It’s the Romney campaign’s fault. This column has sharply criticized the Romney camp’s deliberate decision not to define him early on by running biographical and testimonial ads to establish the former Massachusetts governor as someone worthy of being president. This would have effectively added a Teflon coating to protect him from the attacks that ended up defining him in such a pejorative way among swing voters in the battleground states that, even if he had won the popular vote nationally, he still probably wouldn’t have won 270 electoral votes. The scar tissue from the Bain Capital summer was too great, and this election ended up being more than just a simple referendum on President Obama and the economy.

But this explanation ignores the larger problem in the party: the nominating process that, in effect, pinned him down at the 2-yard line on the conservative end of the field rather than positioning him between the 40-yard lines.

Watching politics for 40 years now, I have seen the two major parties tend to leapfrog each other in terms of political sophistication. This state of the political art, when one party is firing on all eight (or, these days, six or even four) cylinders, seems to happen when the other party is in desperate need of a tune-up.

Democrats had a lousy economy, made some rather dubious policy choices in the past four years, and had an incumbent who chose to skip the first debate. But when it came to just about everything else, they handled things expertly, or developments went their way.