Frank Donatelli: The real reasons for Republicans’ lack of success in 2012

The 2012 election can only be seen as a bitter disappointment for conservatives and the Republican Party. An incumbent well to the left of center with limited job approval ran for reelection burdened by high unemployment and huge budget deficits – and won.

In these situations, the losing candidate always comes in for their share of the blame, and Governor Mitt Romney certainly wasn’t a perfect candidate, nor was his campaign error-free. But the reasons for Republicans’ lack of success this year go far deeper than our candidate’s personal appeal.

First, the Obama campaign did a first rate job of targeting and turning out their voters in battleground states. Their ground game was as good as advertised. Through a judicious use of state-of-the-art social media systems and technology, Obama won virtually every important state by razor thin margins. The campaign ignored red states and focused its energy and resources to leverage a very narrow popular vote majority into a convincing victory in the Electoral College. Republicans are getting better but need to work harder to match Democrats’ modern online voter ID tools and expertise.

Second, Republicans were unable to convince voters that they had a clear set of alternative policies that would produce significantly better economic results for the country than Obama’s record, which featured little economic growth or job creation and huge budget deficits. This was thought to be the GOP’s strongest argument, but it didn’t move the electorate nearly enough for Romney to win.

The task was complicated by the willingness of many voters to blame former President George W. Bush rather than the man in charge for the past four years for our poor economic circumstances. Also, the (very) slowly improving economic numbers convinced a plurality of voters that the economy was actually getting better rather than worse.

Obama argued that he was doing the best anyone could under the circumstances. Much of the mainstream media bought his argument completely. When Romney announced his 12 million job creation goal, very achievable by historic standards, most in the media scoffed and immediately pronounced it unattainable.

We are learning to settle for less because government continues to perform so poorly. Thus did the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression become the Gold Standard for presidential leadership and economic policymaking.