A blog posts and a Wall Street Journal op-ed remind us that last week’s election was as much a battle of personalities as it was one of ideas. Bookworm links (and builds upon) Abe Greenwald’s insight into “how conservatives misread the election outcome”:
Obama got reelected because he enjoys a degree of personal popularity disconnected from his record. No modern president has ever been returned to office with employment figures and right-track-wrong-track numbers as poor as those Obama has achieved. . . .
The president’s reelection is not evidence of a new liberal America, but rather of the illogical and confused experience that is infatuation. For multiple reasons, Americans continue to have a crush on Barack Obama even after his universally panned first term. No longer quite head over heels, they’re at the “I know he’s no good for me, but I can change him” phase.
Read both whole things. Like Greenwald, Andrew Kohut also thinks we are misreading the election returns:
. . . most observers are overstating the gravity of the GOP’s problem. In particular, they are paying too little attention to how weak a candidate Mitt Romney was, and how much that hurt Republican prospects.
Here is what the exit poll found. Mr. Romney’s personal image took a hard hit during the primary campaign and remained weak on election day. Just 47% of exit-poll respondents viewed him favorably, compared with 53% for Mr. Obama. Throughout the campaign, Mr. Romney’s favorable ratings were among the lowest recorded for a presidential candidate in the modern era. A persistent problem was doubt about his empathy with the average voter.
The brutal Republican primary followed by a quarter-billion dollar barrage of Democratic attack ads helped reduce Romney’s favorables. Combine the persistence of Obama’s personal appeal with the failure of Romney to convince a majority of voters he cared about them.
And bear in mind that in exit polls, of the qualities that matter most to voters, more thought Romney was stronger leader than Obama, a greater number thought he shared their values more than Obama did and had a better vision for the future than did the Democrat, but those who thought caring about them was the most important quality, Obama beat Romney by a 4-to-1 margin.
Simply put, the next Republican presidential candidate will have to do a better job showing that he cares.
For now, we can conclude that Obama’s victory last week was more personal than it was ideological.