I have no insight to add to the question of who will win tomorrow, especially given the presence around here of some genuine mavens in all things electoral. But I do have a thought about who deserves to win and why.
Deserving to win is not just a matter of being better than the other guy. Obviously, I vastly prefer Mitt Romney’s vision of government and American life to Barack Obama’s, and I think Obama has been a terrible president. But I also think Romney deserves to win because he could be a genuinely good president. I think that because Romney has shown himself in this campaign (let alone in his career before this campaign) to possess a crucial and rare ingredient in making a good president.
In 2006, while working as a White House staffer, I found myself seated next to the president’s chief of staff, Josh Bolten, at an event. He asked me about some things he knew I was working on, and then he asked how I thought things were going in general. I answered (in retrospect quite inappropriately) that I frankly thought some important things that deserved the president’s attention didn’t seem to be getting it, and of course those just happened to be matters in my own policy bailiwick. Without a hint of the condescension that he could easily have offered (and that my statement clearly deserved), Bolten smiled and said that the hardest thing about the president’s job was prioritizing—telling the most important things on his plate apart from the somewhat less important. His answer was characteristically diplomatic, but also characteristically wise, and I’ve thought about it often in the course of this year’s presidential campaign.
There has been much to criticize about the Romney campaign this year, as there always is about any presidential campaign. But looking back on an almost completed election, I’m struck by how Romney has gotten some of the biggest things right.