, are those inherited (in order to be nominated) from what passes for today's Republican Party, namely, we don't want 1) Ron Paul supporters (or any other true believers in limited government), 2) women (who fear the return of back-alley abortions), 3) Hispanics (who don't believe in massive deportations of the people who do much of the hard work in my state, CA), or gays (fill in the reasons).
It is amazing to me that either one of them out-polled my guy Gary J (who got about 1.4 million (popular) votes).

Mark Crankshaw writes:

@ Greg G

Methinks sentiment is spot on. Absolutely nothing hilarious about it.

The United States is precisely where Great Britain was in 1939 in my estimation. At that time, the British Empire was arguably the strongest on the planet in terms of military strength, as well as cultural and intellectual influence. Post War II Britain, sharply shifting to the Left, sank inexorably, decade after decade, into irrelevance, decay, and impoverishment to become eventually regarded as the "Sick man of Europe".

This recent election demonstrates conclusively that an African American-Hispanic-Afluent Liberal Urban White coalition has successfully been formed and that this voting block will be unassailable electorally possibly for decades. The Democratic Party is poised to become the American version of Mexico's PRI or Japan's LDP. Corrupt, incompetent, yet always re-elected.

The idea that what Republicans need to do is to start to "appeal to minorities" is preposterous. The very political strength (and ability to elicit benefits) that African Americans have attained is due exclusively to the ability of that community to "block vote" for the Deomcratic Party. If the African-American vote were more evenly split, the power of the African American vote would rapidly dissipate. If blacks voted evenly between the two parties, their votes, as a voting block, would essentially be worthless to both parties. No power. No goodies.

What this election demonstrates is that Hispanics have seemingly decided to play the same game. They are signalling to the white wealthy urban elite who controls the Democratic Party that they are willing to be clients, and no doubt the Democratic Party will attempt to pump taxpayers for the money to pay for the goodies for said clients.

If this occurs, no amount of pandering to Hispanics by the Republicans would be worth it for Hispanics, since like African Americans the value of block voting wanes as members of the block defect. Expect left-leaning Hispanics (the majority) to attempt to demonize defectors. I suspect this demonization and the ruthless exploitation of feelings of ethnic solidarity among blacks and Hispanics to cement the Left in power for the rest of my lifetime to absolutely disastrous economic effect.

Either the Left wins-- and the US gradually starts to politically resemble Venezuela-- or Whites fight back to form their own voting block-- where elections are proxy race wars--with potentially wrenching and violent results. Either way, the US best (and cohesive) days are certainly behind it.

Greg G writes:

@ Mark Crankshaw

The Republicans took a very winnable election and booted it with a long series of blunders - which is fine with me.

Your comment shows that Romney's 47% comment was no accident and one you agree with - along with Paul Ryan's Randian vision of producers versus parasites. Go ahead and work to keep the G.O.P. the party of angry old white men if you like. Good luck with that.

Bostonian writes:

I don't deny the GOP has an uphill climb.

Republicans do not need to get close to a majority of black, Hispanic, or Asian votes to win. They just need to lose by less. Relatively few Hispanics are college-educated, and they need manufacturing jobs. How many of them realize that Democrats' energy and environment regulations will drive such jobs away? This needs to be explained.

Asians are keen on getting their children into selective colleges. How many of them realize that judges appointed by Republicans are much more likely to strike down racial preferences?

Republicans can appeal to minorities without pandering. I don't know doing so will be successful, but they should at least try.

Obama will need to raise taxes on people earning much less than $250K if he is unwilling to cut spending. More whites and Asians will wake up when they are hit in the pocketbook.

Matt C writes:

I think you're right Bryan. Several weeks back I was asking what lessons the Rs would take if (when) Romney lost, I was thinking policy, and my wife said "maybe they could find someone a little bit likable?"

I do think it is a fair question whether the electorate will ever find a R pres candidate likable again. I suspect the answer is yes, but the demonization of Rs has been pretty thorough and effective. I'm not sure about it.

Mark Crankshaw writes:

@Greg G

The Republicans took a very winnable election and booted it with a long series of blunders - which is fine with me.

I simply disagree. I believe that the vast majority of Obama voters were not presuadable since they were voting as ethnic/racial blocks or were predisposed to uncritically accepting the caricatures and bogey-men conjured up by the Left. Obama won exactly the same counties he won in 2008 with voters who fit the exact same demographic profile. Nothing would have changed their mind and it is likely nothing ever will.

