Romney lost because he carried too much baggage which defined him negatively, and which only President Obama's mistaken softly softly first debate touch overcame for a very brief time. Romney's baggage included;
1.His reputation for changing his opinions/beliefs to suit whatever the immediate contingency seemed to require
2.Women did not like/trust him. "women's issues" had little to do with that, as women were accepting of G.W. Bush as a candidate even though he held firm conservative opinions on abortion.
3.Mormonism is not in the American mainstream and would have influenced some Christians against voting for Romney.
4.The view of Romney as a member of the out of touch corporate elite, was reinforced beyond repair by the leaked "47%" video. The fact that his campaign downplayed it, then admitted it was a mistake, only assisted in reinforcing the "etch a sketch" view of Romney.,
5.Choosing Paul Ryan (has there ever been a more low key VP "spearhead" in recent history?) as his running mate put Florida in danger without delivering Wisconsin, or any other marginal state. Rubio might have brought substantial Hispanic support and Florida, McDonnell might have won Virginia, and most importantly Portman might have brought Ohio, the loss of which is an insurmountable barrier.
6.Romney did not follow up his Denver debate win with an all out hard hitting effort. This reason, following on from the disastrous "47%" speech is also the main reason why noted analysts Nadeem Walayat predicted an Obama re-election
AT THIS LINK
There seemed to be a quiet hiatus between that debate, and the second debate, which allowed Obama to recover his ground. Ryan brought nothing in his debate with Biden, and the significant analyst Dr.Wang at Princeton traces Obama's poll recovery as commencing from the Biden/Ryan debate.
7.Romney choosing Governor Christie as his spearhead at Tampa whilst rejecting the loyal Palin, which cost him votes from her supporters, was a disaster, as Christie became an effusive supporter of the "presidential" Obama through the Hurricane Sandy aftermath.
8.Romney's refusing to release his tax records, then releasing some after a huge amount of media and opposition attacks, was a major distraction from his campaign which should have used that time to focus on a positive economic plan.
9.The charge that Romney would have let GM go bankrupt made blue collar car industry Michigan, and rust belt Ohio nearly impossible to win.The Jeep controversy was another nail in the Ohio coffin.
10.But, perhaps more than all these ten reasons put together, the number one reason why Romney lost is the same reason Gore and Kerry lost-people just don't like him
For President Obama to have over Mitt Romney, in this economy, something beyond the accepted psephologist's reasoning must be at play.
President Clinton's stricture in his first campaign was "it's the economy stupid" but it may be that, at the end of the day a factor divorced from the economy, divorced from perceptions of leadership and even divorced from personal partisan opinion is at play in determining the winner of presidential elections.
If there ever was an election where the economy, and especially millions being unemployed/underemployed, should be the determining factor then it was this one. And yet, the president who himself advised "I will be in trouble if I don't bring down the unemployment rate" won re-election.
It appears that the "likability factor' is the final determining factor in the voting booth if history is a guide.
This would explain why George W. Bush "the man you would like to have a beer with" who was derided for being a goofball in some quarters, defeated the, frankly unlovely Al Gore, and the even more unlovely John Kerry. By all economic factors Gore, an eight year serving and respected vice-president, should have won in a landslide at a time of substantial economic prosperity, yet he couldn't even carry his home state of Tennessee. Kerry lost by over two million votes to a person he easily defeated in the debates.
The likability factor appears, if it is the only parameter to judge elections by, in case after case. G.H.W. Bush although patrician, appeared both competent and likable when compared to the "tank commander" Dukakis whose likability went out the window when he couldn't defend his wife in an hypothetical murder attempt on her. Bush's patrician bearing was the antithesis of likability when up against Bill Clinton and as for Bob Dole-no contest.
Reagan/Mondale not even worth considering. Reagan Carter, when Carter was at his weakest, again no contest. When Carter was the coming man, "Mr. Nice Guy", and Ford was amiable, but bumbling, Carter had the edge. Nixon had common man appeal, whereas McGovern was seen as an oddball-ditto LBJ/Goldwater. Eisenhower/Stevenson-no contest of course in the likability stakes.
The mass appeal of Nixon and JFK was reflected in the minuscule popular vote difference between them. Truman of course overcame all the odds, but perhaps it was the "Hiya Harry" factor against a man described as the little man on the wedding cake Dewey, which carried the day
Clearly likability is not the only factor and there are instances, massive economic collapse and fear, and of course war, which trumps it e.g. Roosevelt or Obama in a time of economic fear with both having the likability factor edge on their opponents. Again, given the current economic situation Romney should have won, but he didn't and Obama was certainly, it is fair to say, perceived as "the man you would have a beer with" compared to the patrician Romney.
That brings me to consideration of the 2016 election. If, as I believe, Hillary Clinton runs she would, barring an economic collapse, be expected to win given her undoubted abilities. However, in my view, and if the media filter allows even a modicum of fair and balanced reporting, Sarah Palin's common touch humanity would, given the likability factor as key, win the day if history is a guide.
N.B. Some Republican pundits are blaming Hurricane Sandy as tipping the balance-not so according to the polling analysis which showed a clear move to President Obama starting from the Biden/Ryan debate and continuing unabated until election day.