I’ll have detailed thoughts later in the week, but some first blush thoughts:
* There will be fighting about ideology and demographics in the coming days, but I don’t buy it. For several reasons. The first being, no one actually knows what ideology Romney ran on. If you believe Romney’s ideology mattered, then what were voters rejecting? Romney’s hard-line on not giving in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants? Or the constant sly tips that he wouldn’t repeal Obamacare whole? Or the openness to raising effective tax payments by cutting personal income tax deductions in unspecified ways?
For the most part, Romney was an ideological Rohrschach test for voters onto which they could project whatever views they wanted. As such, you can’t really say that they were uniformly rejecting some particular brand of ideology.
But of course, that’s not what these fights are about. One of the things you’ll see the coming GOP ideology wars is the very neat alignment between what a given analyst says Republicans must do to win and what that given analyst personally prefers. As always, I’m wary of those arguments. You should argue ideological positions on the merits, not on some belief in their political expediency.
* I continue to maintain that the 2012 election was determined not by ideology but by personality. Candidates matter. Not always, and not everywhere. But when you play at the highest level you need to meet some basic threshold of political ability in order to maximize the chances of victory that circumstances allow. I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again: In terms of political ability, Mitt Romney is not only the worst major-party nominee since World War II (at least), but his weaknesses were particularly ill-suited to this particular race.
This isn’t to say that Romney had no chance of winning. But I’d argue he had the worst chance of any of the major candidates in the 2012 field.
* To gauge how terrible Romney was, consider this: The single biggest thing to jump out at me tonight is that, if the results hold up, Romney will have succeeded in flipping only IN and NC. That’s an amazing fact. In 2008, John McCain–viewed then (and now) as a lackluster candidate–ran a mediocre campaign in an environment where his party was being held responsible for two unpopular wars and there was an ongoing financial crisis hanging over his head. He was outspent by a large margin. Fast-foward to 2012 and Romney has none of that baggage–if anything, it’s the opposite. The environment is completely oriented against the incumbent president. The money is just about even. And all Romney can do is flip IN and NC?
That’s a damning indictment of Romney as a candidate. If you were to run the VORP numbers, it would suggest that Romney was a giant net negative relative.
And none of that was especially hard to divine. Anyone who has been around politics for even a few years, and saw Romney campaigning, should have understood how catastrophically bad he was.