Romney campaign honcho Stuart Stevens is getting some mockery for his assertion that lots of people thought that Romney was a Catholic against contraception at the end of the primary season. To the extent that Stevens is blaming any part of Romney’s loss on the public’s mistaking Romney for Santorum, then Stuart deserves all the mockery he gets and then some.
But on the other hand, I do think (entirely from anecdotal evidence) that some basically apolitical people thought that Romney was the abortion extremist and obsessive in the race. That doesn’t make sense on one level. Romney only talked about abortion when asked while Obama talked abortion much more often. You would think that Obama would be the abortion guy. The problem is that the Republicans ceded the initiative to the Democrats on abortion. Since the Democrats were defining the debate on abortion, the discussion was about very-unlikely-to-ever-happen restrictions like abortions in case of rape. Meanwhile Obama, who actually voted against a born-alive-infants-protection-law and lied about his reasons, could portray himself as the relative moderate. That Obama could pull off this fraud is not the fault of Rick Santorum or the Republican primary process. It is the fault of cynical Republican campaign consultants (and candidates) who have not caught up to how Democrats have changed the game. Republicans would be better off adopting a more gradualist abortion agenda and aggressively going after the abortion extremism of the Democrats.
I would also imagine that Republicans haven’t developed strategies to effectively communicate with a large and growing fraction of the population and that this needs to be addressed alongside any policy and rhetorical changes they make.