For all the post-election analysis and blame, here's one more factor that Republicans would do well to heed: Americans simply would not entrust the nation's economic math to a guy whose campaign denied all reality-based polling in favor of wishful thinking and tell-me-what-I-want-to-hear-isms.
Mitt Romney was so married to his party's "unskewed" partisan polling that promised him a decisive win, he never saw so much as the possibility of defeat.
Well, there's a thin line between hope and denial. It's not unusual for candidates to talk a big game even when they're losing, but the Romney camp went so far into la-la land there was no coming back. Mr. Romney hadn't even written a concession speech, just in case. An aide described him as "shell shocked" by the outcome. This in a race that all nonpartisan evidence -- and yes, there is such a thing -- said would be tight to the end.
How, then, would Mr. Romney have dealt with the numbers-based problems the nation faces, from taxes and the deficit to the cost of health care and global warming -- which does exist, as Hurricane Sandy so inconveniently reminded us.
Apparently, the GOP couldn't even count the number of women, Hispanics and African-Americans who live here, not to mention gays. Did they think these populations wouldn't rebel against their wacko pronouncements on rape -- which also exists -- "self-deportation," voter suppression disguised as "protecting the vote" or rants against marriage equality? Do they think demographic shifts are a myth?
Just imagine the Romneyites hacking away at Medicaid, for example, from their perches in fantasyland: "I don't care how many so-called disabled people are on the rolls. In my heart I believe America is an able-bodied, self-sufficient nation, and these numbers are a liberal plot. It's time for all the moochers to take responsibility for themselves."
Even as the battleground states went blue one after the other (only North Carolina wound up red), GOP strategist and super PAC impresario Karl Rove refused to believe what he was seeing. He basically demanded a recount in Ohio even after his media darling, Fox News, had called the state, and the presidency, for Mr. Obama. At one point, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly asked him, "Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better or is this real?" That said it all.
Of course, Mr. Rove was thinking as much about his own hide as he was about Mr. Romney. He had extracted $400 million from right-wing billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers to finance attack ads against Democrats. It didn't work. The donors are said to be "furious" about their squandered riches, and who can blame them? How awful to be down to one's last $10 billion with nothing to show for it.
Voter suppression didn't work either. Republicans tried cutting off early voting, loading up ballots with confusing pages that slowed down the lines, imposing voter ID requirements, disseminating misinformation about polling places. They even tried outright intimidation, with employers threatening layoffs if the president was re-elected.
Turns out that most Americans didn't cotton to the flood of right-wing money, the relentless attacks and the dirty tricks.
The result was an electoral college blow-out. With Florida's final tally, President Obama racked up 332 electoral votes to Mr. Romney's 206. The popular vote was tighter, 50.4 percent vs. 48.1 percent. That's still a 3 million-vote edge for Mr. Obama -- close, but decisive.
For Democrats, there was much more good news.
In the Senate, Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Mazie Hirono in Hawaii and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota all defeated Republican opponents. Claire McCaskill of Missouri trounced Todd Aiken of the rape-stops-pregnancy school. In Indiana, Joe Donnelly creamed Richard Mourdock, who said that pregnancy resulting from rape was intended by God. And in Ohio, Sherrod Brown kept his seat from Josh Mandel, who was supported by $22 million in outside money ($6 million-plus from Mr. Rove's PAC) compared to $14 million for Mr. Brown.
In the House, Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs serving in Iraq, defeated Illinois Tea Party darling Joe Walsh, who said abortion was never needed to save the life of a woman.
Maybe you noticed that a lot of these winners are women. Ms. Warren and Ms. Baldwin will be the first female senators from their respective states, and Ms. Baldwin will be the chamber's first openly lesbian member.
Poor Bill O'Reilly, having to watch his beloved country fall into the hands of women, Hispanics and blacks who "feel they are entitled to things."
"It's not a traditional America anymore," he complained on Fox News. "The white establishment is now a minority."
Poor, disconsolate Ann Coulter, who opined to conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham, "If Mitt Romney cannot win in this economy, then the tipping point has been reached. We have more takers than makers and it's over. There is no hope."
And poor, poor Mr. Rove, who has clearly lost his last marble. The expert on demonizing the opponent actually said on the air that the president was re-elected because he "suppressed the vote" by demonizing Mr. Romney.
We still have a divided government, with Republicans retaining a big majority in the three-ring circus known as the House of Representatives. Last week, House Majority Leader John Boehner conceded in an interview with Diane Sawyer that with the election over "Obamacare" is "the law of the land." A few hours later, he reasserted his intention to repeal it.
As the two sides slug it out, I will take continued comfort in this: Florida, which cannot get voting right to save its life, was irrelevant this time. Mr. Obama won handily long before its vote was settled. Hah.sallykalson
Sally Kalson is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1610).