Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest of these: It Might Have Been." --John Greenleaf Whittier
The pundit world will now eviscerate Mitt Romney, a man who, had he garnered just a few hundred thousand more votes in a few key districts, would have been hailed as political genius. Instead, his every fault will be examined, his mistakes magnified and his defeat decreed to be, in retrospect, inevitable.
Romney was not my first choice. I had been hoping for Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. But in the course of the long campaign, I had come to admire Romney immensely. Everyone who is now picking over his bones should remember that he was a conquering hero after the first debate. I grieve mostly for the country in the wake of Obama's victory, but also a bit for Romney. He deserved to win. He would have been a good president. And this much is certain -- the assassination of his character by the Obama machine was disgusting. Obama won ugly. We should never forget that. This too is likely: If Romney had won and Republicans had carried the Senate, the United States would be poised for an economic boom, a return to world leadership, a workable reform of health care and a mature and responsible resolution of the entitlement crisis.
Such an economic success story would have set the stage for further Republican victories. Or would it?
One of the mysteries of this election -- and one factor that misled me into predicting a Romney victory -- is that voters said they regarded the economy as the most important issue in the race and majorities reported that Romney would be better than Obama for the economy.
Some on the right are succumbing to the temptation to explain the Obama win as the "tipping point" -- the takers outvoting the makers. Those who get government hand-outs, the suspicion goes, are content to tax the other 50 percent, happily collecting benefits rather than working for a living. I think this is wrong. Government dependency is a problem, yes, and Obama has made it much worse. But the notion that 47 percent of Americans choose to be idle moochers is misleading. Among the 47 percent are the retired (who voted in large numbers for Romney), parents who get a child deduction and the unemployed who cannot find jobs in the Obama economy. Besides, as Ramesh Ponnuru has observed, in 2010, many of these voters shifted toward the Republicans, even as dependency increased.