Sean Trende: GOP’s political landscape is in good shape for the future

Real Clear Politics’s Sean Trende analyzes why the hand-wringing by many conservative insiders may be short-sighted.  According to his analysis beyond the Senate and White House losses this cycle, there are many rays of hope for the future of the Republican Party.

The simple truth is that this election turned out pretty much the way that the econometric models suggested it should. The GOP had deluded itself into believing that 2012 was a “gimme” — and to be sure, it was winnable. Team Romney made some mistakes and failed to capitalize on opportunities. But overall, the result wasn’t out of line with what we’d expect from a tepid economy (this also cuts against the “demographics” argument; if demographics were becoming the GOP’s main problem, the GOP would increasingly run behind what the economy suggested it “should”).

Dick Morris is back! (With his analysis of the election)

Though he swung and missed on his election prediction, Dick Morris is back with a postmortem of what went wrong. The overall reason, he cites, is due to the failure of Republican voters to show up. The core arguments he raises are threefold:

First, Romney’s get out the vote software, famously titled ORCA, failed on Election Day, impacting the turnout of conservative leaning voters.

Second, Republicans and the Romney campaign failed to effectively rebut the wave of negative advertising launched against him throughout the summer.

Third, super storm Sandy froze the election and its related polling, thus making it difficult to gauge where the Romney campaign’s position was going into the home stretch. Also, the storm provided President Obama with a short few days to seem presidential, an achievement many would argue alluded him throughout the campaign (and the prior 4 years).

But the real reason is that the whites who supported Romney didn’t turn out to vote. Just look at the fact, brought to my attention by National Review and Washington Examiner columnist Byron York, that Obama carried Ohio by 107,000 votes (some are still being counted) and that Romney got about 100,000 fewer votes than McCain! (2,677,820 for McCain v. 2,583,580 for Romney). Romney really lost by failing to turn out his base even as Obama was doing a very good job of getting his to the polls.
Why was the white vote so low? Why did so many anti-Obama voters stay home? The immediate cause was the total failure of the ORCA system for getting out the vote. This new hi tech gadgetry had never been beta tested and crashed repeatedly on Election Day. It was supposed to target the Romney supporters who had not yet voted and to give canvassers interactive maps of where to find them and to keep them appraised if they voted. But the volunteers who were to use the system to find the voters had not been adequately trained in their use and the system itself was flawed.
But the failure of the white vote to turn out was also because neither the Romney campaign nor any of the super PACs rebutted Obama’s attacks on the Republican candidate. Unanswered, the attacks transformed Romney’s Bain Capital experience into a nightmare of outsourcing and callous layoffs. Had Romney’s people or the Super PACs answered the attacks and pointed to the splendid record of job creation at Bain and told the stories of the failing companies he turned around, these voters would likely have voted and Romney would have won.

What the interest in succession says about Obama

Is the United States really in danger of a secession movement?  The short answer is obviously no.  But that is asking the wrong question: why do people across all 50 states (hundreds-of-thousands of people, by the way) feel the urge to leave the Union?  We didn’t see this type of movement after the election of George W. Bush in 2004, even though he was about as popular as President Obama during his reelection.

Many would argue that this is an overreaction to a difficult election loss.  We know that President Obama’s victory on Election Day had less to do with an affirmation of his policies, and more to do with his abilities as a campaigner.

It wasn’t that President Obama road a grown swell of support and reaffirmation of his presidency.  Rather, it was that he was seen as lesser of two evils by many.  For the first time in history, an American President was elected with less support than his first term.  President Obama even used behavior scientists to assist him in manipulating the public to secure his victory (not to begrudge him the strategy, as it worked):

Less well-known is that the Obama campaign also had a panel of unpaid academic advisers. The group — which calls itself the “consortium of behavioral scientists,” or COBS — provided ideas on how to counter false rumors, like one that President Obama is a Muslim. It suggested how to characterize the Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, in advertisements. It also delivered research-based advice on how to mobilize voters.

“In the way it used research, this was a campaign like no other,” said Todd Rogers, a psychologist at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a former director of the Analyst Institute. “It’s a big change for a culture that historically has relied on consultants, experts and gurulike intuition.”

