Strassel: The GOP Turnout Myth

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.