This one’s gonna leave a mark. It turns out the polls were right and I was wrong. And so were Peggy Noonan, Michael Barone, Karl Rove and George Will. How did these experienced observers of the U.S. political scene get it so wrong? Especially when the polls for months have shown Obama with an enduring 3-6% percentage point lead in most polls in the all-important swing states?
They, and I, were able to convince ourselves that the polls could not be right, could not possibly mean what they appeared to mean. Because if the polls were right, and a flawed candidate like Barack Obama, with his track record of unpopular policies and class warfare, could defeat an eminently decent alternative like Mitt Romney, under these economic conditions, well, then the very future of the Republican Party itself would be called into question. Wall Street Journal Political Diarist Robert L. Pollock crystallized the thinking well, writing yesterday that if Romney “cannot win in an economy like this one, it would mean that the composition of the electorate has changed in such a way that the current GOP coalition will probably never elect another president.”
But the polls were right. The electorate has changed. The GOP coalition probably never will elect another president.
Over the coming weeks and months conservatives will engage in a lot of soul searching. Let the recriminations commence! But underneath the Monday-morning quarterbacking and general wishful thinking (“If only Chris Christie and Marco Rubio had run!”), the fundamental problem will remain. The electorate has changed, and by 2016 will have changed some more.