Everyone knows how bad Dick Morris swung and missed on his political predictions last cycle. This week, Piers Morgan interviewed Dick Morris about his recent travails:
As usual, Keith Backer at the Battleground Watch blog has some really good information about the election. (If you don’t frequent his blog, and you’re an enthusiastic election follower, then I would recommend checking it out.)
A good piece in the Wall Street Journal digs deeper into the conventional wisdom regarding Romney’s loss. As it turns out, Romney’s turnout problems may have been worse than people previously thought. Sure, we know that he garnered about the same or less than McCain did in 2008. What we’re starting to see as the numbers are finalized throughout the country, is how poor he did amongst Hispanics. Obama did worse than 2008, but Gov. Romney failed to capitalize on the downturn. Obviously, there are many reasons for this. It’s the exception, not the rule, that one particular issue or gaffe (such as the famed comment made about the 47%).
What we are seeing is that the GOP needs to make a consistent and concerted effort to reach out to those groups who appear hesitant towards the conservative message.
This is the demographic argument that is getting so much attention, and properly so. The Republican Party can hope that a future Democratic candidate won’t equal Mr. Obama’s magnetism for minority voters. But the GOP would do far better by fighting aggressively for a piece of the minority electorate.
And that, for the record, was the GOP’s real 2012 turnout disaster. Elections are about the candidate and the message, yes, but also about the ground game. Republicans right now are fretting about Mr. Romney’s failures and the party’s immigration platform—that’s fair enough. But equally important has been the party’s mind-boggling failure to institute a competitive Hispanic ground game. The GOP doesn’t campaign in those communities, doesn’t register voters there, doesn’t knock on doors. So while pre-election polling showed that Hispanics were worried about Obama policies, in the end the only campaign that these voters heard from—by email, at their door, on the phone—was the president’s.
Often missed in talk of the GOP’s “demographics problem” is that it would take relatively modest minority-voter shifts toward Republicans to return the party to a dominating force. The GOP might see that as the enormous opportunity it is, rather than a problem. The key to winning turnout is having more people to turn out in the first place.
While it is true that Dick Morris swung and missed (by a wide margin) on this past election, he touches upon a wise strategic critique of the Republican Party. The GOP needs to get far better, and far faster, at responding to negative ads put forth by rivals. Our new motto should be, as Morris puts it, “ANSWER.”
There was a common belief throughout the campaign, that these negative ads weren’t having any real lasting effect. The evidence seemed to show that the race was tight, and with the conventional wisdom that late voters generally break for the challenger, as long as Romney was within striking distance he was in good shape. Well, that was “fighting the last war.”
Jim Messina, David Plouffe, and the rest of the Obama machinery, new that winning purely on their record was a long shot. Even those in the left leaning media, were surprised that Romney was not comfortably ahead given the status of the economy and unemployment rate. The negative ads proved highly effective in suppressing the GOP base. As a result, Romney’s campaign ultimately faltered.
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.
Michael Barone has an interesting column where he examines the down ballot races. His focus is on the outcome of the Democratic battles in congress and state houses in light of the shifts due to reapportionment from the 2010 census results. While it is true that Republicans blew up their hopes of gaining a majority in the Senate, the numbers beyond that are not encouraging for the Democrats:
Between 2008 and 2012, they gained seats in only three states: Delaware, where a popular Republican ran for the Senate in 2010; Maryland, thanks to Democratic redistricting; and California, where a supposedly nonpartisan redistricting commission was dominated by Democrats.
The reapportionment process following the 2010 Census cost Democrats some seats because their strong states had relatively little population growth. They have five fewer seats in New York, for example.
The reapportionment effect was strengthened because the 2010 backlash against Democrats gave Republicans control of redistricting in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all of which lost seats, and North Carolina, which stayed the same.
As a result, in the 113th Congress, as compared to the 111th, there will be three fewer Democrats from Michigan, six fewer from Ohio, seven fewer from Pennsylvania and four fewer from North Carolina.
Democratic losses were greatest in the South, which gained seven seats from reapportionment. There will be 22 fewer Southern Democrats and 29 more Southern Republicans in the House next year than there were in 2009.
Another way to look at it: 123 of 201 House Democrats will be from the Northeast, the West Coast, Hawaii and Illinois. Only 23 are from the Midwest outside of Illinois and only 42 from the South.
Obama was able to build his electoral vote majority thanks to big Democratic majorities from core constituencies concentrated in these states, which gave him 207 electoral votes.
But the concentration of blacks, Hispanics and gentry liberals means there are fewer Democratic votes in the suburbs, the countryside and the geographic heartland. The Obama campaign strategy concentrated on turning out core voters. That left House Democrats short of the votes they needed elsewhere.
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.
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.
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:
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.)
The most interesting snippet from Peggy Noonan’s comments was her breakdown of two key questions in the exit polling: Democrats prevailed on the “who cares about you” question, but the “who shares your values,” question went for the Republicans.