Pity poor Mitt Romney.
No, I never wanted the man to be president—and given the Pennsylvania returns in Tuesday’s election, neither did many of you—but it’s really easy in the heat of a presidential campaign to see your opponent as the devil incarnate, and only appreciate his good qualities later. In 10 years or so, Liz Cheney will be leading the Republican ticket and making everybody outraged, and Democrats will hearken back to the days of old Mitt’s relative courtliness on the campaign trail. In the meantime, Romney has to figure out how to spend the rest of his life now that his ultimate goal has eluded him. That can’t be easy.
Mitt wasn’t the only loser in Tuesday’s presidential election. Here are three of the biggest.
• CHRIS CHRISTIE: It was easy, before these last few months, to see the tough-talking New Jersey governor as one of the leading contenders for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. Those prospects have been destroyed—diminished, initially by his Republican Convention speech that somehow forgot to tout Romney’s virtues, and then utterly obliterated by his post-Sandy embrace of President Obama, which produced a snarling catfight with Romney staffers. Lots of Republicans believe—or will, soon—that Christie cost Romney the presidency. They will not forgive him for not being a better team player. And he probably can’t yell at enough public school teachers on YouTube to make them forget that.
• GEORGE W. BUSH: When Herbert Hoover left office back in 1932—amid an economy that had fallen apart and become the Great Depression—Republicans didn’t win the White House again for 20 years. George W. Bush left the presidency nearly four years ago with the economy in tatters and the military mired in two wars, and, well, Americans haven’t quite forgiven the GOP yet. Exit polls showed that they still believe Bush (and not President Obama) deserves the bulk of the blame for the country’s slow-recovering economy. Will that keep the Republican Party out of power for many more years to come? Tough to say. But for one night, at least, it’s clear that Bush’s devastatingly bad presidency is a ghost that still haunts the GOP.
• WHITE GUYS: The day before the election, I received a letter from an angry reader that started like this: “Dear Joel, it never ceases to amaze me how a white male could be a liberal Democrat.” It went downhill from there.
But my reader wasn’t entirely wrong: When all the voting and exit polls are sussed out, what you’ll find is this: Romney had most of the white guys. And Obama had most of everybody else.
It’s a really new thing in American history that you can win the presidency with most of “everybody else”—women, Latinos, African-Americans, gays, you name it—but there you go: The name of the game is to get more voters than your opponent, and every vote counts the same. Not everybody is comfortable with this: Politico hinted the other day that President Obama’s victory is less meaningful because he doesn’t have enough white supporters. Bill O’Reilly fretted Tuesday night that “Obama wins because it’s not a traditional America anymore. The white establishment is the minority.”
Let’s not get overblown with this. White guys still hold most of the power in America; they just don’t hold all of it anymore. Since we’re not a nation of, by, and for white guys, that’s a good thing.
• BONUS WINNER: Hillary Clinton. Time to start your 2016 campaign, ma’am.
• BONUS LOSER: Pennsylvania as a “swing state.” We vote for Democrats, period, at least in presidential races. Mitt Romney’s weekend visit to the state now looks desperate and nonsensical.
• BONUS BONUS WINNER: Michael Nutter. Obama has a second term. He’s going to need some new people to fill positions for outgoing staffers. Nutter was a good soldier this campaign. Does he take a job in D.C., or does he finish out his term here? Either way, he’s piled up a little bit of capital with some friends in high places.
I’m betting he goes to D.C. And if so, doesn’t that make for a very strange election season? Michael Nutter is ending up with more power and love on the national stage than Chris Christie. Who could’ve seen that coming?