We spent billions of dollars and billions of words on an election to switch from President Obama, a Democratic Senate and a Republican House to President Obama, a Democratic Senate and a Republican House.
Every election predictor was wrong, except one: Incumbents usually win.
Republicans have taken out a sitting president only once in the last century, and that was in 1980 when Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter. Sadly, Reagan’s record remains secure.
The Democrats ran up against the incumbency problem in 2004. The landslide election for Democrats in 2006 suggests that Americans were not thrilled with Republicans around the middle of the last decade. And yet in 2004, President George W. Bush beat John Kerry more handily than Obama edged past Romney this week.
Democratic candidate John Kerry won 8 million more votes than Al Gore did in 2000, and he still couldn’t win. All the Democrats’ money, media, Bush Derangement Syndrome and even a demoralized conservative base couldn’t trump the power of incumbency in 2004.
After supporting Mitt Romney in 2008, some of you may recall, I ran off with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie midway through Obama’s first term for precisely that reason: The near-impossibility of beating an incumbent president. Christie seemed like the kind of once-in-a-lifetime star who could pull a Reagan upset against an incumbent president.
But I was wrong. Romney was the perfect candidate, and he was the president this country needed right now. It’s less disheartening that a president who wrecked American health care, quadrupled gas prices, added $6 trillion to the national debt and gave us an 8 percent unemployment rate can squeak out re-election than that America will never have Romney as our president.
Indeed, Romney is one of the best presidential candidates the Republicans have ever fielded. Blaming the candidate may be fun, but it’s delusional and won’t help us avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
Part of the reason incumbents win is that they aren’t forced to spend half the election year being battered in primaries. Obama started running anti-Romney ads in Ohio before the Republican primaries were even over. Noticeably, Romney’s negatives were sky-high in Ohio, but not in demographically similar states like Pennsylvania.
One of Obama’s first acts in office was to bail out the auto industry to help him in states he’d need in the upper Midwest, such as Michigan and Ohio. He visited Ohio nearly 50 times, while not visiting lots of other states even once. Obama was working Ohio from the moment he became president. Meanwhile, Romney didn’t wrap up the primaries until the end of May.
A little less time beating up our candidate in the primaries so that he could have started campaigning earlier would have helped. In this regard, please remember that no mere House member is ever going to be elected president. Most of them harm their political careers by running. (Where’s Thaddeus McCotter these days? Michele Bachmann is fighting for her political life.)
Please stop running. You’re distracting us from settling on an actual nominee.