Had Romney somehow managed to win the election, he might have passed a comprehensive immigration reform law (out of cynical political expediency, mind) and perhaps done much to correct the Latino electorate's rightfully disdainful view of Republicans. Romney, and by extension Republicans, would have also collected credit (wholly undeserved, mind) for the recovering economy. The Supreme Court appointments, the evisceration of health care reform, the coddling of corporations, the acceleration of wealth polarization and all the other horrible consequences of a Romney administration notwithstanding, the Republican Party would have, or could have, become a formidable political concern, going forward.
Instead, the party's thought leaders on Fox, talk radio and in the Tea Party House of Representatives, complaining that Romney was too moderate, will do all they can to drag the party further to the right, which is to say further into the political wasteland.
It sucks from an immediate policy standpoint. There is little if any reason to share the Democratic hope, expressed during the campaign, that the Republican "fever" will break after the election and that Republicans will be willing to compromise. Nevada Republicans Dean Heller and Joe Heck, who both won reelection while pretending to be moderates, have signed Grover's pledge. Heck in particular mustn't break it, lest he find himself facing a Todd Akin/Sharron Angle style challenger in a 2014 primary. Fiscal cliff? At this point, the kicking of a can down the road of which people always speak so derisively would be a significant achievement.
But in time, on that and other issues the chances for progressive victories in the ongoing struggle to, you know, make the the world a better place, are immeasurably better as a result of the 2012 election, not just in Obama's second term, but beyond.