Apoplectic explanations abound since the election was called to give Barack Obama his second term. Among the most repeated I've come across so far is how triumphant Democrats, and some in the media, are making this out to be a watershed tipping point moment, when demographics point to an electoral sea of blue as far as the eye can see.
We've seen this dog and pony show before. After Bush's election in 2000, many Republicans said much the same, as did Democrats in 2008. Both were proven wrong just a few years later, as they were based on horribly flawed (il)logic.
While the electoral vote tally might make it seem otherwise, a roughly 50,000 vote flip in Ohio, 50,000 vote flip in Virginia and 25,000 vote flip in Florida is all it would have taken for Romney to win the general election. This was no resounding victory, as many in the media are labelling it as. It was razor thin, as most predicted it would be. Dozens of articles over the last couple days list dozens of variables that could have flipped the election in Ohio, Virginia and Florida - which would have delivered the electoral college for Romney.
Like every election, turnout was a big factor. Barack Obama has proven himself uniquely capable at turning out African-American and youth voters, which is not something you could say about those who are most likely to be at the lead of the Democratic ticket in 2016. Republican pollsters and pundits mistakenly assumed that turnout levels would return closer to where they were in 2004, but assuming that they'll stay where they have been the last two presidential elections is a giant assumption.
Beyond this, Obama won big with Hispanics, but the gap wouldn't have been so huge had Mitt Romney not played so far right on immigration during the primary, which he didn't have to do, and/or has he picked the charismatic Latino Florida Senator Marco Rubio. That would have delivered Florida into his camp for sure, and would have made a difference in Ohio and Virginia to some degree.
Another VP option was US Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who may well have been able to flip the 1 percent necessary for Romney to win there. With Portman, Rubio, or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the Romney campaign wouldn't have had Paul Ryan's horribly unpopular Medicare plan hanging around its neck, which alone might have made for a half percent bump - possibly more.
Just like George W. Bush's campaigns in 2000 and 2004 were misconstrued, much of the hot air about Obama's wins can be attributed to good old solid execution, both in their overall strategy and in their ground game. There were some soft spots, like how Obama and company seemed to avoid talking about a second term agenda like the plague, but overall they did much better than Mitt and company. They were able to better downplay Obama's sub-par (in the eyes of a majority of voters) first four years in office, and play up Romney's perceived weaknesses more effectively.
Demographic shifts are something the Republicans should worry about in the not-so-distant future, but it wasn't what decided this race. Poor decision making by Romney and other Republicans is what sunk them.