It became clear in his second campaign that his rhetorical abilities had grown stale. He had become lazy, depending on his teleprompter, and his performance in the first debate could have cost him re-election. He had forgotten how to think on his feet. But as Romney soon learned, he was a quick learner.
The hindsight squad is already examining every quirk and turn in the campaign, and they are discovering that the president and his team played the game better than Romney. There are lessons for Republicans and conservatives here that can't be learned in books. Every inch of the campaign must be examined to see how and why a stiff candidate the public had finally warmed to, and embraced with enthusiasm, finally lost.
The conventional wisdom points to the changing demographics in the country, the growing diversity and the "browning" of America. According to the exit polls reported by The Wall Street Journal, white voters who accounted for 87 percent of the electorate in 1992 made up only 72 percent this year. Hispanics, on the other hand, had grown from 2 percent of the vote to 10 percent.
Many women, who would have had much to gain from a steady hand on the economy, refused to accept the fact, backed by the statistics, that women now compete on an equal footing with men, that the remaining disparity in their incomes comes largely from their own choices, not employer discrimination. They're reluctant to give up their training wheels.
"The most important part of your campaign is to bring hope to people and a feeling of goodwill toward you," Quintus Cicero wrote to his brother 20 centuries ago. "On the other hand, you should not make specific pledges either to the Senate or to the people. Stick to vague generalities." The Republicans should hire this guy.