With the 2012 Elections now (mostly) in the books it’s time to look at Mitt Romney’s defeat and the Republican brand. What went wrong and where do we go from here. I wanted to write this the day after, but time didn’t allow which was good because it allowed me to process more.
We can see three primary things present in President Barack Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney.
The gender gap – If you look at the exit polling objectively you can see we have a problem. It’s nothing new, but when women made up 53% of voters it’s going to be a huge problem and it expanded in 2008. Women broke for Obama 55% to 45%. Now what I find interesting is that married women went with Romney 53% to 46%, those are the security moms. Romney’s economic message resonated. They made up 31% of the electorate, but Romney was killed among non-married women which made up 23% of voters. They overwhelmingly went with the President 67% to 31%.
The race gap. Mitt Romney beat President Obama among Caucasian by 20 points. They made up 72% of the electorate which is a 3% drop from 2008 (with fewer voters). He still lost. Romney lost Hispanics (which made up 10% of the electorate which is a 2% increase from 2008) 71% to 27%. That is a four percent drop from what McCain had in 2008, and President Bush garnered, I believe, around 40% (I don’t remember the exact number. There was a slight shift among Black voters (13% of the electorate). Romney picked up 2% percent than what McCain had in 2008, but it was still 93% to 6%, so nothing to write home about. Romney lost 73% to 26% among Asians (3% of the electorate), and among the “others” (2% of the electorate) President Obama had a 20 point advantage. Also among Catholics a group that over all saw movement toward Republicans this year, President Obama won this group by two points which is a 4% drop from 2008. Romney won among white Catholics by 19 points. President Obama won among Hispanic Catholics 75% to 21% gaining three points from 2008.
The base didn’t turn out. That alone didn’t sway the election, but when you consider Mitt Romney garnered about 1.7 million less votes than John McCain did in 2008 that’s saying something. Romney needed to improve upon those numbers not receive less. President Obama had slightly more that 8 million less votes than he had in 2008 and he still won. It made for a closer race, but President Obama did a better job turning out his base than Mitt Romney did. The Washington Post exit poll shows that 38% of voters were Democrat while only 32% were Republicans. 29% were independent or third party. Why didn’t they turn out? More on that later. Evangelicals represented 27% of the electorate nationally – a record high and the same percentage of evangelicals went for Romney as did for President Bush in 2004 – 79%, but with fewer voters this time around (about 10-11 million) that 27% isn’t nearly as impressive. So I can’t say with certainty that the evangelical vote showed up like it could have. Then it also begs the question in what states did they turn out where it made a difference?
The youth vote. Mitt Romney made a five point gain among 18-29 year-olds who made up 19% of the electorate. He still lost 60% to 37%. Three percent voted some other way – Ron Paul or Gary Johnson anyone?
Now looking ahead where do we go from here?
1. Select a better candidate. Many of us warned that Mitt Romney was the weakest voice on repealing Obamacare. Rick Santorum said as much, Tim Pawlenty went after him on it kind of anyway. We saw in the debates that he just didn’t seem credible and his answers were nuanced and that doesn’t fly well with the electorate. It also sows distrust among the base.
You can’t win without the base. Period. President Obama knew that which is why he openly shifted leftward. I don’t know how many times I’ve said this since 2008. You lose the base, you lose. That isn’t a problem with the base, that is a problem with the candidate. Many in the Tea Party and those who supported Ron Paul didn’t trust his stands on fiscal matters. There was RomneyCare, there was his support of TARF, and laying out concrete ways in which he’d slash the deficit.
Among Evangelicals and other social conservatives there was his flip flopping on abortion, his saying there wasn’t any pro-life legislation on his agenda, and his record as a liberal then at best moderate as Governor of Massachusetts. He may have scored points with his dismissal of Todd Akin with some moderates, but he hurt himself with the base and let me say it again…
You can’t win without the base. He had a missed opportunity with Chick-fil-A to address the religious liberty issues. He ignored or played defense on abortion when he should have been playing offense. President Obama has a record there that is radical compared to mainstream America. Other groups like Susan B. Anthony List and others pointed this out, but the candidate himself? Crickets. Many understood why social issues were on the back burner this election cycle. The economy is the focus, but when opportunities present themselves you seize the day. Too many missed opportunities.
With foreign policy Mitt Romney could have shined, but instead he punted. The foreign policy debate was a disaster in that he didn’t gain any ground. Sure President Obama was on watch when Osama bin Laden was killed, but is that the entirety of our foreign policy? He ignored Benghazi and she should have been pressing the President on that in the final days of the campaign, especially when the emails came out that showed President Obama was being less than truthful about his knowledge of events on the ground (putting it nicely). More missed opportunities.
Republicans need to select in our next nominee (provided their isn’t some huge exodus to create a third party – and I think there’s enough discontent to do it) somebody who is a proven conservative – actions, not talk. Somebody who is charismatic who can connect with voters, and we need somebody who has a bold vision for the future who can lead.
Not the next in line. Not the person that the establishment thinks is “electable.” We went with the people they though was “electable” in 1996, 2008 and 2012. How’d that work out for us? They talk about having a “big tent” – which I understand and I want to address that, they have to realize tea party people and social conservatives are under that tent and they are the majority. Again you can’t win without the base. Whining about your base won’t win elections.
2. Nosotros palpable supera en la comunidad Latina. We need tangible outreach into the Latino community. First off many Latinos being Catholic are very traditional – another reason not to shy away from moral issues like abortion. That isn’t a losing message within the Latino community. Our issue is with immigration. We may not like to hear that, but when there is a large segment of our base who continually talk about deporting everybody who are illegal we need to. Frank Cannon, President of American Principles Project, said in his post-election wrap-up that strategy isn’t working:
It is not enough to speak a few words of Spanglish at election time; Romney’s strategy of appealing to Latinos solely through conventional economic issues failed. Conservatives need to take the lead on delivering immigration relief for Latinos.
