How consultants lost the election as soon as it began

It’s just over one month after the 2012 national elections found Republicans and conservatives poorer by hundreds of millions of dollars, two senators, eight congressmen and one presidential candidate.

With the dust settling, one thing is clear: The hip-shooting consultants screwed up, and they screwed up big. Of course, folks always accuse the politicians, pollsters and pundits from the losing party of screwing up big, but we’re here to start the long, arduous and slightly bitter task of laying out exactly how the party screwed up big, because the Lord knows the consultants wouldn’t tell us even if they could. (RELATED: The tyranny of the political consultants)

Now, we don’t have access to all of their spreadsheets or whatever else they may raise in their defense, so we’re going to have to go off what we saw and start with a question: How many times did anyone hear a Republican on TV talking about how black turnout matters in Ohio?

The answer is very rarely: Television viewers “very rarely” saw Republicans saying that the black vote mattered in Ohio (teaser: the share of black voters in the Buckeye State went up four points). Instead, all we heard were things like “The undecideds are likely to break for the challenger [Mr. Romney];” Mr. Obama has “big defections of independents and they’re driving his vote down;” and “This election has always been about the undecided voter.”

All of this was, at the time, accepted conventional wisdom, but all of the speakers missed the key to the White House by willfully ignoring the data.

“In Ohio, Romney has been leading among independents in most polls, but a lot of those statewide polls have been getting electorates that, in party identification terms, are actually more Democratic than in 2008,” one normally insightful pundit said. “That seems counter-intuitive, but those are the results they’re getting. I think there may be a systemic problem with the polls.”

So here are a couple of data points for the GOP’s recently unemployed soothsayers to chew on while they type their cover letters:

Fact 1: According to CNN exit polls, Mitt Romney increased the GOP’s share of the independent vote by six points from 2008, while Barack Obama’s share declined seven points.

Fact 2: According to CNN exit polls, Mr. Romney increased the GOP’s share of the independent vote by two points over George W. Bush’s share in 2004 and three points over his win in 2000.

Fact 3 (and here’s the kicker): Mr. Romney lost the popular vote in the 2012 presidential election by nearly four points.

So how did a 13-point independent swing — that saw Republicans carry even more independents than they did in their last two presidential victories — not push Mr. Romney into the White House? Well, here’s where the incredible power of sheer denial comes into play. And it’s also where this gets exciting. And infuriating.