report-cover(Washington, DC) American Principles in Action released a 30 page analysis of the 2012 elections titled “Building a Winning GOP Coalition: The Lessons of 2012.”  This report written by Frank Cannon, Maggie Gallagher and Rich Danker stands in sharp contrast to the Republican National Committee’s report “Growth and Opportunity Project” also known as the “autopsy.”

In the executive summary the writers contend:

This report takes a hard-headed, skeptical, and primarily political look at the lessons Republicans must learn from 2012 in order to build a winning national GOP coalition capable of taking back the White House and the Senate.

We believe the conventional explanation emerging from the Republican National Committee’s “autopsy” report gets the core issues exactly wrong. Accepting this emerging conventional wisdom will, in our view, likely consign the GOP to a permanent minority status.

The conventional wisdom is this: the national GOP lost in 2012 because extremist social issues hurt GOP
candidates by distracting voters from our winning economic message.

There are only two problems with this analysis, in our view:

First, social issues (especially the life issues) do not hurt GOP candidates… they help them win elections.

Second, and most importantly, the GOP’s economic message as currently structured is not a winning message. Republicans urgently need to construct a conservative economic message that connects to working and middle-class voters’ present economic concerns.

They contend in the report that the RNC ingored the “elephant in the room” and it is a lesson from 2012 that is hardest for establishment Republicans to digest: “Romney’s economic message did not connect with middle-class voters’ present economic pain and suffering,” (pg. 6).

They contend that social issues were part of Reagan’s winning coalition and social issues will be key to reaching out to Latinos:

Republicans continue to need the social and values issues, especially the life issues, to attract Latinos, as well as other ethnicities, working class voters, women, and young people who do not respond strongly to small government economic messages. The social and values issues that attracted the original Reagan Democrats to the GOP must be used to attract the next generation of soft Democrats and Independents, as well as to sustain the current base of the party, (pg. 6).

They state that a winning GOP coalition will require conservatives to do two things:

  1. Reject the truce model in favor of an integrated model that uses social issues, as appropriate, to pursue Hispanic voters and other new non-white voters.
  2. Construct a conservative economic message that takes into account voters’ current economic pain and future economic aspirations.

They state that the National GOP and the Romney campaign ignored what had been working for successful Republican governors:

Unlike the GOP’s crop of successful state governors, who have generally governed as integrated conservatives (prioritizing economic issues but also pursuing socially conservative legislation), the national GOP pursued a strategy of silence on social issues in the 2012 general election, (pg. 6-7).

They also note that Democrats have not entered into a truce citing a recent example from Texas:

Similarly in June 2013, Texas Democrat Wendy Davis’s dramatic filibuster temporarily killed a late-term abortion ban and became a national cause celebre—but only among Democrats, as Politico noticed.

Democrats from President Obama down publicly supported Davis, while national Republican leadership “hasn’t latched onto the fight,” wrote Politico author David Nathers. “Few national Republicans have weighed in. And a key party official in Texas acknowledged there’s no behind-the-scenes help coming, though he says he doesn’t need it. Republicans will talk about the abortion bill when they’re asked about it, but they aren’t swooping into the fight with the same enthusiasm as liberals.” (pg. 7)

They state succinctly why the truce strategy fails:

The truce strategy fails, politically, for three reasons: 1) it allows the opponents of the GOP to define the GOP brand, 2) it fails to make the Democrats pay a price politically for their social issues extremism, and 3) it persuades voters who might be attracted by the GOP values positions on life, marriage, or religious liberty that Republicans are fundamentally unserious in their values commitment, and therefore untrustworthy across the board, (pg. 8).

They also cite evidence that demonstrates social issues were not the cause of Mitt Romney’s loss:

In November 2012, there were five state propositions on marriage in blue states. In all of them, voters were more likely to vote “no” to gay marriage than “yes” to Mitt Romney, In Maine, Obama beat Romney by 15 points, but gay marriage beat “no” to gay marriage by just five points. In deep blue Maryland, Obama crushed Romney by 25 points, but gay marriage beat “no” to gay marriage by just four points. In Washington, a secular Western state, Obama beat Romney by 15 points, but gay marriage beat “no” to gay marriage by just six points. In Minnesota, Obama beat Romney by eight points, while gay marriage beat “no” to gay marriage by just four points.

If Obama beat Romney in these blue states by a margin of between two and five times the support for gay marriage, by what reasonable political logic can Republicans blame gay marriage for Romney’s defeat?

A private, election-day poll by The Polling Company for the National Organization for Marriage found that 60 percent of voters said that they believed marriage was only one man and one woman, (pg. 9).

They also point out that opposition to abortion is not driving GOP gaps with women, youth, independents or Latinos citing a May 2013 Gallup poll:

For example, 37 percent of men and 40 percent of women say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 59 percent of men and 57 percent of women say that they believe that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases (producing a pro-life advantage of 22 points for men and 17 points for women).

Meanwhile, young voters are the most pro-life generation ever. The May 2013 Gallup poll showed that Millennials (ages 18-34), support making abortion illegal in all or most cases by a margin of 57 percent to 41 percent, a +16 pro-life advantage. They were also the age group most likely to support making abortion illegal in all cases. Only 29 percent of Millennials support the Democratic Party’s position on abortion.

Among Independents in the Gallup poll, 59 percent say that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases compared to 38 percent who say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, a 21 point pro-life advantage.

Even 43 percent of Democrats support making abortion illegal in all or most cases compared to 44 percent who think that it should be legal in all or most cases, (pg. 9-10).

They outline six recommendations to building a winning GOP coalition (pg. 29-30):

  1. Value the social issues, don’t mute them.
  2. Use value issues to attract Hispanics.
  3. Run against the shrinking dollar.
  4. Tie attacks on Obamacare to workers’ shrinking standard of living.
  5. Run against tuition scams.
  6. Less of the “job creators” pitch and more “workers, wages, and middle-class” in our language.

Be sure to read the whole report here or embedded below:

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