Consider the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s primary legislative achievement. Even if you are a hard-core supporter of health-care reform, you have to concede that the new law didn’t have any positive impact in the past four years, and might have had some negative ones. All the good changes advertised by the Obama administration will take place only after this year’s election, leaving us to suffer the cost of uncertainty now.

Indeed, one wonders why Obama spent so much time and political capital on a reform that he himself didn’t consider urgent — most of the law won’t take effect until 2014 — at a time when employment was plummeting, the banking sector was on the verge of collapse and more than 10 million American households owed more on their mortgages than their homes were worth. Obama campaigned like a pragmatist in 2008, but when he took power, he governed like an ideologue, sticking with his priority at the expense of the economy.

Romney would almost certainly have acted differently. Whatever you might think of his political priorities, he is the ultimate pragmatist. He governed Massachusetts like Obama promised to govern the country: trying to fix problems, not to advance an ideology.