Anyone can analyze elections results the day after the election, but it takes genius, or maybe foolhardiness, to analyze the results before the votes are counted. So, in a bold exercise in prepunditology, here is my analysis of today's national election results. Whether my analysis is correct will become apparent in about 12 hours.
President Obama's narrow victory over Governor Romney simultaneously shows the good and bad sides of the Electoral College. The President holds a razor-thin margin in the popular vote, which should hold up even after the provisional ballots in Ohio and the late ballots in New York and New Jersey are counted. If our election were decided strictly on the national popular vote and the margin were any smaller, we could go weeks without knowing for sure who had won the election. On the good side, the Electoral College provides certainty to the results state by state, so a delay in counting the vote in one state doesn't necessarily delay figuring out who won.
On the bad side, the dividing of the vote into states meant that the candidates ignored most of the states and focused their campaigns, and their campaign promises, on six or eight swing states. (It's similar to the reason we have to buy ethanol with our gasoline: the federal government pushes ethanol (manufactured from corn) into gasoline because Iowa has the earliest presidential caucuses. It's a good thing that New Hampshire doesn't grow brussels sprouts.) The rest of the country was irrelevant to the campaigns.
The real message of the Presidential results is not to Mr. Obama, nor to Mr. Romney, but to the Republican Party. This year the party nominated the most electable of its contenders, mounted a respectable campaign, and still lost, narrowly but clearly. Mr. Romney could have defeated Mr. Obama if he'd run as Romney2003. His problem was that to get nominated, he had to campaign as Romney2012, a man so far to the right as to be unelectable in the general election. His volte-face or "pivot" from his primary positions to his general-election positions was so abrupt and violent as to be unbelievable, leaving voters wondering which version of Mr. Romney, if elected, would actually take office.
The party has to decide whether it wants to continue nominating unelectable candidates of ideological purity, such as Mr. Romney of the primaries, or center-right candidates who could win, such as Mr. Romney of the general election campaign. (It also needs to give its men in Congress some lessons in remedial biology, and perhaps in theology also, but that's a rant that others have covered better.) Until the Republican Party figures out how to nominate a Presidential candidate who doesn't have to reverse his or her positions to campaign among the Democrats and independents, it's going to be off on the margins of Presidential politics.
On the Congressional front, the voters left the Republicans in control of the House. The Democrats lost ground in the Senate but retain control -- barely -- with Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, caucusing with them. Vice President Biden will have to stay close to the Capitol to be available to break tie votes.
My next post will analyze the results of today's state races.