Brace yourselves, conservatives. What I’m about to say will hurt, and it should hurt — and I’m not the first to notice. (Kudos to Rush Limbaugh, who noticed and is hitting this point hard.) Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election not so much because he got fewer votes than Barack Obama but because he got fewer votes than John McCain in 2008.
Additional votes are still coming in, but, as of the time of my writing, Romney received around 57.8 million votes in 2012. In 2008, John McCain received 59.9 million. Romney got over 2 million fewer votes than McCain. And in the final count, he will almost certainly have received considerably fewer votes than McCain.
Obama received 60.6 million votes in 2012, almost 9 million less than he received in 2008. If Romney would have had McCain’s vote total, he would have been much closer in the popular vote and might have even had enough to win the Electoral College. Or, better put, if Mitt Romney had secured just a tiny fraction more votes than John McCain — as we conservatives were certain he would — he might have won the presidency.
We know this: Romney won independents by 5 points, and they made up 29% of all voters. McCain didn’t win independents.
What does this really mean? That’s where the hurt comes. It appears to mean that our side lost because we failed to turn out our side. It isn’t so much that the Obama-Axelrod apparatus turned out their side — though they did — but that our side failed to do what it should have done.