Presidential Campaign

Presidential Campaign

Learning from losing: A to-do list for Republicans

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:

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The peculiar geography of the American electorate

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.

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Politics and religion: How religious groups voted

It has always been said that in polite company one should never talk about politics or religion. Today, let's do both.

There was a lot of discussion throughout this election about religion. Would born-again Christians vote for Mormon Mitt Romney? Would Barack Obama lose white Catholic support? Would Obama turn off Jewish voters because of his handling of U.S.-Israeli relations?

From exit polling, we can shed light on these issues:

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New ethnic and religious groups up for grabs in the next election

The elections are over, and the finger-pointing is in. Most factors that contributed to Obama’s advantage and conversely Romney’s weakness have been thoroughly rehashed in the media. Obama’s more “human” personality, natural appeal for African-Americans, Asian-Americans (the Hawaii connection) and Latinos (immigration), stronger than expected national security and foreign policy record (except the Benghazi embassy tragedy, Bin Laden was killed on his watch – and that’s all that matters to most voters), record-breaking fundraising (being able to out raise businessman Romney is no small thing) and superior “ground-game” operations.

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How Obama closed the gap

In our original social media assessment on November 1, the data suggested that Mitt Romney would beat Barack Obama 52.1 percent to 47.9 percent, a margin of 4.2 percent in the popular vote. However, the analysis also noted that Obama was closing quickly, with momentum increasing by about 8 percent from September 30 through October 31, the last day of the analysis.

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Democrats: The new party of national security

Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of last Tuesday’s elections was the Fox News exit poll in Virginia declaring, “Veterans and active military split their support evenly between the two candidates”: Obama 49% to Romney 49%. After decades of being viewed as everything from “weak on defense” to “cheese-eating-surrender-monkeys” Democrats today — personified by President Obama — are viewed as at least as strong as their Republican counterparts, even within the military community.
 
Clearly this was a long journey. From the Vietnam War through the 1970s and 1980s, Democrats were seen as incapable of defending America. They were often depicted in American popular culture as having betrayed the military and prevented our troops from fighting-to-win in Vietnam.

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Unmarried voters, gays and Asian-Americans gave Obama edge

Since Election Day, there has been abundant chatter about the new American electorate, one that is less traditional, less white and more diverse. No doubt, the Obama campaign's ability to deliver victory by surfing the waves of changing demographics -- we used to call this "identity politics" -- was impressive.

Historically, there has been plenty of attention focused on African-American voter participation, which has been a powerful force in the country's politics for decades. More recently, the growing Hispanic vote has become a hot topic of analysis, as well it should be.

As times change, demography is destiny. We see it in the numbers, and the implications are stark.

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Democratic realignment in the making if Republicans don't adapt

I feel sympathy for Karl Rove. Yes, his rant questioning Fox News’ correct election night projections was embarrassing. And yes, his allegation of voter suppression rang hollow, as Bush’s 2004 campaign which Rove directed, benefited from much harsher and less factual “swiftboating” ads.

Meanwhile, the surmise that Rove was merely shifting the blame for Republican defeats, was off the mark. Political consultants have lots of experience explaining defeats to wealthy contributors.

What we really saw last week was the death of Rove’s dream: a William McKinleyesque realignment for the GOP. Long ago, Rove wisely realized that the realignments of the Jackson, FDR and Reagan eras, marked by enduring landslides, were ill-suited to our era. Realignments are measured not by landslides, but by the emergence of enduring majorities.

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Mitt Romney's Latino doomsday prophesy

Mitt Romney won’t go down in history for his deep understanding of the electorate, but there is one prediction for which we should absolutely give him credit. In April of this year, six months before polls closed on Election Day, Romney told a group of donors that losing the votes of Latinos would “spell doom for us.” On this at least, he was right on the money.

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Obama neutralized Republicans on the economy - and won

Robbed. That’s how Republicans reviewing the exit polls early Wednesday morning had to feel about an election in a crummy economy that gave Barack Obama a second term and Democrats two more Senate seats. Mitt Romney scored just a one percent advantage over Obama on the economy – the issue by far and away voters’ top concern in 2012. The president neutralized this searing vulnerability against a Republican opponent who focused like a laser on it. How?

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