* He raised the money: At the start of the 2012 campaign, most Republicans saw President Obama’s fundraising potential as one of the major hurdles their side would need to overcome. While the Obama team pooh-poohed the idea he would be the first $1 billion candidate, it’s a near-certainty that when the final math on the 2012 cycle is done that the incumbent will have crested that lofty territory. Even so, Romney was Obama’s equal in the fundraising department and even had more money to spend than the incumbent in the final two and a half weeks of the race.
* He avoided infighting: Sure, toward the end of the race there were a handful of blame-game stories that focused on Stevens’ outsized role in the campaign’s senior leadership. But, by and large, the Romney inner political circle remained remarkably cohesive — a major contrast to the backbiting, departures and overall chaos that defined Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008. And, according to those who traveled with the campaign or its surrogates, the “road show” — the candidate’s team on the campaign trail — ran smoothly and maximized the time of Romney (and his surrogates). There is a more legitimate debate about whether, from a broader strategic perspective, Romney was spending his time in the right places, but hindsight on those sorts of things is always 20-20.
* He debated well: Compare Romney’s performance across the three debates with that of McCain in 2008 or George W. Bush in 2004 (and, to a lesser extent, 2000) and it’s clear that Romney was the best of the bunch.