I was wrong. I thought the Tea Party would have a role in turning out the Republican vote during this year’s presidential election, and they didn’t. I’m not sure what the Republican establishment who ran Mitt Romney’s campaign were thinking, but it doesn’t matter anymore because they lost. They lost because fewer Republicans came out to vote for Romney than McCain in 2008.
So that makes two Establishment candidates come and gone, two so-called moderate conservatives hand-picked by the party brass to appeal to independents and bluedog Democrats who have failed to deliver on beating the most left-wing politician to have sat in the Oval Office.
Many thoughts swirled in my head the night of the election, and in the morning I thought I had articulated them well enough.
Then I read this piece, which articulated almost every one of my thoughts much better than I could:
President Obama won one of the narrower re-elections in modern times Tuesday, eking out a second term with a fraction of his 7.3% margin of 2008, in a polarized country with the opposition GOP retaining and still dominating the House. Given that second Presidential terms are rarely better than the first, this is best described as the voters doubling down on hope over experience.
Read the whole thing.
My only disagreement with this piece was their emphasis on the need for Republicans to get the Hispanic vote out. Yes, that is a key potentially conservative constituency, but if the party were more focused on getting more Republicans out, we would be discussing a President-elect Romney today.
The reason I and much of the conservative/libertarian punditocracy were calling for a result contrary to the polls was that we assumed Romney could get at the very least the same turnout as McCain, and then counting on less voter enthusiasm from the Democrats. While the latter happened–Obama received 10 million votes fewer than in 2008–the former did not, as Romney received 3 million votes less than McCain.
The larger question is why did three million people not turn up at all. The obvious answer is that the GOTV efforts by the Republicans were subpar, and there’s likely a lot of truth to that. However, as I alluded to above, I suspect the bigger problem is that, for the second time in a row, conservatives nominated someone who seemed incapable of articulating an argument for conservatism. Romney was criticized for “flip-flopping” (as if Obama’s failure to close down Gitmo doesn’t merit consideration), but this is only because he reacted to Obama’s characterization, and this is because Romney lacks ideological foundations which would allow for a clear articulation of conservatism.
Therefore, while Obama pandered to special interests (e.g. women’s vaginas), accused the Republican ticket of lying every single day (while Clinton stumped speeches for him), and basically ran a petty (Big Bird), divisive (“voting’s the best revenge”), fear-mongering campagin, Romney simply did not inspire his base to crawl over broken glass to vote for him.
An empty chair could have beaten Obama. Romney didn’t. Time to do something different, and it starts by repacing the chickenshit Republican establishment.
UPDATE: Jonathan Last does a good take re: Romney’s electability. I agree with him; I like Romney, and the more I knew about him, the more I liked him as a person. However, even if he was the best of the Republican hopefuls, it doesn’t matter. The party could have voted in Donald Trump and they would have had the same result.
UPDATE: Further thoughts from Philip Klein, who was right on just about everything during this election:
If Romney lost the election because the electorate was rebelling against small-government extremism, it should be reflected in his numbers among independents. Yet that group of voters broke for Romney by a five-point margin, according to exit polls. Obama won because Democratic voters outnumbered Republicans. If anything, this would suggest that Romney didn’t do enough to rally the conservative base, though I believe that conclusion would go a bit too far.
No doubt, Republicans have to do some soul-searching in the wake of Tuesday’s defeat. Republicans cannot afford to continue to lose women, Hispanics and young voters by such large margins and expect to win national elections. And while this analysis is aimed at disproving the idea that small-government extremism is to blame for the GOP defeat, there’s certainly not much evidence that a stronger small-government message would have meant victory. At least not this year.
UPDATE: Sean Trende notices the same thing:
The increased share of the minority vote as a percent of the total vote is not the result of a large increase in minorities in the numerator, it is a function of many fewer whites in the denominator.
But in terms of interpreting elections, and analyzing the future, the substantial drop-off in the white vote is a significant data point. Had Latino and African-American voters turned out in massive numbers, we might really be talking about a realignment of sorts, although we would have to see if the Democrats could sustain it with someone other than Obama atop the ticket (they could not do so in 2010). As it stands, the bigger puzzle for figuring out the path of American politics is who these non-voters are, why they stayed home, and whether they might be reactivated in 2016 (by either party).
It’s a great analysis and worth reading in full.