One thing that is all but certain to emerge from this night will be a different political status for Texas. If Romney wins, Texans will be going off to Washington to join the government—you know, the one they love to hate. (Already there are rumors of KBH for Secretary of Transportation. Straus might If Obama wins, Texas will be completely isolated. You can forget the XL pipeline. We will get absolutely nothing from the Obama administration. Our politics has gone so far to the right that we may be the most extreme state in the country, rivaling South Carolina and Alabama. How did that happen? We are a big state, a rich state, a cosmopolitan state, and yet our politics is antedeluvial. Our big cities are as sophisticated as California’s. How did Texas politics fall into the hands of folks who see no use to government at all?
It’s 8:30 and the presidency is slipping away from Romney. Florida and Virginia are still up for grabs, but the networks have called Pennsylvania for Obama, Wisconsin for Obama, and Michigan for Obama.
One of the more interesting analyses of the evening made concerning the role in Romney’s problems played, however unwittingly, by our own Rick Perry. The point was made (during a Republican debate) that Romney “had no heart” because he opposed the Dream Act.) Romney reacted by taking a hard right turn on immigration, the key issue for Latinos, a stance he continued to take for the rest of the campaign Perry effectively cut Romney off from one of the biggest constituencies that was up for grabs. Obama won the Latino vote by 75-25 (something that was mentioned early in the evening).
The most telling comment of the evening was made by MSNBC’s Chuck Todd. He said that the Republicans didn’t respond to the changing face of the American electorate. That has been true in Texas for many years, and it hasn’t made any noticeable difference in the state’s politics. But when you get outside of Texas and have to deal with America, how are Texas politicians like Rick Perry going to be able to craft a message for the increasingly diverse country that is the United States of America. As I said above, Texas is increasingly out of step from the rest of the country, and we will continue to be until the Texas Republican party accepts the demographic reality that is Texas — and America — today. Much as Perry would love to try, you can’t build a wall around Texas.
Romney was unable to consolidate his advantage from the first debate. He had no strategy for getting to 270. The Romney campaign couldn’t make up its mind which states they should contest and which states they should bypass. They went into Michigan and then went out. They went into Pennsylvania and then went out. They even tried Minnesota, which has been a Democratic state since Hubert Humphrey was in diapers. They couldn’t win Wisconsin, the home state of the vice-presidential nominee. Ryan turned out to be a weak choice; picking House members to be a heartbeat away from the presidency is a big risk. (Goldwater did it in 1964.)
Another odd event in this campaign was the tendency of Republicans to believe that the polls were biased against Mitt Romney. In particular, there was a weird Republican attack on Nate Silver’s 538 column in the New York Times. I was surprised that some of the smartest people I know believed Romney would win; one offered to bet me $100. There is a simple rule about polls: They are almost always right. You can’t make a living, or run a campaign, by being a poll denyer. Polls are not rocket science. You add up the responses and you get a result, and if everything else is kosher, that’s all you need to do. The the Republicans who emailed me about how Romney was going to win talked about enthusiasm, they talked about yard signs, they talked about being in Cleveland to rally for Romney, they talked about everything but the polls that said they were losing in the swing states. You can’t get rich betting against the House, and Nate Silver was the house in this election. The Obama campaign was just plain better, and had a better sense of strategy, than the Romney campaign.