Equally damaging were the primary leeches who embarrassed the party and wouldn't leave the stage. Nine-nine-nine, we're talking about you, Herman Cain. And Gov. Oops? You, too. And then there were Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann, who never had a real shot at the nomination and certainly could never win a national election, yet they refused to surrender to the certain nominee.
Did they have a right to persist in their own fantasies? Sure. But not if they were serious about getting a Republican in the White House. Thus, for months and months, Romney had to spend his energy and, importantly, his money to prevail in the primaries against opponents who had no chance and who ultimately hurt him. During that same precious time, Obama's campaign was busy pinpointing specific voters and buying ads in niche markets.
More to the point, the GOP seems willfully clueless. There's a reason there are so few minorities in the party. There's a reason women scrambled to the other side. There's a reason Hispanics, including even Cuban-Americans this time, went for Obama.
The way forward is about love, not war, baby. Women's reproductive rights need to come off the table. As Haley Barbour suggested long ago, agree to disagree. Compassionate immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, should be the centerpiece of a conservative party's agenda.
Marginalize or banish those who in any way make blacks, gays, single women or any other human being feel unwelcome in a party that cherishes the values of limited government, low taxes and freedom. A large swath of conservative-minded Americans are Democrats and independents by default.
Mitt Romney would have been a fine president and might have won the day but for the party he had to please.
WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP