By John Nichols
The 2012 election produced more than its share of ironic results, but there is one that will stand above all others: Mitt Romney is the candidate of 47 percent of the American electorate.
As the long count of ballots cast in last Tuesday’s presidential election nears completion, Barack Obama’s popular-vote margin over Romney continues to expand. The Democratic president’s percentage of the vote has been steadily rising. As this has happened, his Republican challenger’s percentage has fallen.
Whereas on election night conservative commentators could speak of the finish to the long and bitter campaign as “almost a tie,” Obama now has a 3.4 million popular-vote, and 50.57 percent of the total.
Romney has drifted down to… 47.84 percent.
Some websites are still rounding Romney to 48 percent, just as they’re rounding Obama to 51 percent. But those that are interested in precision have Romney in the 47 percent range. And his percentage is likely to keep dropping as the counting of ballots in Democratic-leaning states on the west coast is completed.
What that means is that the country is headed toward a final tally of the 2012 election that formally identifies Mitt Romney as the candidate of 47 percent of the American electorate.
Romney inserted the phrase “47 percent” into American politics as a term of derision, suggesting to wealthy campaign donors in Florida that “there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
Romney told his backers that his responsibility as a candidate—and, presumably, as a president—was “not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The comments created a firestorm, especially as it was recognized that the 47 percent Romney referred to included the elderly, veterans, Americans with disabilities and the working poor. Indeed, the controversy grew so great that, even now, there are commentators who suggest that it cost the candidate the presidency.
Romney tried to correct himself as the campaign progressed. “Well, clearly in a campaign, with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right,” he told Fox News. “In this case, I said something that’s just completely wrong.”’
Maybe not completely wrong.
There was a candidate in the 2012 presidential race who had 47 percent of the electorate who would vote for him “no matter what.”
But it wasn’t the 47 percent Romney was trying to divide out of the American mosaic and conquer.
Mitt Romney is not the candidate of “the 47 percent.”
“He is, however, the candidate of the 47 percent that stuck with the candidate who chose—with his comments and his campaign—indicated a disregard for the principle that this is one nation and candidates for its presidency should reach out to the whole of the American electorate.
Conservatives have a different explanation for Romney’s loss—like blaming the media, or even Hurricane Sandy.