Loss and Fatigue

I noted yesterday, apparently with a number of others, that CPAC this year seems to lack a certain ooomph. Forget a ‘certain ooomph’, make that any ooomph. The whole thing just seems tired. A moment ago I was listening to Chuck Todd discuss this year’s festivities on MSNBC and there was the expected and correct reference to having just lost a big presidential campaign. But that’s nothing new for the GOP over the last couple decades.

So what’s going on right now?The exchange made me realize that while Democrats have won 4 of the last 6 presidential elections (and the popular vote in the last 5 of 6), this is the first one where there’s really no excuse — for Republicans, that is.

Clinton won twice. But he won with plurality not majority votes, because of the presence of Ross Perot. Meanwhile, Barack Obama won the first time in a climate of tremendous Iraq War fatigue and President Bush’s massive unpopularity. (Also the press refused to ‘vet’ him, according to Breitbart and friends.) To be clear, I think you need to engage in some big time special pleading and denial not to see the trend that was taking shape. Each of these were very real victories. But there was at least enough of a hook to hang your hat on if you were a Republican who wanted to believe that those wins somehow didn’t count.

2012 was different. President Obama managed to win reelection after a consistent and fairly unremitting four years of a terrible economy. Yes, the unemployment rate was going down and there were slow signs of improvement. There was a very solid reality argument and a fairly solid political argument that the crisis wasn’t of his making. But still, life ain’t fair and these arguments usually end up being the arguments of defeated rather than two term presidents.

The simple reality is that President Obama went into the 2012 election with no special advantages — even arguable ones — other than an electorate that seemed resilient in its support for him and his policies.

Republicans see that. They weren’t cheated. They just lost.