Romney top adviser Stuart Stevens writes about losing in the Washington Post:
But having been involved in three presidential races, two that we won closely and one that we lost fairly closely, I know enough to know that we weren’t brilliant because Florida went our way in 2000 or enough Ohioans stuck with us in 2004. Nor are we idiots because we came a little more than 320,000 votes short of winning the Electoral College in 2012. Losing is just losing. It’s not a mandate to throw out every idea that the candidate championed, and I would hope it’s not seen as an excuse to show disrespect for a good man who fought hard for values we admire.
In the debates and in sweeping rallies across the country, Mitt Romney captured the imagination of millions of Americans. He spoke for those who felt disconnected from the Obama vision of America. He handled the unequaled pressures of a campaign with a natural grace and good humor that contrasted sharply with the angry bitterness of his critics.
There was a time not so long ago when the problems of the Democratic Party revolved around being too liberal and too dependent on minorities. Obama turned those problems into advantages and rode that strategy to victory. But he was a charismatic African American president with a billion dollars, no primary and a media that often felt morally conflicted about being critical. How easy is that to replicate?
I agree with Stevens that Romney’s loss is “not a mandate to throw out every idea that the candidate championed.”
But losing isn’t just losing, and it does Republicans in the long term no favors to misremember this election. Yes, Obama was charismatic, well-funded, didn’t face a primary, and benefited from a slanted media.
But Obama had also presided over a high unemployment rate all four years (even higher than the national average for African-Americans and Hispanics and young adults, all groups that backed Obama), and lackluster economic growth. More Americans thought the country was going in the wrong direction than the right one. He had passed the extremely controversial Obamacare. The national debt had skyrocketed during his tenure. Only about a third thought that matters had improved in the past four years.
The shock isn’t that Mitt Romney lost by 320,000 votes in four states. The surprise is that Romney lost — in a winnable race.