In Which I Answer POLITICO Arena’s Election Day Question: What were the campaigns’ biggest mistakes?

A friend posted a photo on Facebook of a long line at her polling place this morning with the comment that “it’s a good sign when voters are treating an election like Black Friday at Walmart.” Now we have to wait all day to learn which of the candidates brought forth this outpouring of interest: do voters think Obama or Romney is the better bargain?

Both campaigns have made mistakes galore, balancing each other out in about the same horserace numbers as the daily polls have recently shown the race to be. Romney’s worst was hoisting himself on his own petard of Etch-a-Sketch positions, thus eroding voter trust, then nailing his coffin with the deliberately false Jeep ad.

Obama’s worst mistake was four years in the making. He failed to run, as Harry Truman successfully did, against the “do nothing Congress” that is more at fault for the lack of economic progress than the president who at least put forward some ideas. He had to re-energize many discouraged 2008 supporters as a result. But thanks to the Republican War on Women which Romney could not separate himself from, Obama was able to seize a set of issues that resonate with progressive women who make up almost 60% of the Democratic base.

Romney’s mistakes were mistakes of character and likability; Obama’s were mistakes of leadership style.

I’ve walked many precincts knocking on doors and weathered many elections. In the end voters usually go with the person whose character and persona they find more appealing. Those scales weigh in Obama’s favor today. We’ll find out tonight whether that is enough of a bargain to carry the election.

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Meanwhile, here’s what I’m posting on social media today:

The ballot box is where we win the #waronwomen. #Vote #Election2112 

I’d appreciate your shares and tweets of that sentiment.

This was originally posted in response to a question in Politico Arena. Find the Arena response here.


  1. Stacy on November 11, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Hi Gloria!

    I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised to have to wait in line to vote after work- not that I like waiting, but living in “blue” Massachusetts it’s easy for progressives to feel like their/our vote doesn’t count in Presidential elections because all we hear about is a) Ohio, b)that banana republic of Florida and every once in a while (mostly during the primaries) c) New Hampshire.

    Of course, here in MA we liberals had a HUGE reason to turn out– ELIZABETH WARREN!!! For me, that was almost a sweeter victory than Obama’s re-election because she’s actually a real, live progressive. Who’d have thunk it was possible in 2012 when “progressive” or “liberal” is practically a dirty word among the Beltway prognosticators and “New Democrats” that rule the party? I live in a predominantly African American and Hispanic neighborhood and district and the turn-out was HUGE (hence the long lines) and much of the buzz in the voting line I was in was about Elizabeth Warren. Interestingly, no one was standing outside with Obama signs- it was all Warren, Warren, Warren. I kind of thought that was pretty interesting, and perhaps a signal that Obama over-promised and under-delivered in 2008.

    Gloria, sort of on-topic- I don’t mean to toss a wet blanket on the afterglow of an important election victory- because I do understand that it was very important, my disgust at the Beltway Democrats and media aside. But since you are a progressive in the best sense of the word, and because you had to navigate Washington DC and state politics as head of PPFA, I am wondering what you think of the direction the national Democratic party seems to be going on social issues because honestly, they have started lurching to the right to such a degree it doesn’t even make sense. I’m beginning to think labor groups like the AFL-CIO were smart to throw more money than usual at state and local races, much to the chagrin of the Obama administration and the DNC.

    I’m afraid I don’t look as favorably at Obama’s handling and advocacy of choice and abortion rights as you do. Maybe I’m not giving him enough credit, I’ll admit that- but given progressive social principles/issues including reproductive rights have wide support nationally (with some obvious exceptions but still not the majority), Looking back at the Stupak nonsense, the avoidance of discussion of abortion rights from Obama until about a year before the election he suddenly remembered “oh yeah, that matters!” and the bizarre need to try to appease the totally unreasonable US Conference of Catholic Bishops on contraceptive coverage (apparently behind the scenes the admin is *still* trying to work out a way to expand the exemption for Catholic employers in a way that goes beyond the deal he worked out with Sister Carol Keehan)despite the fact that about 90% of Catholics are quite vocal in their belief that on this issue the Bishops should go take a very long walk off a very short bridge, I’m beginning to wonder if the national Democratic party can really be counted on to protect, in any meaningful way, reproductive choice. They’ve become a bit hesitant on this issue, if not at times outright negligent until it smacks them in the face.

    And not to be cynical, but as someone who is gay and who went through the gay rights dance (DADT, DOMA) with the Clinton administration, I’m not going to stomp glass and shout Mazel Tov quite yet. I’m glad Obama was forced …I mean, willing, to say he supported gay marriage after his Catholic Vice President brilliantly painted him into a lovely lavender corner during an interview, but he better put on his wellies and get ready to dig in and fight for this one and I have my doubts. Because words are nice but it’s not getting me any closer to be anything other than a bridesmaid, at least with respect to crossing state lines.

    Honestly, at times I think the Dems aren’t qualified to lead a bunch of ants across a crumb-laden picnic tale. But having read your books Gloria, I know complaining isn’t enough- I guess I better get off my backside and “be the change I want to see in the world…” I volunteered for Warren during her campaign, maybe the new Senator needs a nurse and lawyer on her staff? 🙂

    Take care!

    • Gloria Feldt on November 11, 2012 at 10:03 pm

      Hi Stacy,
      As you note, I have traversed the DC scene, and during the Clinton administration, I frequently observed that your friends will do you in faster than your enemies. And if you were following my blogs during the early days of the Obama administration, you will know that I was very tough on him for throwing women and gays under the bus repeatedly and when he didn’t even need to find a compromise–he thought if he threw red meat the beast wouldn’t come back after his hand. How wrong he was and how much of his political capital he pissed away.

      I also hold the women’s groups accountable for allowing him to do that to them/us/women. They didn’t let out a peep when he took family planning out of the first stimulus package, and I will never get over seeing my successor at PPFA defending on TV the Capps amendment to codify the Hyde restrictions on abortion coverage, so that Obama could make the case (which of course the bishops couldn’t give a flip about) that he wasn’t making it better or worse for poor women who need abortions. The gay rights groups were much more politically astute about it and they withheld money and support in various ways until he had his “evolution.”

      The best thing to me about this election is not that Obama was reelected though of course I prefer him to Romney and his binder full of women. The best thing is the composite of Warren, Baldwin, Hirono, and all the very progressive women elected to the senate. They are going to be our firewall. And the hope I have is that we can engage them to be the CHAMPIONS for women and other progressive policies. I adore Barbara Boxer but she needs help!

      Your description of the Dems is apt. Always has been. We are for the most part of the mind that the fight is over ideas whereas the Repubs have always known it is about power. I am quite sure Elizabeth Warren needs a nurse lawyer on her team. You should definitely put yourself forward if you are serious. Don’t hold back.

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