By PEGGY NOONAN –
President Obama did not lose, he won. It was not all that close. There was enthusiasm on his side. Mitt Romney’s assumed base did not fully emerge, or rather emerged as smaller than it used to be. He appears to have received fewer votes than John McCain. The last rallies of his campaign neither signaled nor reflected a Republican resurgence. Mr Romney’s air of peaceful dynamism was the product of a false optimism that, in the closing days, buoyed some conservatives and swept some Republicans. While GOP voters were proud to assert their support with lawn signs, Democratic professionals were quietly organizing, data mining and turning out the vote. Their effort was a bit of a masterpiece; it will likely change national politics forever. Mr. Obama was perhaps not joyless but dogged, determined, and tired.
Apart from those points, everything in my blog post of Nov. 5 stands.
So what does it all mean?
It’s hard to improve on the day-after summation of the longtime conservative activist Heather Higgins, of Independent Women’s Voice: “A majority of the American people believe that the one good point about Republicans is they won’t raise taxes. However they also believe Republicans caused the economic mess in the first place and might do it again, cannot be trusted to care about cutting spending in a way that is remotely concerned about who it hurts, and are retrograde to the point of caricature on everything else.” She notes that in exit polls Republicans won the “Who shares your values?” question but lost on the more immediately important “Who cares about people like you?” “So it makes sense that many . . . are comfortable with the Republicans providing a fiscal brake in the House, while having the Democrats ‘who care’ own the Senate and the Presidency. And that is what we got.”
People standing in the crowd react while watching election results displayed on a television.
It is and has been a proud Republican assumption—a given, a faith—that we are a center-right country and, barring extraordinary circumstances, will tend to return to our natural equilibrium. That didn’t happen this time, for reasons technical, demographic and I think attitudinal: The Democrats stayed hungry and keenly alive to the facts on the ground. The Republicans worked hard but were less clear-eyed in their survey of the field. America has changed and is changing, culturally, ethnically—we all know this. Republican candidates and professionals will have to put aside their pride, lose their assumptions, and in the future work harder, better, go broader and deeper.