Books & Review | Cole Garner Hill
Updated: Nov 08, 2012 10:43 AM EST

oh that mitt, he's a helluva guy

Author and Oxford University historian Timothy Stanley says finding out why Romney lost is easy. His image was too vague; he couldn’t play the part of Joe Six Pack. (Photo : Reuters)

Americans once again elected Barack Obama President of the United States Nov. 6; cue the inevitable existential crisis, shouting into the unforgiving darkness begging for answers. Why Hath Mitt Romney Foresaken Me?

The 2012 presidential race was one of the closest in U.S. history, and yet, when it came to Election Night the Electoral College told an entirely different story. Obama's victory was the largest for an incumbent president since Ronald Reagan won a second term in 1984. Obama won 59,583,302 in the popular vote, while Romney had 56,960,530 of the popular vote. The President currently has a 303-206 Electoral College vote lead over Romney, with all states reporting votes except Florida; and Florida is expected to go to Obama.

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Just 24 hours in the wake of the upset, everyone from political authors and strategists, to pundits and campaign officials are offering their takes on just why team Romney couldn't pull out a win.

"The laws of elections were violated," columnist and author Ann Coulter said in her explanation of why Romney lost on Fox News' "Hannity."

"There was one rule of elections that I had forgotten and I shouldn't have and that is it's very hard to take out an incumbent. That was, as many, many people remember why I abandoned Romney and ran off with Chris Christie in the middle of Obama's term because I just thought -- he's likable, Obama is likable. He's an incumbent, it's going to be very hard to take him out. We are going to need some star power street fighter like Chris Christie. I was wrong about that. I absolutely think that Mitt Romney was the right candidate, the strongest candidate," said Coulter.

She added, "But it remains true that it's very hard to take out an incumbent. In the last hundred years, Republicans have taken out a sitting president one time and that was Ronald Reagan in 1980."

Coulter, author of "Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama," said blaming Romney for the loss is absurd. Coulter said Romney was nothing like Obama's previous opponent, John McCain. Romney was a "magnificent candidate," she said.

"I would distinguish between helpful criticism, so we don't make the same mistakes and fighting the last war," Coulter said. "And I think it's preposterous to be nitpicking Mitt Romney as if he's John McCain or Bob Dole. He was no. We saw those debates, that is counterfactual. He was a magnificent candidate and nearly beat an incumbent president."

Romney's campaign officials are telling yet another story. One anonymous Romney adviser blames not the issues, but how the campaign chose to sell them. "Turnout was the big problem, since we didn't get all of McCain's voters to the polls, but we really should have been talking more about Benghazi and Obamacare," the adviser told The National Review. "Those are major issues and Romney rarely mentioned them in the final days."

That perspective really means blaming Romney himself. According to The Washington Post, Romney wanted to avoid any talk of Benghazi.

For his part, Romney has partly blamed Hurricane Sandy and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's kind words about Obama's handling of the weather crisis. During a private breakfast Nov. 7 with his most loyal and generous campaign donors, Romney stopped short of blaming Christie directly. However, he did say that Sandy stunted his momentum in the final week of his campaign, the Washington Post reported, based on interviews with those attending.

Author and Oxford University historian Timothy Stanley says finding out why Romney lost is much simpler: he couldn't play the part of Joe Six Pack.

"Whereas Democratic populism is programmatic (health care for all, tax the rich) for the Republicans it has tended to be personal (dress like a cowboy, eat TV dinners). The problem was that Mitt lacked the requisite performance skills -- he's no Reagan -- which ended up converting his greatest strength into his greatest weakness," says Stanley.

"With unemployment running high and debt spiraling out of control, we might have expected Romney's ability to make money to be a plus. Instead, it only emphasized his difference from you and me," he added.

In the end though, it was Romney's occasional naked, feigned attempts at populism while pandering to an Old Money base that may have cost him the election.

According to Stanley, "Ultimately, the contradictions inherent within both Romney and his party simply couldn't be overcome. The need to be both conservative and moderate confused and frustrated the electorate who were never quite sure what they were voting for. So the advantage fell to the incumbent. The ambivalent American public went with the devil they knew."

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