Last Tuesday, Republican presidential and Senatorial candidates went down to an ignominious defeat. A perfectly winnable election has been lost. Mitt Romney has won no more than 235 EC votes (assuming that he has won Florida), although he has lost the popular vote to Obama by less than 1 pp and Obama has failed to win a majority of it. And Republicans have failed to win, on net, any Senate seats in an election where 23 Democrat-held seats were up for election and most of them were helding by vulnerable or retiring incumbents. The only Senate seats Republicans have pried away from Democratic hands is that in Nebraska.
Why did that happen?
There are many reasons why. There is no singular explanation. The causes of the GOP’s defeat this year include the following:
1) Firstly, and most importantly, the GOP is still the party of old white men, or at least, is perceived as such. It gets the vast majority of its votes from whites, and most of these whites are men and people over the age of 29. By contrast, Barack Obama got 45% of his votes this year from minorities. Despite the GOP’s own admission 4 years ago, it still trails the Democrats significantly among Latinos, Jews, African Americans, Asians, youngsters, and women (who are not a minority but rather a 53% majority of voters in this country). According to exit polls, Romney lost 27-71% among Latinos, won just 7% of the black vote, has been crushed among young voters, Asians, and Jews, and trailed Obama among women by 44% to Obama’s 55%. Here are complete national exit poll results.
Exit polls in all swing states that Obama won tell the same story: women voted for Obama by margins between 54% and 58%. Romney lost the female vote in these states, and thus these states themselves, decisively.
Women are a significant (53%) majority of the electorate, as well as the majority of voters in all swing states but Indiana. Meanwhile, Latinos, blacks, and youngsters continue to increase their share of the overall electorate. For example, in 2008, Latinos constituted just 8% of all voters; this year, they constituted 10%. And that 10% voted overwhelmingly for Obama.
Moreover, their share of the vote will only increase in the future, as America becomes less white every year. In 2011, most children born in the US were minority kids. By 2041, whites will be a minority in the United States. Women, already 53% of the electorate, are likely to remain the majority of all voters.
Romney, despite being a former governor with a record of promoting women to top government positions, and despite advocating economic and national-security policies that would be good for women (instead of Obama’s policies that have utterly failed women), has been crushed among the ladies. Why?
Because, in order to pander to radical religious Republicans and thus to be a viable candidate in Republican primaries, he had to adopt a staunchly pro-life position. If that weren’t bad enough, he was wrongly associated with two idiots (Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock) who made idiotic comments about rape while advocating a policy (banning abortion in all cases, including rape) that only about 1% of the electorate supports, and the GOP platform also endorsed that position. This, combined with Republicans’ mistaken reaction to Obama’s contraception mandate earlier this year, their comments about women supposedly wanting to put abortion pills between their legs, and VA Governor Bob McDonnell’s vaginal ultrasound mandate, was perfect campaign fodder for Obama’s and the Dems’ mantra of “a Republican War on Women”.
That cost Republicans the ladies’ vote and, together with their hostile stance towards gay marriage, youngsters’ vote. (Polls show that most young Americans are fiscally conservative but socially liberal.)
Meanwhile, Republicans’ (including Romney’s) uncompromising, hardline stance on immigration (including Romney’s proposal that illegal aliens “self-deport”), cost them the Latino vote. Whereas in 2004, George W. Bush won 44% of Latinos’ votes, Romney this year got only 27%, in a country where Latino voters are far more numerous than they were in 2004.
The plain lesson is that Republicans must immediately drop their extreme stances on social issues and immigration and adopt a softer message on these issues. This is necessary to appeal to youngsters, women, and Latinos, whose votes the GOP will absolutely need. It’s either that or a slow but unavoidable extinction of the GOP.
2) Crony capitalism works (politically)
Obama’s bailout of the auto industry, combined with incessantly reminding voters that Romney wrote in 2009 “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”, ensured that he would win Ohio and Michigan and thus win the election, blocking Romney’s path to 270 EC votes. The auto industry is important in both states, and its employees don’t care if its bailout was unconstitutional or cost the taxpayers $14 bn. They’re very happy that it happened, because it saved their jobs.
Is crony capitalism Constitutionally, morally, and economically wrong? Of course. But it’s a potent vote-buyer, a large scale pork project. And like all other pork projects, it has one purpose: buying votes.
Winning in Michigan – a state that no Republican presidential candidate has won in decades – was never going to be easy, anyway.
3) No serious efforts in blue states until late in the game
It wasn’t until late October – when polls began to show Romney competitive in blue states like Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – that Mitt Romney or the GOP began any visits or airing any ads there. Even then, not enough ads (except in Pennsylvania) were aired, not enough visits were made, and not enough explaining why Romney was the best candidate was done there. Romney should’ve begun campaigning there much earlier.
4) A poor Republican ground game
While the Republican ground game – the GOTV machine – has improved significantly since 2008, it was still insufficient to match Obama’s GOTV effort, made by his well-oiled campaign machine that had remained intact since 2008. More campaign offices, more volunteers, more calls, more knocks on doors. In the forementioned blue states, Romney didn’t really have any ground game at all except in Wisconsin.
In the Badger State, the Republican GOTV machine was supposed to be better than the Democratic one, having had a successful dry run in the summer when Gov. Scott Walker won the recall election. But Obama has actually won Wisconsin by 52%-47%. By contrast, in swing states like Ohio, where Obama’s GOTV machine was widely considered to be much better, the election result was much closer… but Obama still won.
Nationally, the Democrats again heavily outnumbered Republicans at the polls. The electorate was 38% Democrat, 32% Republican, and 29% Independent. In 2008, it was the same except that 31% of it was Republican.
Without a SUPERIOR GOTV machine, Republicans cannot win even if they flood swing and blue states with ads.
5) Vote fraud
Not much needs to be said on this one. The Democrats, as usual, benefitted from vote fraud, although on what scale that happened is not certain. Vote fraud, by itself, cannot explain this year’s election’s results, however.
6) No minority or female candidates on the ticket
Once again, the GOP nominated two white men (in 2008 the GOP nominated a white man and a white woman). No women, no minority members. While Paul Ryan is a brilliant policy wonk and a staunch conservative, he brought nothing to the table except youthfulness, ability to communicate with average Americans, and intellectual skills. He failed to deliver his home state for Romney, losing it by 5 pp.
Romney would have fared better, and perhaps even won, if he had picked a minority member or a woman for VP. Possibilities included Marco Rubio, Kelly Ayotte, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Susana Martinez (although she didn’t want the job), Bobby Jindal, and Luis Fortuno. Remember: the road of ANY successful presidential candidate runs through Florida.
Luckily, this is one issue on which the GOP is very likely to improve in 2016, because Rubio, Jindal, Fortuno, and Ayotte (and possibly Martinez) will be among the top contenders for the GOP nomination in 2016, and one of them may very well win the nomination and the election.
Another of them could be picked as the VP candidate.
And a Rubio-Jindal, Jindal-Rubio, Jindal-Fortuno, Ayotte-Rubio, or Rubio-Ayotte ticket would change the GOP from the party of old white men to The Party of Conservative Color People and Women.
Indeed, if the GOP nominates Ayotte, Martinez, or another qualified woman, it stands a high chance of making history by being the first party to nominate a woman for President and get her elected.
It is important for Republicans not to waste this opportunity.
In short, Republicans need to stop being the party of old white men and religious wackos, and start being the party of all Americans who support a strong national defense, limited constitutional government, and free markets. And it needs to stop nominating white men for President and Vice President.