If Mitt Romney had defeated President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, a lot of things would be very different today. Had fortunes been so reversed, Romney would likely have come into office with a lock on Congress, and thus the power to pass a big tax cut and repeal (or at least hobble) the Affordable Care Act. When the economy improved and unemployment fell below six percent much earlier than Romney promised, Republicans would have claimed credit and Romney would have faced an easy path to re-election.
Romney’s successes — or his perceived successes — would have rehabilitated the Republican party’s reputation, and the public would have once again presumed that conservatives had effective ideas about economic and fiscal policy. The New Deal consensus would have dwindled, possibly enough for Republicans to shrink, devolve, or privatize parts of the safety net. With time on their side, conservatives would have looked forward to gaining decisive control over the Supreme Court for a generation.
The first black president of the US would have left office humiliated by a white electorate, and the Democratic Party would have regressed, fearful that the country would not stand for long behind minority political leaders, and progressive social policy.