Beam: Romney faced formidable odds

Republican Mitt Romney put up a good fight, but the odds were stacked against him from the beginning. President Obama rolled up an impressive re-election victory and won a second term with major support from blacks, women, Latinos, organized labor, the gay and lesbian community and young people. Romney was the favorite among men and senior citizens, not nearly enough to hold back the tide.

The national polls came under heavy criticism during the campaign, but they were right on target most of the time. A United Technologies/National Journal poll done at the end of October, for example, said, “Despite dissatisfaction with the nation’s direction and Washington’s performance, voters lean toward retaining the status quo in Washington ... .”

And that they did. You also have to give credit to the Obama campaign organization that kept track of its voters and made a special effort to get them to the polls for early and Election Day voting. Buses were waiting at virtually every Democratic rally to help voters cast early ballots, and a wide margin of those votes reportedly went to Obama.

Negative ads against Romney and constant reminders of them by Obama also helped the president win a new term. Respected political analyst Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report, mentioned Obama’s attacks on Bain Capital, plant closings, layoffs, outsourcing and income taxes as being effective against the GOP challenger.

The country knew the president’s margin among blacks would be overwhelming and they lived up to expectations. However, it was the Latino vote that appeared to tip the swing states to Obama. He won seven of those states to one for Romney. Florida was too close to call.

Obama trailed Romney in the early popular vote, but it went his way as the polls closed in California and other Western states. The president received 59.6 million popular votes to Romney’s 57 million, a 50-to-48 percent margin. The remaining 2 percent went to other candidates.

The tea party folks won’t agree, but they contributed to Obama’s victory because of their hard line on compromise. Romney had to move to the right to gain the GOP nomination, but began to move back to a moderate position after establishing himself in the first presidential debate as a capable challenger to Obama. The president capitalized on that by branding Romney as a “flip-flopper.”

Tea party voters do help elect some candidates, but they also put up some real losers. Their extremist candidate in Nevada two years ago helped voters there re-elect Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid. Two of their candidates — Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Todd Akin in Missouri — lost Tuesday because of their weird comments about rape and abortion. Their losses helped Democrats retain control of the Senate. The House still belongs to the Republicans.

The tea party crowd particularly worries Latinos in the Republican Party. Ana Navarro, a GOP strategist involved in Sen. John McCain’s 2008 campaign and a CNN contributor, said, “If we (Republicans) don’t do better with Hispanics, we’ll be out of the White House forever.”

While we are on that subject, an article appearing in National Journal prior to the election sized up the presidential future of the Republican Party well. Ronald Brownstein said in the reputable political magazine that this year’s election would probably be “the last attempt to squeeze out a national majority almost entirely from white voters in a country rapidly growing more diverse.”

The U.S. Census Bureau in its 2011 estimates reports whites make up 78.1 percent of the population, blacks, 13.1 percent, and Hispanics or Latinos, 16.7 percent. However, whites who are not Hispanic make up only 63.4 percent of the population.

Brownstein quoted Steve Schmidt, the chief strategist for John McCain’s 2008 campaign, on the dismal future prospects for the Republican Party.

“Even (if) Romney does in fact get the white vote at the level (he needs)... and is able to win the presidency with that, he will be the last Republican that will do that,” Schmidt said. “The demographics of the country even four years from now will be such that that will be an impossibility.”

Our country’s best hope for the future is to see some compromise in Congress in order to rebuild our economy, reduce our mounting national debt, create jobs, establish a better education system and restore our nation as a world leader. Gridlock over the past four years has only compounded our problems.

Obama hasn’t done much in four years to resolve those issues, but voters have decided to give him another four to right the ship. Romney offered some advice to the president and Congress during his concession speech late Tuesday.

“At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering,” Romney said. “Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.”

Romney gave it his best and proved once again to be a statesman by putting his country first. We wish him well and thank him for his tireless and often thankless campaign and for volunteering to serve the country we know he loves. That serious responsibility now rests on the shoulders of President Obama.

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Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com