“Fatally flawed” after all

by Ryan Streeter on November 11, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

I was just re-reading this ConservativeHome blog post I wrote on June 24, 2011, in which I said:

“Fatally flawed” is the expression I hear a lot from well-connected insiders while speaking about Romney, and yet he manages to swing for the fences (with success) among the money-men. He may not be voters’ favorite, but a lot of them say they consider him the most electable.

Romney is the weak frontrunner, the uninspiring leader, the flawed winner.

I was pretty hard on Romney in that post because of the “fundamental dissemblance in how he approaches the issues,” which I said was worse than the usual charge of flip-flopper. I cited examples of his political opportunism.

As he wrapped up the primary and headed into the general, he became a much better candidate, and I began to think that I, and others like me who had voiced a lot of skepticism early on, had been too hard on him. Maybe we were.

But what’s interesting is that even as the “fatally flawed” charge went away and skeptical Republicans got behind Romney, we have now learned that he was fatally flawed after all.

This became clear to me while reading Sean Trende’s post-election analysis, in which we learned that the share of minority voters really didn’t increase in 2012 compared to 2008 after all, but that their share was bigger because so many whites stayed home – 7 million of them, it turns out.

Now, it’s the GOP’s problem, not Romney’s, that the party has to rely on the white vote to such a large degree. But it’s Romney’s problem that so many of them didn’t turn out. He was the “weak frontrunner” and “flawed winner” of the primary after all.

My respect for him increased immensely over the course of the campaign. His personal side began to show through. His record of service and the testimony of his friends and family about the kind of guy he is made him seem larger, Obama smaller.

But in the end, his fatal flaw was the inability to articulate a persuasive agenda and a coherent view of American life, which resulted in a depressed turnout, as Yuval Levin has astutely articulated here.

If you go back a year and a half or so, a lot of us were predicting that he would lose if he didn’t get controversial and put forward a bold agenda that met America’s problems head-on. He never did, and he thereby made us insightful prognosticators. What makes me sad is that he could have proved us wrong.