But then came his surprise selection of Paul Ryan, which seemed designed to broaden the focus of the campaign to include the deficit and to shift the conversation from a pure referendum on the past four years to an agenda for the future. Yes, Ryan’s proposals were controversial, but Romney seemed to signal that moving from bland to bold, from management to vision, from incremental change to radical reform, was more than enough to compensate for the baggage he was taking on.

And then—Romney reverted to type, with an acceptance speech better suited to a Portman pick. When conflicts emerged between Ryan’s budget and positions the Romney campaign considered more politically convenient, the young vice-presidential nominee reversed course. And if Romney has been campaigning since the convention on a theme of bold reform, it has escaped the attention of the press corps and the American people…

If [Obama] ends up winning, the skeptics—of whom I have been one—will have to acknowledge that the Obama team understands something important about twenty-first century politics that we don’t. An Obama victory would suggest a more personalized, identity-based brand of politics can trump traditional economic metrics, even when times are tough. For their part, Republicans would have to acknowledge that the current stance and demography of their party don’t provide the basis for a lasting national majority. But then, that’s a lesson they should have learned some time ago.