The Obama attack successfully neutralized Romney’s main argument that as a businessman and numbers whiz, he was best suited to fix the economy. Postelection polling suggests that even though Romney had slightly higher numbers on economic performance than Obama in some polls, his advantage there was eclipsed by doubts about the soundness of his policies and his evenhandedness. According to pollster John Zogby, while most voters on Tuesday cited the economy as their top issue, as expected, 52 percent said that Romney’s policies would favor the wealthy, while a plurality of 43 percent said that Obama’s policies more greatly benefit the middle class.
In addition, despite Romney’s impressive fundraising record, the Obama campaign was always ahead in organization, especially in maintaining its superb precinct-level ground game from 2008. This produced high turnout in the battleground states, even in the face of economic disillusionment. “It’s very tough to take out an incumbent president,” Tyler says. “Obama’s team just created a firewall in the battleground states.” The Obama campaign’s computer models also appear to have read the electorate far more accurately than Romney’s did.
Finally, Romney kept committing unforced errors, and Obama made very few. Romney’s gaffe-strewn tour of Britain and Israel in July; his callous exploitation of Ambassador Chris Stevens’s killing in Benghazi, Libya, on the day of his death (Sept. 11, no less); above all, his mind-boggling videotaped dismissal of “47 percent” of the country as bloodsucking government dependents—it all played into the Obama team’s portrait of him as a clueless, not-ready-for-prime-time player. By the time the Republican nominee regained his footing with a powerful performance in the first debate on Oct. 3 and began to run a fairly smooth campaign, it was too late to overcome an image of incompetence, aloofness, and lack of definition.