John Poderhetz writes in Commentary Magazine, The Way Forward , 12/12
You cannot beat something with nothing. Obama had a record that was less than nothing but a machine and an approach to victory that were more than enough to add up to something. Romney, in the end, had nothing but Obama’s nothing.
That said, Republican politicians certainly showed a horrifying propensity for speaking about delicate issues in the most repulsive ways over the past year. That was most obviously the case with the Missouri and Indiana Senate candidates, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, in their musings about abortion and rape. Those were the gifts that kept on giving this election season for Democrats, who used Akin’s and Mourdock’s appalling remarks not only to win those states but to give the impression nationwide that their views (that women had a mysterious power to prevent pregnancies from rape, but that even when that power failed, the children born from rape were a divine gift) represented the mainstream of their party.
It was the case as well with illegal immigration. It is one thing to talk about the need for border security. It is quite another to have presidential primary debates turn on questions of electrifying fences and putting up “you will be shot” signs at the border, or to advocate the punishment of poor children of illegals who are in this country through no choice of their own by effectively denying them access to state colleges. The first is inarguable; the others are simply expressions of punitive hostility that have been replicated again and again in discussions of illegal immigration.
The problem with relying on the president’s poor record is that without a positive substance you have nothing to deflect screwups. Romney and the GOP faced magnification of mistakes which just kept his campaign on the defensive. The positives of the campaign were vague values, the negatives were crystal clear.