Why did Mitt Romney lose this election?
At first, I thought it might have had something to do with the fact that he chose not to focus his message on President Obama’s failure to restore the economy, as he had promised to do in the 2008 election. Or maybe because he never released his coveted tax returns, especially as rumors of international bank accounts and evasion schemes took the Internet by storm. Was it his flip-flopping on issues as crucial to the election as health care reform, gay marriage, and abortion rights? If nothing else, it must have even been his complete lack of poise on his “world” tour this summer.
Or, it could be because 81% of those voters who declared the most important quality in a candidate as “cares about people like me” considered President Obama as the man who better fit that description.
I found this figure cited in a Buzzfeed article about recent Romney sightings, and couldn’t believe what I was reading. This is an insane piece of data. Four out of five random voters in the 2012 election considered the President more in touch with the needs of everyday people like them. This is not a flaw in the polling method, or a loaded question, or even taken from a particularly biased sample. The data is drawn from a Fox News exit poll, taken over the course of Election Day, of over 26,000 voters. The question is straightforward. “Which ONE of these four candidate qualities mattered most in deciding how you voted for president?” The respondents were split relatively evenly across the four categories, which included “Shares my values”, “Is a strong leader”, and “Has a vision for the future”. Within each of those categories, the votes were also evenly split between the two candidates. Except for the category that read, “Cares about people like me.” Of those who responded, “Cares about people like me”, 81% voted for President Obama.
81%. The difference between the candidates is striking. Why would so many people feel so adamantly that Mitt Romney was disconnected from the needs of people like them? He may have more closely shared their values, as 55% of people responded he did, but he was still hopelessly out of touch with the plight of the everyday American.
Oh right, that’s why.
But lately, there’s been a national change of heart about Mitt. As the original Buzzfeed article pointed out, downtrodden and defeated Mitt is a much more lovable to the American people than slick-haired, baby-kissing Mitt ever was. Now Romney, his ‘do endearingly ruffled as he does normal things like pump gas and hug his wife, seems much less like the hot-shot billionaire he was merely a month ago, and more like the family man he strove to be during the election.
What changed in Mitt?
For one, he no longer looks the part. Instead of the clean cut politician in his sharp suit (or awkwardly fitting mom jeans, in which he looked uncomfortable and out of his element), cell phone pictures snapped of Mitt Romney now show a middle-aged man in khaki shorts buying cereal for his children at CVS.
He also acts less like, well, an out of touch politician. Rather than flashing his million-dollar smile at dozens of events a day across the Midwest, he rides his bike in La Jolla and eats pizza with his family. This is not entirely his fault—if Mitt had his way, he’d be politicking in Washington right this moment. But defeat seems to have loosened him up, and given him that easy family-man confidence that the American public goes ga-ga for.
Ironically, in defeat Mitt has found exactly what would have made him a winner in the eyes of disillusioned voters.