MANKATO — Reduced to its simplest terms, Joe Kunkel’s post-election analysis comes down to this:
American voters were more comfortable with Barack Obama than they were with Mitt Romney. Not more satisfied, mind you. Just more comfortable.
Kunkel, a Minnesota State University political science professor, presented his 2012 election post-mortem at this week’s Mankato Area Lifelong Learners gathering.
Though the presidential race was close, Kunkel said Obama’s win margin was more than he expected, and he enumerated the reasons why.
One was the candidate-image factor, which went in Obama’s favor, albeit by a thin margin.
Kunkel suggested that Romney not only couldn’t shake his out-of-touch rich-guy image but was hamstrung by his own party’s snowballing persona as that of a fading entity of old, white men.
Also, Kunkel said the Obama campaign spent money more effectively and had more paths to victory than the Romney effort. He said Obama didn’t have to hitch his wagon to a single star, whereas winning Ohio was imperative for Romney.
There also was the painted-by-a-broad-brush factor that chilled Romney’s momentum. Kunkel said wrongheaded statements on social issues made by some “mentally challenged” Republicans running in state races did damage to the Republican brand leading up to the 2012 election.
Then there was the best-of-the-worst factor. Kunkel said although Romney emerged as the Republican presidential candidate, his victory may have constituted faint praise, given the uninspiring collection of challengers — Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum — he bested in the primaries.
Perhaps most significant to Obama’s victory was securing votes from blocs of assumed Democrats who usually don’t go to the polls.
“They were fired up to vote. That was a big factor,” Kunkel said.
He said Obama had his own bugaboos to overcome as well.
His 2008 push to the presidency (“It seemed to be more a social movement than a political campaign”) raised expectations yet unmet of “hope and change.” And with the economy still reeling in 2012, Kunkel said the Democrats’ campaign marketing had to go with a tough sell: “Without Obama, it would have been worse.”
Mankato Area Lifelong Learners (507-389-2011, mnsu.edu/mall) is sponsored by Minnesota State University. It provides opportunities for people 50 and older to engage in enriching educational activities complemented with special events and social outings.