There is a dangerous myth circulating around the Net that Mitt Romney lost because he was not “conservative enough”, that millions of Republican voters supposedly stayed home on Election Day, and that the way to win future elections is to nominate “the most conservative candidate”. Any GOP problems with women, youngsters, and minorities are being explained away by claiming that “better communication of conservative principles” will solve everything.
But all of these claims are wrong. In this article, I will show you why Mitt Romney really lost the election, and how Republicans can win future elections.
As to the first issue: while many factors contributed to Romney’s loss, there are three that truly cost him the election:
1) He was running against an incumbent president who also happened to be the media’s darling and faced no serious primary challenger. Incumbent presidents usually win reelection; they lose only if they face serious primary or third-party challengers or if a total disaster befalls the nation. Ann Coulter has nicely summed up the five rare cases that this has happened in the last 124 (!) years
- In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt fought a bloody primary against President Taft, and after losing the primary, mounted a third-party challenge against him, thus costing Republicans the election and delivering the White House to Woodrow Wilson.
- In 1932, Hoover faced serious primary challengers such as former President Coolidge, and the nation was 3 years into the Great Depression.
- In 1976, President Ford couldn’t defeat Ronald Reagan in the primaries, barely defeated him by a squeaker on the convention floor, and narrowly lost against Jimmy Carter just 2 years after Watergate, 1 year after America’s defeat in Vietnam, and into the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.
- In 1980, Jimmy Carter was badly bloodied and battered by Ted Kennedy (who ran as “the true liberal”) in the primaries, losing primaries in states such as California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York, and faced a third-party opponent, John Anderson, who siphoned votes away from him knowing full well he was helping Reagan.
- In 1992, President Bush, after breaking his “no new taxes” pledge, faced a formidable primary challenger, Pat Buchanan, and a third party opponent, Ross Perot, who won 19% of the popular vote and siphoned enough votes away from him to deliver the White House to Bill Clinton. (Republicans take note: disunited parties don’t succeed.)
2) Romney had to expend a lot of time and resources defeating unserious primary challengers, all of whom eventually succumbed, none of whom had any business running for President – solely because the GOP base thought that Obama’s extremism and temporary troubles left them free to follow their hearts instead of their brains.
3) Like other Republicans, and the GOP as a whole, Romney was very unpopular with Hispanics (whom he lost 27-71), young people, and the ladies (whom he lost 44-55).
That last point is also the key to understanding what Republicans need to do to win in future elections. Let’s look at who voted for or against Romney.
Despite the myth that millions of conservatives stayed home, Romney got the votes of 82% of conservatives and 1 million more votes overall than John McCain in 2008. Romney won easily among reliably conservative voters: seniors, members of the military, veterans, regular churchgoers, protestants, born-again Christians, and so forth. (Catholics were almost evenly split, 50-48 in Obama’s favor, and among them, likelihood to vote Republican also correlates with how frequent they go to church.) Geographically, Romney won all of the South – except the moderate states of Florida and Virginia – quite easily, and he retook Indiana and North Carolina. He won the middle class and wealthy voters, married men and women, as well as those with high school, “some college education”, or a college degree.
The voters who really rejected Romney were the demographics that have traditionally held all Republicans – not just Romney – in low regard: blacks, Asians, Hispanics, women, and young people; poor people; unmarried people; high school dropouts and postgraduate degree holders; and people between 30 and 39 years of age.
These demographics have never been friendly towards Republicans (except in 2004, when Bush made a partially successful effort to woo them), so the problem is much larger than Romney. It’s the entire GOP’s problem.
The problem for Republicans is that these demographic groups are the ones that are growing in size, while traditional Republican demographics – seniors, whites, regular churchgoers – are declining. Thus, unless the GOP makes a serious and successful outreach to those demographics which aren’t currently friendly to the GOP, it will become a permanent minority party.
Some claim that conservatism is enough to win again. It’s not. Ronald Reagan won a landslide in 1980, but in that year, the electorate was almost 90% white. In 2012, it was just 72% white and is on course to become “majority minority” by the 2040s.
Mitt Romney won 59% of the white vote last year – more than Ronald Reagan in 1980 (56%). The problem is that this just isn’t enough any longer. Republicans thus must reach out to minorities, youngsters, and the ladies. The sooner, the better.
So how to win future elections? How to reach out to those groups?
Republicans need to face up to the unpleasant fact that – as so many have already observed – their extremist stance on immigration completely disqualifies them with Hispanics (and with most Americans of all races), and that this cost Republicans Colorado, Nevada, and Florida. True, immigration was not the absolutely #1 issue for Hispanics (the economy was), but it was nonetheless a very important issue for them, and it weighed heavily in their voting decisions.
Polling shows that the vast majority of Hispanics (and Americans in general), including a sizeable minority of Republicans, supports legalization of illegal immigrants. Yet, most Republicans not only reject it, they talk about immigration in terms that are very offensive to Hispanics (even Hispanic US citizens), such as “illegal alien” and “self-deportation”.
Republicans also need to make peace with the ladies and with young voters, the majority of whom are fiscally conservative but socially liberal and seldom go to church. That means at least modulating the GOP’s stance on social issues, especially gay marriage which the majority of Americans now supports. It also means denying Republican nominations for all offices to the likes of Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Paul Broun, and Steve King.
But, as with immigration, the problem isn’t just Republicans’ extremist stance on these issues – it’s also the way they express it. Todd Akin’s and Richard Mourdock’s comments like “awww, if you get pregnant from rape, don’t worry, because pregnancy from rape is a gift from God!” are just the tip of the iceberg.
Most women, most youngsters, and most Americans in general are pro-gay-marriage and pro-choice, and Republicans will need to at least soften their stance and explain how can they support Limited Government on fiscal issues but Big Government on social issues. Another way to solve this problem is to devolve these divisive issues to state governments (federalism). After all, they’re just a few among the million of issues reserved by the 10th Amendment to state governments.
Those reforms will, like any bold reforms, be vehemently opposed by the fringe of the party. But they must be carried out if the GOP is to survive, let alone to win elections.
If they are implemented, Republicans can win back more than enough states to win 270 EC votes and create a new, durable Republican majority, which will consist of voters from all walks of life and of all races, religions, and social groups who support low taxes, low spending, limited Constitutional government, and a strong national defense, even though they will disagree on social issues.
If Republicans make peace with Hispanics, women, and youngsters, they can and should target the following states: Florida (29), OH (18), VA (13), CO (9), and possibly even PA (20). This, even without PA, will give them 275 EC votes in addition to the 206 votes won by Romney last year.