A Liberal Victory or Another Fluke Obama Win?

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrives on stage on election night November 7, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts, moments before conceding defeat to US President Barack Obama in the 2012 US presidential election. AFP PHOTO/EMMANUEL DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

Stuart Stevens was the chief strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, the man who came up with his strongest messaging, and the man blamed whenever Romney failed to rise in the polls. Yesterday he got space in the Washington Post to rebut a week or so of Republicans piling on his candidate, portraying him as some uniquely heartless goofball. Romney’s loss was not personal, says Stevens. It was structural.

There was a time not so long ago when the problems of the Democratic Party revolved around being too liberal and too dependent on minorities. Obama turned those problems into advantages and rode that strategy to victory. But he was a charismatic African American president with a billion dollars, no primary and media that often felt morally conflicted about being critical. How easy is that to replicate?

Had anyone else said this, it would have been received as spicy conventional wisdom. Because Stevens said it, there’s some predictable eyebrow-raising about the idea that the media went easy on Obama, and that a future, non-black Democratic candidate will have trouble winning such a victory for liberalism. I think he’s mostly right, but I emailed Stevens to ask about social issues. Hadn’t opinion on birth control and gay marriage moved Democrats’ way, for good?

“[Obama’s] was the only presidential campaign in modern history to run ads on abortion,” said Stevens. About $50 million worth. And free contraception. He became the first President elected since WWII advocating a massive tax increase. He pushed, defended and spent a fortune (in the Hispanic community) advocating Obamacare. He organized his AA turnout operations and messaging around the message, ‘They are trying to take your vote away.’”

It really is tough to see – let’s pick a name at random – Andrew Cuomo psyching up black Democrats the way that Obama did.