When I went to bed last night, not too late, it was clear that we were not going to win a landslide, as I had hoped, but it still looked as if Mitt Romney might eke out the victory he deserved. He ran a pretty good, but not impeccable campaign. He trounced the President in the first debate, and he stood up to him in the second and third debates. Given the level of unemployment, the growth in the national debt, Obama's attack on religious liberty, and the disarray in our foreign posture, he should have won.
When I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and popped downstairs to sample the results, it was clear that he had lost -- albeit not by much. I had expected the undecideds to break in his direction the last week. They broke in President Obama's direction, instead. Hurricane Sandy may have had a lot to do with this, and Chris Christie did not do his party any good when he took the President on a tour of New Jersey and praised him to the skies.
That was no doubt a part of the story, but there is surely more. When the Tea Party Movement emerged in the Spring of 2009 and grew mighty that summer, I thought that we were on the verge of a great awakening. My suspicions were confirmed when Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts, and they were further confirmed when the Republicans seized the House of Representatives in November 2010 and gained strength at the state level on a scale not seen since 1928.
I erred in supposing that the Republicans would then go from strength to strength. I underestimated the power still held by the mainstream media to bury scandals and shape the perceptions of the electorate, and I overestimated the vigor of the Republican Party in the states. The greatest disappointment last night was not Mitt Romney's narrow defeat. It was the failure of the Republican candidates for the Senate.
To sort out what happened and its larger meaning will take some time. It would, however, be a great mistake to suppose that the Republicans should once again become a me-too party. They failed this year, to be sure, but they will fail and fail again if they stand for nothing at all. The defects in his posture and policies that made Barack Obama so vulnerable this year will persist, and we will have to ponder what opportunities they offer for those on our side. It is good to remember that Barry Goldwater's sorry campaign in 1964 laid the foundation for Ronald Reagan's glorious victory in 1980. The country is in for a grim period. The more forcefully we make our argument, the sooner we will be able to dig ourselves out.