I think we're in general agreement (albeit seemingly... vociferous).
That sort of ridiculous bullshit is why Congress is full of screaming whiny childish assholes who can't compromise or get anything done!
Okay, but the sordid reality is that simply because it's ridiculous doesn't preclude it. How excited was the Democratic base about Kerry 2004? Didn't turnout suffer? The lack of Republican voter enthusiasm was palpable this entire election cycle.
For every rabid dumbass vote Romney would have lost by being reasonable, I'm absolutely convinced he would have gained two moderate votes.
I'm uncertain that calculus works, unless you are asserting that Romney could have induced defection in conservative Democrats. There simply aren't that many "true independents": if a candidate loses a portion of their base that is greater than, say, 5% of the popular vote then there simply aren't enough true independents to make up for that loss.
Essentially, that scenario happens when there has been an Overton Window shift. If it persists over several elections it is likely to cause a party to fracture and a successor party to form that is carved out of the remnants + a portion of the other main party.
Let me put it this way: if you live in a safely red state, who the fuck cares if some of them stay home?!! OMG, Romney won by 9% instead of 10%! Whoop-de-fucking-do!
Thanks, I do understand how the electoral college system works in practice. The point I was making was that even in a very red state essentially no one was enthusiastic about Romney. Do you see how this might signal a serious problem for a campaign? If not even your broad base is excited about your candidacy, then how are you planning to capture the undecideds or keep your turnout high?
And here's what those Republicans don't get: the Republicans lost the Libertarian vote because of their authoritarian social platform, not their fiscal platform!
Depends on the libertarian, of course. I was making a generalization in order to illustrate that defection within a party's base demographics can affect an election, as was also illustrated in 2000 Florida with Nader/Greens.
The shorthand is that "typical" Libertarians caucus closer to Republicans, just like Greens caucus closer to Democrats. Yes, just like in Flordia in 2000, you can't just mentally assign those third party votes to a main party candidate because, again, given a lack of those third party candidates then some of their supporting voters might have voted for the other main party or (more likely) just stayed home... "no one at all".
Coming back around: I assert Johnson netted a substantial number of votes from upset Paul supporters. Romney could have probably kept a lot of them had he directed his campaign not to be dicks during nomination, and adopting some of the more innocuous aspects of Paul's platform (eg. audit the Fed). You are correct that these particular voters could probably have been replaced through larger gains in true independents... "somehow" (ie. Romney wasnt campaigning in a vaccum and I don't discount Obama's ability to recruit them).
What isn't as trivial is the perception Romney had among the wider base as being a Massachusetts Republican governor (RINO suspicion), the "disturbing" similarities between RomneyCare in MA and ObamaCare now (clearly hated among the Republican base), etc. Ryan was chosen to appeal to that broad demographic, because Romney was perceived/suspected to be to the left of that.