Obama prevailed by suppressing Republican and independent voters.  His carpet bombing of key states with negative advertising prevailed in making Romney appear radioactive and thus, suppressed those voters who would have otherwise carried the Governor to victory.  Michael Medved discusses this reality in his recent column from the Daily Beast:

The most striking change in the results this year involved a precipitous and alarming decline in voter participation, a drop-off that stemmed from a deliberate strategy by the Obama campaign and almost certainly provided the president with his margin of victory. Meanwhile, much of the conventional wisdom about the results has been fatuous and unsubstantiated, ignoring the troubling reality of disillusioned voters.

For instance, there’s no basis for the common claim Obama won through a superb, unprecedented, supremely effective get-out-the-vote effort by the Democrats. Even downcast Republicans have hailed the opposition’s turnout operation as magnificent, but they fail to note that it resulted in far fewer voters showing up for President Obama.

The president drew 7.6 million fewer votes than he did in the hope-and-change election of 2008. His vote total, 61,911,000, is far closer to the numbers in Sen. John Kerry’s losing bid in 2004 than to his own triumphant support four years ago. Even the reviled President George W. Bush earned more raw votes, from a much smaller potential electorate, in his own reelection bid than Obama did in his.

It should come as no surprise that after running such a negative campaign, hundreds of thousands of citizens won’t no more of you.

Maybe, just maybe, Romney (as a candidate) was the problem?

Many on the right have asserted (rightfully so, I would argue) that Mitt Romney ran a good campaign, but Obama’s overwhelming lead among Hispanics, African-Americans, and single women pushed victory out of reach.  Perhaps that is too simple an explanation.  According to Andrew Kohut, writing in the Wall Street Journal, Romney himself may bear the bulk of the blame:

Here is what the exit poll found. Mr. Romney’s personal image took a hard hit during the primary campaign and remained weak on election day. Just 47% of exit-poll respondents viewed him favorably, compared with 53% for Mr. Obama. Throughout the campaign, Mr. Romney’s favorable ratings were among the lowest recorded for a presidential candidate in the modern era. A persistent problem was doubt about his empathy with the average voter. By 53% to 43%, exit-poll respondents said that Mr. Obama was more in touch than Mr. Romney with people like themselves.

Mr. Romney was never fully embraced by Republicans themselves, which may have inhibited the expected strong Republican turnout. Pew’s election-weekend survey found Mr. Romney with fewer strong supporters (33%) than Mr. Obama (39%). Similarly, a much greater percentage of Obama supporters (80%) than Romney supporters (60%) told Pew that they were voting for their candidate rather than against his opponent.

I’m not convinced that this is accurate, as it ignores the impact that months (and months) of negative advertising by Obama had running against Governor Romney.

407,000 votes in four key states made the difference for Obama

Jim Geraghty from the National Review takes a closer look at the numbers and uncovers some surprising statistics.  According to his analysis, the four key swing states which would have delivered victory for Team Romney were agonizingly close:

Florida: 73,858

Ohio: 103,481

Virginia: 115,910

Colorado: 113,099

Those four states, with a collective margin of, 406,348 for Obama, add up to 69 electoral votes. Had Romney won 407,000 or so additional votes in the right proportion in those states, he would have 275 electoral votes.

This shows in no uncertain terms, that this election was extremely close, and that President Obama appears to NOT have quite the mandate he thinks he has.  (Hat tip to Battleground Watch for the lead.)

More on Marco Rubio

Senator Marco Rubio’s appeal as the GOP standard-bearer in 2016 cannot be understated.  Florida Today reports that though he’s Hispanic, his real appeal is found in his policies, rather than his heritage.

“The conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it, and Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them,” he said in a statement issued Wednesday, less than two hours after Romney’s concession speech.

The reason Senator Rubio is such a compelling conservative leader has far more to do with his ability to communicate the conservative message and connect with people on a personal level.  It has far less to do with his racial or ancestral makeup.  In his interviews and TV appearances, Senator Rubio is relaxed, comfortable, and even happy when discussing the conservative platform.  (If you don’t believe me, go back and watch some of his Daily Show appearances with Jonathan Stewart.)  He never seems ruffled by sharp questions or annoyed by disagreement

He’s also someone people can relate to.  Colin Cowherd (ESPN talk show host) diagnosed this problem aptly in his broadcast shortly after the election.  He explained that in his opinion, people want to relate to the person they’re voting for.  It’s the same reason that Jeter and A-Rod don’t have the same appeal: while both are Hall of Fame caliber players, Jeter is imminently more popular.  This is primarily due to the fact that he seems like “one of us.”  Unfortunately, Governor Romney was never seen as someone people could relate to.  As much as we would like an election to be about who is the best qualified to lead the country, we cannot ignore the reality that people want a leader who they believe is not foreign to them.  In 2012, Obama was able to navigate that distinction far better than Romney.

