Commentary Magazine


How Would Conservatives React to a Romney Loss?

At the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky wonders what the conservative reaction would be like if Mitt Romney loses tomorrow:

What’s the state of mind this weekend of the conservative outrage machine? With regard to liberals, I think it’s fair to say as of Saturday that most of us (excepting your allowed-for percentage of nervous nellies) expect Barack Obama to win. If he somehow doesn’t, we’ll be surprised and deeply depressed. But provided the outcome doesn’t involve some kind of Florida-style shenanigans, in a couple days’ time, we’ll come to terms with it. 

Meanwhile–conservatives? I think that they are certain that Mitt Romney will win and that all information to the contrary is a pack of lies; that they will be completely shocked and outraged if he doesn’t; that, if he loses, it will be the inevitable product of foul play; and that therefore they’ll immediately start scouring the landscape looking for parties to blame and will keep themselves in a state suspended agitation for…days, weeks, four years, forever. Which wouldn’t matter to the rest of us but for the fact that they’ll continue to have the power to screw up the country.

I somehow doubt that the left or Tomasky would accept Obama’s loss as graciously as he likes to imagine. (This is the same person who once described Romney as a “spineless, disingenuous, supercilious, race-mongering pyromaniac who is very poorly intentioned indeed, and woe to us if this man sets foot in the White House as anything but a tourist.”) And as usual, Tomasky is completely off-base when it comes to conservatives. 

How would the right actually react to a Romney loss? Of course they would be depressed. There would probably be a bit of finger-pointing and infighting. There would be a grieving period, as conservatives came to terms with the fact that Obamacare wouldn’t be going away anytime soon.

But a victory for Obama would hardly be a mandate for his progressive agenda. He’d have eked it out by running the most expensive smear campaign against a political opponent in history. Much of his second term would be spent dealing with disasters exacerbated by his first term: high unemployment, economic stagnation, skyrocketing debt, the Islamist hijacking of the Arab Spring, Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons, the proliferation of al-Qaeda affiliates, the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

And while conservatives would rightly be depressed and concerned for the country’s future, they would pick themselves up and refocus. Unless Republicans win the Senate, most of the work for the next two years would have to be done through the House. Congress would continue to investigate Benghazi. Republicans would fight against sequestration military cuts and tax hikes — though that could also lead to an intra-party blowout between the hawkish Buck McKeon camp and the anti-tax absolutist Eric Cantor camp. 

On Iran, conservatives would do what they could to expand and strengthen sanctions through the House and Senate, and increase public pressure for a military response if sanctions fail. The next crucial battle would be for the Senate in 2014, when Democrats would be defending up to 20 seats — 12 of which are in swing states or Republican states.

Mainly, conservatives would focus on making sure Obama does as little damage as possible for the next four years, while keeping their eyes on 2016, when Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, or Chris Christie would be able to make a real run. 

And if Obama loses, has to pack up the White House, and Democrats fall from power? I’ll look forward to Tomasky’s column brushing off the loss good-naturedly and crediting Romney for a fair race.