We need comprehensive immigration reform that extracts a penalty for lawbreaking (to affirm the rule of law) but creates a clear pathway to citizenship. We need to follow the lead of Marco Rubio and the new rising star of the conservative movement Texas Senator-elect Ted Cruz to support the educational aspirations of children of illegal aliens, who came with their parents, were raised as Americans, and now find themselves with no country to call home. (Maggie Gallagher argues in National Review that religious conservatives in particular need to take the lead on this effort.)
Neutralizing the immigration question gives Republicans the opportunity to make conservative arguments to Hispanics based on life, marriage, religious liberty, entrepreneurship and the ideals of freedom which, like every immigrant community that the Republicans have absorbed, Latinos believe in overwhelming numbers.
So we need to talk beyond just securing our border (that must be done too), but it is time to discuss specific, comprehensive immigration reform and to take the lead on it.
3. Continue reaching out to the Black community – we did see a gain, two percent. Those gains are largely to do with a social conservative message and happened in spite of Romney not because of him. That work needs to continue. We also have to frame our economic message beyond just job creators. I know that Mitt Romney talked about the middle class, but he said very little about the working poor and those in poverty. I’m not trying to paint the Black community with a broad brush here, but it is obvious that the Republican’s economic message isn’t resonating. This isn’t going to happen overnight, but we must find away to frame our message of less spending and fiscal responsibility in a way that will connect with Black voters.
4. Talk about abortion, but do it wisely. Here is how we lost among unmarried women, from Becky Garrison writing at the Washington Post:
Furthermore, even though evangelical entities such as Christianity Today, the magazine founded by Billy Graham, agreed with Rep. Todd Akin (R-Ind.)(sic) and Republican candidate Richard Mourdock (R-Mo.) (sic) that ultimately, rape is a gift from God, voters chose to vote for candidates that will continue to protect women’s rights to control their own health care decisions. Also, initiatives failed in Florida that would have set new limits on abortion rights and repealed the state’s ban on public funding for churches and other religious organizations. (emphasis mine)
That is a mischaracterization that unfortunately uninformed younger voters heard loud and clear. Nobody said rape itself was a gift from God. Children are. Some Republican candidates may not make pro-life issues the forefront of their campaign, but the other side will and the media will be looking out for it. Be prepared for gotcha questions. Saying also you’re ok with exceptions except for the life of the mother – will alienate your base, again you can’t lose your base and win. Be smart whether you refuse to answer the question “why are you bringing up something that rarely occurs in the midst of this campaign? We have other topics that need to be discussed” or give some other answer, be ready. Jesus said we are to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves, (Matthew 10:16). We’re not so good at that.
5. A bold economic vision that gives specifics on how to cut the debt. That is one reason why many loved Ron Paul. While I didn’t care for some of his other positions, enough so not to vote for him, his economic polices were spot on. Many people are concerned about the debt. We’re concerned about the value of the dollar. Our current course is untenable. Frank Cannon offered up some other suggestions that I liked:
In short, we’ve tried to convince people that we can cut taxes for job creators, i.e. small businesses and high-net worth individuals, and can get a handle on the budget through legislative action. The election proves this is not a winning argument.
We need to shift to the unmentioned portion of the Reagan economic agenda, and look to a re-linking of paper money to gold.
In reality, and politically, only a program of monetary reform can cut through these various dimensions and provide a plausible case that government spending can be brought under control; that the political class will not accept the passive taxation of inflation brought on by out-of-control deficits; that wage-earners will not continue to fall behind and American families see their real income erode; and that steady and consistent growth will not be undermined by the fiscal policies of government.
We at APP have been making this argument for the last three years. I believe the election results confirm that a return to a gold-linked dollar is not only the most constitutionally sound economically prudent course of action, but it is politically necessary for the survival of the conservative movement.
No other mechanism provides the discipline to deliver to middle class voters the relief they are seeking from economic policies that encourage a chronic inflation that picks their pockets and reduces economic growth.
6. Educate, educate, educate. The youth vote will not turn around overnight. Much of this has to do with kids receiving little or no civics education. Also a lot has to do with maturity as well, again note the difference between married and unmarried women. I’m sure the same is true with men. While I was never a liberal I am far more conservative at 40 than I was at 19. Some will come around. We need education reform – not to indoctrinate kids – that’s already happening. Liberals won that battle. We need to either find ways to bring reforms to public education and bolster civics so we can have a better informed electorate with a basic understanding of economics or we find alternatives.
There is a spiritual aspect to this as well. Never before have we had leadership coming to age who have abandoned the notion of absolute truth. Never before have we had a large segment of our population embrace an entitlement mentality. A friend of mine said it best on Tuesday night when he wrote, “There is no explanation of the last few election cycles without a very accurate understanding of basic human nature and depravity.”
People are inherently selfish and will gravitate to people who give them what they want. We need to regain the culture and that doesn’t happen at the polls or in our seats of government. That happens among our friends, neighbors and our communities. Ultimately I believe we need a revival and that isn’t something we can orchestrate. Followers of Christ need to get on their knees and pray and share the Gospel wherever we can and whenever we can. It’s up to God to provide the fruit. I said on Monday that we live in a broken world. I believe that. So much of what we’re doing is being a preservative. But rest assured He’s in control.
So let’s get to work where we can. Pray for God to bless our efforts and that they will please him – there’s a lot of messaging that I hear among conservatives that I simply can not agree with. We need to speak truth, but as I have said before we need to do so in love, (Ephesians 4:15). We also need to pray about the things that are not in our control and pray for revival because we certainly need it.