Michael Barone: Obama won by going negative

Michael Barone has bad a chance to look at the numbers and has come away with one undeniable fact: the candidate who strove to unite America in 2008, did just the opposite to win reelection in 2012.

This year, the Democratic president was re-elected with a smaller majority, while House Republicans have won or are leading in 235 districts, the most they held between 1994 and 2006. Based on the latest count, they lost only seven seats, even though Democratic redistricting plans cost them 11 seats in California, Illinois and Maryland.

This despite the fact that almost every House Republican supported Paul Ryan’s Medicare reforms, which were supposed to cost Republicans votes — but didn’t when they had a chance to explain that people over 55 aren’t affected and that Obamacare cut $716 billion from Medicare.

So Obama owes most of his victory margin to negative personal campaigning, while Republicans held the House despite — or because of — their opposition to big-government policies.

The president claims a mandate because, as he said in 2009, “I won.” But Speaker John Boehner has some basis for claiming a mandate, too, as the fiscal cliff negotiations begin.

New campaign strategy: next time let’s not nominate “wackos and weirdos and witches”

The loss of the White House was bad…the missed opportunity in the Senate was worse.  Michael Barone breaks it down:


Where does the Republican Party go from here?

After bruising losses of both the White House and several (arguably winnable) Senate races this week, the GOP is searching for answers.  It would be foolish to look at the newly emerging electorate and not see that fundamental changes are necessary.  The actual demographics from 2004 and 2012 aren’t wildly different.  A friend of mine put it this way, and I think he’s right: certain groups of people who, in the past, didn’t vote in great numbers have awakened to the power of their vote.  They are now standing up and being counted within our democracy and they’re voices cannot be ignored.

This is a good thing.  We want engaged citizens.  We want our electorate to reflect the entire country, not a predominant class or race.  Now Republicans have a challenge (and an opportunity).  They must expand their base.  There will be a temptation to reach out to other voters through capitulation on core principles which comprise the character of the conservative movement.  This is not only futile and foolish.  First, true conservatives will balk and not support those candidates, and second, conservative principles aren’t the problem.

The conservative movement must seek out opportunities to go and speak directly to minority communities that look at conservatives with a weary eye.  Sure, were President Obama’s caricatures of Romney and Republicans fair?  Of course not.  But that doesn’t matter.  Political parties aren’t in the business of fairness.  Conservatives must approach the electorate as though every state and every person matters.

As usual, Charles Krauthammer nails it

In diagnosing the crushing loss (and it was crushing) this week, Charles Krauthammer provides the clearest, most encouraging assessment on how to find the way forward for the GOP:

The principal reason they go Democratic is the issue of illegal immigrants. In securing the Republican nomination, Mitt Romneymade the strategic error of (unnecessarily) going to the right of Rick Perry. Romney could never successfully tack back.

For the party in general, however, the problem is hardly structural. It requires but a single policy change: Border fence plus amnesty. Yes, amnesty. Use the word. Shock and awe — full legal normalization (just short of citizenship) in return for full border enforcement.

I’ve always been of the “enforcement first” school, with the subsequent promise of legalization. I still think it’s the better policy. But many Hispanics fear that there will be nothing beyond enforcement. So, promise amnesty right up front. Secure the border with guaranteed legalization to follow on the day the four border-state governors affirm that illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle.

Imagine Marco Rubio advancing such a policy on the road to 2016. It would transform the landscape. He’d win the Hispanic vote. Yes, win it. A problem fixable with a single policy initiative is not structural. It is solvable.

Beyond immigration, he goes on to detail how well-stocked the GOP’s leadership bench truly is:

More Ford ’76 than Reagan ’80, Romney is a transitional figure, both generationally and ideologically. Behind him, the party has an extraordinarily strong bench. In Congress — Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Kelly Ayotte, (the incoming) Ted Cruz and others. And the governors — Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Nikki Haley, plus former governor Jeb Bush and the soon-retiring Mitch Daniels. (Chris Christie is currently in rehab.)