I'm not even a Republican and I didn't even vote for Mitt Romney for that matter. And the "party of angry old white men" sounds to me like the same old stale DNC cliche that passes for reasoning in liberal circles. I don't like liberal circles or the people in them.

Fact is, the majority white women voted for Romney as did the majority of young whites. Angry has nothing to do with it. It was just time to flush since the putrid stench of the Obama administration that was causing 60% the eyes of white Americans, young and old, men and women, to water. Exit polling is quite clear about that fact.

True, the vast majority of employed white, male, straight, married, WASPs, who were not born with a silver spoon in their mouth--people just like me-- did not vote for Obama. True, the overwhelming majority of Obama voters don't fit that profile. But skip the DNC talking points, could it be that people like me--people who overwhelmingly voted for Romney-- share my financial and economic interests? And people who are not like me--Obama voters, do not? Is it at all possible for you to conceptualize that that political and financial interests are zero-sum?

I am a libertarian. I understand that Republicans are not. They are simply the lesser of two odious evils. However, as one who despises the Left in all its' manifestations--and Obama is a Leftist-- this election is still dispiriting and I'm firmly convinced that my family will financially suffer as a result of a continued Obama presidency, much as we have for the past 4 years. I understand that you, like most liberals, don't give a damn about my family or how we suffer as long as you get yours. Just one more thing, I'm sure of many, that we don't have in common...

Ghost of Christmas Past writes:

I think Romney might have won if he had espoused even one position noticeably different than Obama's on any matter of substance.

Instead, Romney offered "the same as Obama, but with a friendlier First Lady" on socialized healthcare, bailouts for bankers, pointless wars in the Middle East, crony capitalism, immigration, etc. (It doesn't even matter what you think of any of those: Romney me-too'ed Obama on all of them and nearly everything else-- weak tea from someone who wants to unseat an incumbent.)

I know all about the median voter theorem, but the problem here is that Romney "fought" the election on a few fairly trivial issues ("abortion rights") approved for public consumption by the elites who own Romney and Obama both, and people are bored with those. Besides avoiding all substantive issues, Romney refrained even from criticizing Obama's tactical failures like allowing the US Ambassador to Libya to be murdered-- something Romney probably could have denounced without questioning the elite policy of feckless aggression in the region.

I argued months ago-- and take no great joy in having been proved correct-- that Romney would defeat himself. I hope Romney comes to regret that he muffed his chance to be President, however well he has been paid.

Matt S writes:

Why are these IF-THENs mutually exclusive?

Your argument is isomorphic to "People are saying if he hadn't pulled the trigger, the gun wouldn't have gone off when *in fact*, they should be saying if he hadn't loaded the gun, it wouldn't have gone off."

I can believe in all or none of the stated actions Romney could have taken to change the outcome, and with a narrow margin in many swing states, I don't feel compelled to adopt only one possible explanation for why Romney did not win.

Greg G writes:

@ Mark Crankshaw

Romney did not need the "vast majority of Obama voters" to be "persuadable." He only needed to persuade a small percentage, which he could have easily done with a more competent campaign.

I am also "white, male, straight, married" (sorry, not Protestant) and was "not born with a silver spoon in my mouth." So I don't really conform to your idea of ethnic block voting. You are correct though that I do not believe that financial, economic and political interests are zero-sum.

And, believe it or not, I don't feel the hostility toward people with differing political opinions that you express so clearly.

MikeDC writes:

Republicans can do one simple thing to re-establish a winning coalition. Get on the right side of the immigration issue.

If you follow the voting patterns of Latin immigrants, they were very open to voting for Bush in 2000 and 2004. These are people who really should be Republicans if you think about it.
* They literally took significant risks and expense to get here.
* They're more religious and family-centric than average.
* They work their asses off.
* They want to participate in the economy.

When McCain's amnesty bill foundered against the "Law and Order" style folks, I think that was a big problem. And while I'm a libertarian, I will admit that the law and order folks have legitimate points. I think we have rights because we have a society of laws. If we stop recognizing them, we've got a problem.

