Jacob Heilbrunn

How Romney Won the Election

In retrospect everyone agreed that it was inevitable that Mitt Romney would win the 2012 presidential election. Barack Obama had been unable to overcome high unemployment figures and his lackluster performance in the first debate, which sowed fears that he wasn't really interested in returning for a second term. His concession speech was graceful but his supporters were in disbelief. Once again a Democrat had failed to win a second presidential term. Bill Clinton's record of being the only postwar president to accomplish that feat was intact.

On the Democratic side rumors immediately began circulating about who would run in 2016. Why had Obama blown it was the big story. But some were beginning to say that Obama had not bungled matters as much as Romney had waged a tough and fierce campaign, persuading voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania to abandon Obama at the last minute. In the end, Romney had been able to capitalize on a vague but pervasive fear that America's best days were behind it and that the country was headed for the skids. It was once again time for a change.

Meanwhile, the Republicans were giddy with success. Romney immediately announced that he would work in as bipartisan a manner as possible. His principal goal, he said, was to restore American leadership at home and abroad. He would not intervene directly in the negotiations between President Obama and the Congress over averting the fiscal cliff, but urged them to reach a compromise. Change, he said, was coming to America.

Will this scenario happen? The odds are slim. The media has all but written off Romney. But Howard Kurtz, writing in the Daily Beast, observes

If Obama somehow manages to lose, it will be a stunning defeat for the nation’s first African-American president. But it will also be a crushing blow for the punditocracy that headed into Election Day filled with confidence that Obama had it in the bag. And Fox News won’t let the mainstream media hear the end of it.

No, it won't. Forget those who claim that this isn't a significant election. Fiddlesticks. The truth is that it represents two fundamentally different governing philosophies when it comes to the economy. And it will have a direct impact on the future of the Supreme Court. If Obama fails to win--and the likelihood is that he will achieve a clear victory--it would be a severe blow to the Democratic party, at least until the 2014 midterms when an increasingly fickle electorate might seek revenge on the GOP. For the most fundamental question may ultimately not be as much about governing philosophies as about the structural problems that America faces. Is either party equipped to confront them?