Feb. 8, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Looking Back on 2012 Cycle's Long and Winding Road

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo

I didn’t expect the Obama organization to be as effective as it was in turning out voters. I remember the Democratic hype in 2004 about ACT (Americans Coming Together), which was supposed to swing Ohio into John Kerry’s column, and I figured that the Obama campaign’s confidence in its turnout program this year would be another re-run of 2004. It wasn’t.

I never expected voters ages 18-29 to constitute a larger percentage of the electorate this time than they did in the previous presidential election. Democratic strategists talked repeatedly about their efforts on college campuses to get the Obama vote out again, but I remained skeptical right up until I saw the exit poll on election night. And I was wrong.

I was surprised by how off some of the GOP’s best pollsters were in some of their surveys. In 2010, Republican pollsters caught their party’s wave much earlier and more accurately than did the Democrats’ pollsters, but this time things definitely were reversed. Republican pollsters were overly optimistic (from their perspective) about the makeup of the 2012 electorate, which contributed to overly rosy predictions.

I also was surprised that Democrats won all of the closest House races, most of the tossup Senate races and all of the swing states in the presidential race. No, 2012 wasn’t a partisan wave election, but, either because of turnout, late- deciders or possibly candidate quality, Democratic candidates caught a slight late breeze.

Finally, I was surprised that both Romney and his top strategist, Stuart Stevens, seemed so clueless about why Romney lost. Stevens’ Nov. 28 Washington Post op-ed was amazing in its whistling past the graveyard reflections about the 2012 election and about the problems facing his party.

Would the November results have been different without Superstorm Sandy or with more efficient TV time-buying by Romney’s campaign? Would a different Republican vice presidential nominee have affected the outcome? Would the election cycle have been different without Todd Akin and Richard E. Mourdock? Would Romney have performed better with non-whites had he offered a different tone on immigration during the GOP primaries? Would he have even been nominated?

Every election result leads to dozens of questions. That’s certainly the case this year. Unfortunately, the answers to those questions are harder to come by.

Stuart Rothenberg (@stupolitics) is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report (rothenbergpoliticalreport.com).

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