- Barack Obama ("Bronco Bama" to frustrated 4 year olds): Whatever his fundamental weaknesses in policy and performance--however he failed to live up to the "light worker" moniker, and however much the gloss was off the 2008 candidate he still was cool. He had charisma. He was likable. Don't take my word for it, ask the legions of frustrated Republican message people who kept trying to call him a communist and discovered it turned people off. Obama's personal favorability remained decently high until the end.
- The Democrat's GOTV: We heard it was supposed to be good--even great. Apparently it was better than that. The Republican strategists were stunned. The turnout was D+8 which is what some polls showed but no one on the right believed.
- Bill Clinton and the Democratic Convention: It's not clear how much of a difference this made in the final outcome but clearly Bill Clinton was a powerful surrogate and the Democratic Convention (Obama's speech aside) was deemed a resounding success. There was a huge bounce until Obama's first debate and I'm willing to call them winners.
- Romney's First Debate: Romney doesn't have too many here but his first debate was a smash hit. His position shot up--way up--over night and while the poll aggregates never showed him a favorite he was really a contender.
- The 47% Tape: Apparently it had an impact. The RAND poll showed a bunch of people switching to Obama after it and it played perfectly into the narrative that Obama had built up.
- Joe Biden: Anyone who asks what he brings to the ticket can look at the second debate: the VP debate. For all his gaffes and mockery he came out and hammered rising star Paul Ryan and re-ignited Democratic morale.
- Small Donors: Obama got a boost on his advertising allowing him to out-spend the better monetized Romney campaign because the funds came from his campaign (funded by small donors) rather than SuperPACs or the RNC--who both paid a higher per-ad price. Sometimes by 20%.
- Twitter: Twitter has cemented itself as the venue where the political discussion is happening. Twitter colored the debates and tried to tell us who won and who didn't.
- Public Policy Polling, YouGov, and Ipsos/Reuters: These were the pollsters who got it dead on. This is especially troubling for conservatives because Rasmussen and Gallup were two of the biggest losers and PPP is the definitely left Daily Kos pollster. PPP retweeted their various hate-tweets / trolls and now has the last laugh.
- Nate Silver: There were other quants with very good (as good / better? I'm not doing the math right now) estimations but Nate Silver gets the name recognition and the love (and the hate). He was dead on as well and while he was mocked and hated by the right they're now having to admit he was right. The taste of crow? It is terrible.
- Latinos and Unmarried Women: They made their presence known in this election and women's issues and immigration are things the GOP is going to have to get its head around going forward.
- Concern Trolls: There was reason to be concerned. The whole time. About everything.
What didn't work? Who lost?
- Mitt Romney: He didn't win and only took one real swing state. For the hundreds of millions that were spent he managed to flip two states from Obama and got at current count a few million fewer voters than McCain. His bid to stonewall on taxes may make it harder for other super-rich candidates to try the same stunt. He did not run a bad campaign but already donors are starting to get angry about getting so little for their money and, although he did win over the base, his starting point as a compromise candidate may yet split the GOP further.
- Big Money: Money can't buy you love and it can't, apparently, buy an election. Obama's donors were small, Romney's were big. Sheldon Adelson lost all six of his (highly) funded candidates. Karl Rove's GPS Crossroads is already getting hammered by its huge-money investors and I bet the Koch Brothers are eyeing their ROI on the Tea Party too.
- Rape / Abortion Politics: The social-conservative pro-life position on abortion and rape is unpalatable to the electorate. We knew that--but we learned it first hand on the 6th. This is something the GOP is going to have to resolve if they want to touch that rail in the future. The proposed strategy ("Hit back! Attack the press! Why don't you ever ask Democrats about 3rd Trimester Abortions!?") is good in a sort of tactical sense--but having a policy people can't stand, even if it almost never comes up, is a weakness.
- Benghazi and The Fast and Furious: The Republican base followed this stuff slavishly and no one else cared. If you watch Fox News you can quote the controversy chapter and verse but otherwise? People didn't care. Yes, the media suppressed it--but consider this: the vast majority of people don't vote and, well, frankly, don't care about some DOJ exercise that went wrong or really care about who didn't do what in Libya (yes, I'm sympathetic--these are real issues--but, no, if you are convinced these are giant killers I'm afraid you're in the bubble: the American populace doesn't care and the media knows that--it's not the other way around). It didn't help that Romney blew his attack strategy on Benghazi at the debate either, Candy Crawley jumping in or no.
- Conservative Blogs: Almost all of them bought into unskewing polls and misled their readership. I've seen the comments of people who feel cheated and I think they ought to. What else is the bubble concealing Global Warming? No--no ... don't go there.
- Facebook Activism: Posting all those pictures on Facebook didn't make much of a difference, did it? All those political rants? All that activism (NSFW!!). You made yourself feel better and didn't convince anyone. Often, if you were posting the more "powerful" stuff you were making yourself look like a caricature. It did make you feel better. Do you feel better now? (For Democrats doing this: does the gloating look good on you now? Really?)
- Social Conservatives: Yes, you came out and voted for Romney (Mormon > Muslim?) but you got a serious compromise candidate and he lost anyway--and decisively (if not hugely). He also only got back in the game by charging back to the middle and talking down abortion politics. Akin's loss should cement the idea that you have some work to do with your agenda.
- Libertarian Conservatives: The GOP humiliated you at the convention and then lost. You might be able to take some credit for that but the stats don't bear that out (no Gary Johnson surge). What do you do now?
- Rasmussen and Gallup: Their records showed what detractors had said for a long time: they're statistically biased to the GOP by almost 2pts. The problem isn't so much that no-one was worse but that Republicans have taken it as a matter of fact and faith that those two are the only reliable pollsters going. If it turns out that that's not only not the case--but that (at least this time around) the liberal detractors were actually in the right on this? What else might be true that we're ignoring? Global--NO--NO--DON'T GO THERE!
- Angry White Guys: Apparently, although still a majority, going for the white (especially older / male) demographic won't work against the Obama-GOTV machine. Could be the beginning of disenfranchisement? For, uh, the majority? No. It will not. But for angry white guys it'll seem like it.
- Immigration Politics: Immigration politics are toxic now and something's going to have to be done with the party position. Probably the Dream Act. Maybe ... Amnesty? Is anyone going to think "Hey, what if we'd been bipartisan on that Dream Act thing a while back?" NO--NOOOO--DON'T GOO THERE!!!
Who's in the middle?
- Paul Ryan: Big boost and the loss won't (probably) take down Kid Serious too badly--but he didn't carry his home state and he lost his debate.
- The TwinDex: Twitter won the mind-share war but I think the TwinDex is useless. I can't tell what it's supposed to be telling me and if it "tracks to Gallup" (which was their claim) does that mean it's like, one of the worst polling emulators?