What ought to pain Republicans most about Barack Obama’s victory is that 2012 was entirely winnable for them. In European elections over the past few years, voters have thrown out leaders who were in charge during the worst of the financial crisis, whether those leaders deserved the blame or not.
Macroeconomic indicators in the United States, where an unemployment rate of 8 per cent is highly correlated with defeat for the incumbent party, pointed in the same direction. Mr Obama himself had proven a disappointment to many of his former supporters, going from a beloved symbol of generational and social change in 2008 to a detached and remote figure, with limited ability to touch an emotional chord in the electorate.
That Mitt Romney lost nonetheless is in part a tribute to his own weaknesses as a candidate. The Obama campaign put Mr Romney on the defensive early about his work at Bain Capital, and left him there. The Republican nominee made any number of horrendous gaffes. He ran a disastrous Republican convention. He never found a way to talk about himself or his agenda that middle-class voters could relate to.