That being said, it's absurd for the Republican Party to take a moral stand on upholding the letter of the law here because
1. We know damn good and well the immigration laws are an insane bureaucracy of the kind Republicans hate.
2. We know perfectly well that immigration provides cheap and competitive labor that makes American businesses more effective. The people Republicans would "protect" from these immigrants are largely.... Democratic voters.
3. We know perfectly well that the real problems of culture and society don't stem from the fact that an immigrant will cut our grass for $5/hr, but from the fact that my American born meth-head cousin won't.

Anyway, the numbers on this are really simple. The law and order sort of Republicans will vote Republican either way. They might complain, but they'd still largely turn out either way. (In fairness, they didn't for McCain, but McCain was a crummy candidate in a lot of ways, and 4, now 8 years of having a neo-Socialist making their churches dispense free birth control will bring them back to the fold.

On the other hand, giving hard working Americans the recognition of citizenship and legitimacy in society would have won the Republicans a lot of votes and a lot of loyalty from immigrants. Latinos, asians, anyone. But in large part they blew it by not championing the issue when they held power.

Which gets to the really unfortunate part of this. If you're a Republican or Libertarian, and you recognize this, you want to fix it. But... if you just cave and do it now, the Democrats get the credit and the loyalty. Less cynically, the Democrats can also be counted on doing it in a way that simultaneously manages to flout the rule of law and yet will still wind up not actually helping immigrants very much. So... you spend the next four years crafting a plan you can enact that will get the immigrant vote on your side, and spend the next four years blocking the Democrats from doing it.

Prentiss Davis writes:

He would have won if we had a free press.
He would have won if we had an educational system devoted to anything except turning our more little simple minded socialists.

[broken url removed--Econlib Ed.]

Methinks writes:

And, believe it or not, I don't feel the hostility toward people with differing political opinions that you express so clearly.

I don't know what you've been doing here, but you landed on the Cafe Hayek blog deriding libertarians because this one guy you knew and didn't like was a libertarian. You didn't know anything about libertarians, but you already knew you didn't like them and you were and are hostile. That's fine, I don't like selfish, statist leftists either as I got my fill of you before I immigrated here. I'm just not going to pretend I'm not hostile to people trying to enslave me the way you pretend that you're not hostile to the slaves trying to run away from your shackles.

The one thing I've always noticed about you is your incredible skill in self-delusion. I don't expect to change your closed mind, but Mark Crankshaw has read you correctly. IMO, Mark Crankshaw has read the American landscape correctly and expressed his opinion eloquently.

Greg G writes:

Methinks

It is simply not true that I have been "deriding libertarians because this one guy that ( I ) knew and didn't like was a libertarian." That is just you projecting your own inability to argue these issues without making it personal. It always shows when you are in trouble in these debates because you fall back on inventing feelings and biographical details for those you disagree with.

There are many libertarians I admire. Friedman and Hayek, for example, were both brilliant. And they were immensely influential precisely because they did not personalize disagreements and demonize those they disagreed with. But carry on arguing in any fashion you like. I prefer it when you are ineffective.

Mark Crankshaw writes:

@ Greg G

sorry, not Protestant

What a surprise. Let me tell you, as a White Protestant, that Party affiliation in the United States is not random with respect to religious background. Empirically, Republicans draw massive support from Protestants, particularly those who self-identify as "Evangelical". Empirically, Democrat support is drawn overwhelmingly from those who are not white and/or are not self-identified "Evangelical" Protestants.

Full disclosure: I am an atheist and have rejected the theological tenets of the Protestant faith in which I was raised. However, I did not reject the fundamental moral and philosophical framework and teachings of the Protestant faith as it was presented to me and as I understood it.

First, the very origins of the Protestant movement is the absolute rejection of the temporal authority of the Catholic Church. My study of history has convinced me that the distrust of, condemnation of, and alienation towards the Catholic Church by my ancestors was fully merited. It is but a small leap from rejecting the distant, hierarichal, alien, corrupt, central bureaucratic temporal authority of the Catholic Church to the rejection of all temporal authority as distant, alienating (in the Marxist sense), and corrupt be that temporal authority the State or any other human organization. It really doesn't matter to me if the Catholic Church, the State or any other human institution "has done good things" or isn't always corrupt, dishonest, or immoral. The deep alienation I feel towards those institutions on a moral level is fixed and permanent. Those institutions will forever and always be them and not we.

