The Machine Beat the Manager
The numbers beat the numbers guy.

President Obama waves to supporters following his victory speech, November 7, 2012.


John Fund

‘In 2008, Obama rode the energy of hope and change into the White House,” says Andrew Bouchet, former national political director for Rick Santorum. “This year, he had no energy but he had spent the intervening years building an awesome Machine. Last night, he rode the Machine back into the White House.”

The Machine indeed won. “Starting months ago, Democrats began spending $350 million building a get-out-the-vote infrastructure that swamped us,” Ed Rollins, who served as campaign manager for Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection bid, told me yesterday. “Then they demonized Romney in the swing states, and by the time he responded his image was set with too many voters — especially blue-collar whites.”

Mitt Romney won white voters by 20 points nationwide, but in the swing states he dramatically underperformed. He won only 46 percent of whites in New Hampshire, 51 percent in Wisconsin, 47 percent in Iowa, and 54 percent in Colorado. Karlyn Keene of the American Enterprise Institute says it looks as if blue-collar whites disproportionately stayed home. Exit polls showed that Americans with only some college education were outnumbered at the polls by those who were college graduates — something that rarely happens in national elections. The brazenness of the Obama ads was breathtaking. One spot featured Romney as a heartless vulture capitalist who was responsible for killing the wife of a steelworker during his time at Bain Capital. Not only was the story false, but Team Obama denied responsibility for the ad only days after they had put the former steelworker on a conference call with reporters to convince them to write about his tale.

Of course, Mitt Romney had his own misleading ads, but they were tame in comparison — one accused the Obama auto bailout of shipping car production to China. The fact is that the Machine played for keeps, while Mitt Romney — the quintessential corporate Manager — didn’t.

The Obama Machine built a firewall of swing states whose electoral votes it had to hold no matter how many millions of popular votes the Machine was going to lose. In the end, it appears to have won every swing state but North Carolina (and, perhaps, Florida). The turnout operation it ran in the swing states and elsewhere spilled over into Senate races. Republicans won only eight of the 33 Senate races up for grabs on Tuesday, the fewest number of Senate races won by a major party since the Lyndon Johnson landslide over Barry Goldwater in 1964. If had not been for skillful redistricting, Republicans could have come close to losing the House.

It’s become a cliché since Tuesday to say that Republicans dropped the ball on courting the Hispanic vote this year. But it needs to be resaid. Mitt Romney did not have to move so far to the right of Governor Rick Perry of Texas and other candidates on the immigration issue in the primaries. There are ways to address both the desperate need for better border control and the need for long-term solutions to the demand for immigrant labor. Hispanics, despite holding many conservative values, do not see Republicans connecting with them in terms they understand, or with arguments that convince them that liberal policies will undermine the economic future of their families.