On the first day of the 113th Congress, Rep. Chris Van Hollen reintroduced the DISCLOSE Act, a bill aimed at shining a bright light on who is spending in our federal elections. This marks the third time the DISCLOSE Act has been introduced in Congress. The legislation would bring much-needed transparency to our federal elections, allowing voters to be better informed, and helping guard against improper relationships between political spenders and elected officials.
“A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”
That famous quote is attributed to my late senator from Illinois, Everett Dirksen. Dirksen wasn’t talking about campaign spending, but the point is the same. Republicans and Democrats reached record levels this year, each spending a billion dollars on political advertising. Yes, that’s real money, and the cost is only going up.
We estimate that the next presidential race is going to cost somewhere in the $3 billion range. In 2020, advertising could reach as much as $5 billion.
Tuesday was supposed to be the night Paul Ryan ended his brief association with Mitt Romney. Speaking at the Kemp Foundation dinner in his first major address since the Romney-Ryan ticket bombed on Election Day, Ryan was going to show that he was not Romney, clueless rich guy and adversary of the welfare state. He achieved that in substance, but it took political shifting of the kind his running mate embodied to do so.
Ryan broke new ground for himself by calling for a stronger safety net. Instead of emphasizing the middle class, as Marco Rubio did in his address there, he focused on the poor. He mentioned the word “poverty” 15 times in his 20-minute address. There may not have been a more appropriate place to do it than at a dinner in Jack Kemp’s honor. But it begs the question, where is Paul Ryan going now?
When it comes to the long-term future of the Republican Party in Georgia, the most important data from this cycle may not have come on Election Day, but rather from a regional survey the week before.
An October 26th poll showed Mitt Romney leading President Obama by an overall margin of 53-42 percent in the state. Of course, Romney went on to carry Georgia by a rough margin of 53-45, improving on John McCain’s statewide totals from 2008, which briefly saw the Obama team make a play in the Peach State.
As someone who has spent years trying to advance the Republican cause, I have experienced the tremendous highs associated with winning majorities and the extreme lows associated with campaigns that fall short.
Recent cycles for Republicans have been defined by heart ache and missed opportunities, which have left many asking about the pathway forward. I believe to win majority status in American politics, Republicans must present themselves as the party of big ideas, opportunity, and yes, openness.
To state the obvious, winning higher office is extremely difficult. As well it should be. But working hard is not enough. We must work smart. For instance, there are common elements in the messages winning candidates communicate to voters and they tend to project confidence, clarity and constructiveness.
I was in New Hampshire on Election Day 2012, when early reports of high turnout fostered optimism among Republicans who had bought into the conventional wisdom that Democrats, particularly the low-information voters that surged for Obama in 2008, simply would not be motivated to turn out this time. Then it became clear that the longest lines were at the same-day registration tables, creating confusion in Republican war rooms and foreshadowing the grim night ahead for the GOP.
This election was far different from what we saw in 2008. With primaries on both sides of the aisle leading up to the presidential race, 2008’s election was a long one. The hype surrounding both parties for endless months – not to mention the historic opportunity to elect a woman or an African American – caused young people to pay attention even if they weren’t trying to. They became hooked, and they registered, voted early in primaries and caucuses, and volunteered. And, with its energy and size hard to ignore, the Millennial generation played a critical role on Election Day in 2008; it was ‘the year of the youth vote.’
But in 2012, there was no extended primary that explicitly targeted young voters. Instead, just endless supplies of money funding negative ads that were enough to drive the average TV-watcher insane. The negativity didn’t end there either. Campaign stops and televised debates saw a brutal rehashing of past mistakes and harsh accusations. As a result, there were far fewer yard-signs and t-shirts and outward hype from young people. And the media and politicos read this as a sign that young people would not vote. This election wasn’t exciting or “cool” enough to motivate young people to go out and vote. That’s where they were wrong. You don’t have to be a cheerleader to go to the game.
The gender gap first appeared in modern presidential elections 32 years ago.
In 1976, three years after the Roe vs. Wade abortion decision, Democrat Jimmy Carter won both women and men by an identical 2 points. Then, in 1980, something happened: Republican Ronald Reagan carried women by 2 points and men by a much wider 19 points, for a 17-point gender gap. In Reagan's 1984 landslide, he won both sexes: women by 12 points and men by 25 points, for a 13-point gap.
Barack Obama’s re-election is not a mystery; it’s a message: A message to the GOP to shape up.
Less than a week ago, my home state of Florida added 29 more electoral votes to the president’s total, making the result an official thumping. Few predicted such a rout, especially the Florida outcome where even the most influential Democrats privately confided they thought the President would lose the Sunshine State.
As a conservative and someone who has been part of winning and losing campaigns in America’s ultimate swing state, my view is the Republican Party still has an opportunity to reclaim electoral success, but to do so it must be willing to improve.
The to-do list isn’t long, but achieving each is prerequisite to our future success:
For people who voted for Mitt Romney in the recent election, they are amazed that he lost because they don’t personally know many people who voted for him. Likewise for Obama supporters, they are puzzled that the margin of victory wasn’t higher, because they have few close acquaintances who voted for the other party. Like many recent presidential elections, this year’s was close in the popular vote. It is close because the candidates contort their positions to appeal to broadest spectrum of the electorate and there is an absence of viable third-party alternatives which would garner a significant portion of the voters. The reason that many find the closeness of the election amazing is that over time, we have segregated ourselves geographically into such like-minded clusters, that we are seldom exposed to people with differing political views.