It appears to me that those on the Left, who are disproportionately drawn from other religious faiths, fail to even comprehend this utter alienation towards central authority. No doubt this is why those on the Left impugn those who are alienated towards temporal authority (those who are alienated are "crazy" or "nuts", just ask any liberal). I was not raised Catholic or Jewish. However, it appears to me that those alien (to me) faiths lack this (fully warranted, in my view) distrust and cynicism towards authority. This clash in the moral view of central authority apparently manifests itself politically: there are those who consider those in authority as corrupt, alien illegitimate usurpers of power and those who accept authority in authority as benign, legitimate "servants of the public good".

Second, the Protestant faith as I understood it was quite clear as to who as at fault for human failing (poverty, drug abuse, criminal behavior, etc.): solely the individual who failed. It was equally clear as to when "help" or "assistance" to those who fail should be administered: only after the individual who failed had repented-- that is, the individual admits their mistakes to themselves and others and takes the necessary steps to correct the actions that led to that failure. Helping those who fail to correct themsleves is not only unproductive but counter-productive.

Again, it appears to me that those who are not Protestants do not have this moral philosophy. On the contrary, they often have a philosophy which to me is both absurd and utterly alien: collective guilt. According to that moral position, all of us are equally guilty and responsible for the human failings of ourselves and of all others. Now, if there are those who hold this preposterous moral position, and most liberals I know do, they are entitled to it. However, I wish they would refrain from politically forcing their alien relgious views upon me. Yet this absurd relgious moral view is the very justification liberals typically use to defend the Welfare State.

You are correct though that I do not believe that financial, economic and political interests are zero-sum

Surely, and I must give you the benefit of the doubt, you must mean that you do not believe that financial, economic and political interests are always zero-sum. It would be absurd to claim that financial, economic and political interests can not be zero-sum.

It would be equally dubious to claim that the examples of zero-sum financial, economic and political interests are not legion. The whole Marxist framework and a great deal of the Obama campaign was centered on the idea that financial and economic interests are zero-sum: hence, the endless claptrap of "capitalist exploitation", "99% vs. 1%", "rich vs. poor" that the Left has moaned about for centuries now.

As for political interests, that is a zero-sum proposition on the whole is almost as fundamental to understanding politics as it is to understanding professional sports. Things are done politically not because there are obvious win-win solutions that everyone agrees with. The whole point of politics is that the results of legislation, regulation, taxation, subsidization lead inexorably to the creation of a class of political "winners" and political "losers" and these classes of divergent interests will naturally conflict with one another. Politics is the platform used to "resolve" those conflicts in favor of one group over another in much the same way as an NFL game "resolves" the winner between two NFL teams.

You may quibble with Romney's 47% (may be the number is higher/lower), but no one can seriously entertain the idea that the charge of groups attemting to use the political arena for selfish ends and that groups of voters are in conflict is false. The political arena, at every time and in every place, is notorious for groups attempting to amass as much money or power as possible at the direct expense of some other out group. Politics is very little else.


And, believe it or not, I don't feel the hostility toward people with differing political opinions that you express so clearly

Good for you. I don't feel hostility towards people simply for simply holding "differing political opinions" either.

I do, however, feel deep hostility to pick-pockets, credit-card thieves, and burglars and for one specific reason. They are attempting to benefit themselves at my expense: zero-sum. I also feel deep hostility towards those who use the political process and rent-seeking (public or private) to enrich themselves at my expense. I think anyone who doesn't feel that way towards such people is a dunce-- but I wouldn't deny them that right to be a dunce. Feel free, by all means...

Greg G writes:

@ Mark Crankshaw

We have more in common than you imagine. Despite having been raised as an Irish Catholic, I am also an atheist who is happy to join you in rejecting the authority and teachings of the Catholic Church including but not limited to the idea of collective guilt.

I do however, reject the idea that those of a Protestant background have a near monopoly on individual responsibility.

I ran my own quite successful private business for my entire adult life and have paid far more in taxes than I have received in government services. Despite that I don't feel resentful about living in the most free and prosperous country in human history.

Mark Crankshaw writes:
I do however, reject the idea that those of a Protestant background have a near monopoly on individual responsibility

I reject that idea as well. Most people of all faiths are individually responsible. The issue here is, what kind of political policies are being pursued? Those that insist on individual responsibility or those who insist on collective responsibility?

