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Romney’s sad explanation for his defeat

Obama won by giving free gifts to voting blocs, Romney says

You’ve probably heard by now that Mitt Romney’s explanation for his loss is that Pres. Obama spent his first term giving “free gifts” to various constituencies, especially ethnic minority groups and young voters, to buy their votes for a second term.

He made the comments yesterday in a conference call with his fund-raisers. One of the participants let New York Times reporter Ashley Parker listen in. Her full account is here.

I’m trying to sympathize with the pain Romney is experiencing, after eight years of seeking the presidency, to have come up short. But this explanation is pretty pitiful and full of holes.

Here’s a chunk of Parker’s story to give you the flavor of what Romney told his donors and is presumably telling himself:

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“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift,” Mr. Romney said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

The president’s health care plan, he said, was also a useful tool in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers: 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics.

“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge,” Mr. Romney said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

Even sadder, Romney seems to have convinced himself that he ran a brave, candid campaign “talking about big issues for the whole country: military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth.”

In my humble opinion, Romney actually ran a cynical, almost substanceless campaign, changing his positions to meet political needs and refusing to disclose specifics that would enable the most serious voters to assess his positions. The ultimate example, which took my breath away, was the magical tax plan that would lower everyone’s rates, then pay for itself with details that would be disclosed later.

I always assumed that Romney’s libertarian, least-government streak was phony, since he had been a moderate Republican fairly recently and his signature accomplishment as governor was the Massachusetts health plan on which Obamacare was modeled. Or maybe he has no convictions at all, where policy is concerned. But in the long segment excerpted above, he actually does seem to argue that anything the government might do to help the less-fortunate must be a cynical ploy to buy their future support.

Romney’s focus on Obamacare as the key to Obama’s efforts to buy reelection is particularly pitiful, not only because Romneycare was the model for it, but also because every Republican presidential candidate, from Michele Bachmann to Romney himself, made the urgency of repealing Obamacare a centerpiece of their campaigns to defeat Obama for reelection. Now it turns that the deviously clever, fabulously popular Obamacare was the key to his reelection. Pretty pitiful and full of holes.