I think Obama voiced the liberal line of reasoning quite clearly that no one is an individual but just a member of some amorphous collective. "You didn't build that!". To one who adheres the Protestant viewpoint as I've described it, this type of thinking is absurd, jarring and abhorrent.

Despite that I don't feel resentful about living in the most free and prosperous country in human history.

Again, that's nice and I'm glad you feel that way. I don't feel "resentful" either. I am, however, fearful that the freedom and prosperity of this country is in peril.

We probably do agree about a lot of things, however, my perspective about the country's freedom and prosperity is probably not one of them. I don't see the US as "the most free and prosperous country in human history". I've lived and travelled extensively abroad--the amount of freedom and prosperity in most Western European countries is comparable and in some instances, greater than most of the US.

I've also travelled around the US a lot too. The prosperity of the US in pretty uneven. I grew up in a part of the US (Upstate New York) that I wouldn't label as prosperous, but rather economically in steady and pathetic decline. Shuttered dilapidated factories, empty storefronts, vacant houses, no jobs. Everyone who can, gets out. There is an entire rust belt full of such rot, hasn't gotten any better in 40 years let alone the past four.

Been to Detroit, lately? Entire neighborhoods completely abandoned. How about Anacostia in DC? Baltimore? The Bronx? Saint Louis? Compton? If this is prosperity to you, I'd hate to see what you think urban blight looks like. The Democrats who alone have run those places for 70 years or more--from mayor down to dogcatcher-- have consistently run on a platform indistinguishable from Obama's: "spread the wealth", "tax the rich", and lots of government "investment" in public schools and public sector unions. They tried that "solution" for generations in those communities and in the Rust Belt with absolutely no success whatsoever.

What makes you think nationalizing that tired and worn leftwing approach will ever work? The fact that 50% of Americans think that trying the same thing over and over and over and fully expecting a different result (a definition of insanity) makes me nervous.

Walter writes:

Although I am against political debate in general on the basis of getting tired of hearing excuses and reasoning from either side, I’m not so sure these are the conclusions one should draw, or rather, the only conclusions. Personally, I believe Romney lost largely because the demographic of America had shifted to favor Obama and his stances anyway, the reasons differing from supporter to supporter. To put it in layman’s terms, I think Romney was preaching to the wrong audience. I have a feeling that much of the election process has devolved into personal preference of the voter, regardless of actual qualification and/or evidence, so many people were probably already settled on who they were going to vote for from the get-go. I’m not saying that’s all there is to it, but I’ve seen many people that refuse to even consider other candidates just because they aren’t of their party. It makes me a little upset, to be honest, especially when I have seen voters that did not like their party’s candidate and still voted for him just because he was of their party. When things are like that, it’s almost like voting has lost its meaning.
I do agree with you when you say he would have won if the economy finally died while on Obama’s shift, though. That just goes without saying. The average undecided voter is typically prone to pointing fingers at the one in charge when things go down the tubes. I think that unless there were extraneous circumstances, Obama would have lost if the economy really had tanked closer to the election.
Regardless of positions and preferences though, the winner was Obama. “Could’ve should’ve would’ve” doesn’t count for much when it’s all said and done. While we can reflect on the election, the votes are in, and the winner has been decided, so it doesn’t really matter anymore.

yarbel writes:

A point in political theory. The incumbent is expected to win unless the economy tanks. But the state of the economy is partially endogenous. Therefore, one would expect the incumbent to do his best to make the economy better (or at least, make it look better). That's the upside. But on the flip side, one would expect the entrant (with the strong backing of his party), to do all they can to stall the economy.
I think there's evidence of that in the political record of the last year or so. If that's true, it has important political implications.

txslr writes:

Oh yeah! He should have been more likeable. Like maybe he shouldn't have given that lady cancer? Or advocated destroying the entire U.S. auto industry?

In the end it's the irrational voter. People voted for Obama because it made them feel good about themselves for whatever reason. Things such as "likeability" are rationalizations (and weak ones) for doing what makes you feel good.

If you can't create a compelling story that will make people wallow in self-congratulations for supporting you, they won't. Obama seems like a thoroughly unlikeable person to me - arrogant, rude, condescending and dishonest. Romney seemed a little bit uptight, but a generally nice and personally generous man.

So what? That kind of thing won't spur self-adoration.

drycreekboy writes:

I strongly favor both moral and conservative economic policies. That difference aside, what I'd say to your analysis is, pretty much.

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