The GOP Debacle: Manpower, Message and Mutiny
It’s been three weeks since the elections and, while I’ve been quite busy, I’ve had a difficult time coming to terms with the breadth of reasons the GOP suffered what can only be described as a debacle on November 6 in the Presidential and Senate races.
Some may argue debacle is too strong a word but the definition reads “chaotic failure – a sudden disaster, defeat or humiliating failure” and that, in my opinion, is spot on.
Despite punditry from the talking heads who claimed to know the outcome was easily predicted, which is pretentious at best and lunatic at worst, election night for the GOP proved to be both a “sudden disaster” and a “humiliating failure” so the noun is correct.
As the title states there are three principal reasons for the party’s failure across the board. Based on latest counts, Romney lost the popular vote by 3.5% and the Electoral College by a whopping 126 votes.
In the Senate the Democrats gained two seats which is disconcerting since they had to defend 23 of the 33 seats up for election. While the GOP did hold the House majority as expected they lost 8 seats from the 2008 election but only held 6 seats and the Democrats gained 11 when open seats are included.
Overall it was a debacle of almost epic proportions so let’s look at the three reasons in greater detail.
As I wrote in Obama Wins With Great Ground Game, the Obama campaign had a ground game that was vastly superior to that of Romney’s and the GOP. Briefly recapping, the average Democratic bias from the last 12 national polls conducted as late as November 3 was a plus 3.7% but the final delta was plus 6% nationally and 5.6% in the key swing states.
That represents an electorate that was virtually the same as 2008 which many analysts, myself included, missed badly as many indicators foresaw a much lower bias. My estimate of 1.9% was off considerably and many Republican strategists and pundits were even further off the mark.
Of the three factors there is no doubt in my mind this is the most impactful, and where the Republicans are going to have to elevate their game considerably before the 2014 mid-terms and the 2016 election.
More accurately this may be better referred to as a missing or mixed message. There was a single constant throughout the 2012 election cycle and that was voters considered the economy and jobs as their top issue. Yet Republicans failed to consistently remain on message in this area and further failed by simply attacking Obama’s record without forcefully offering a succinct alternative. Whether the Obama campaign effectively baited the Romney campaign into discourse that was counterproductive or the epic message failures that strayed to social issues is, for the moment, immaterial.
The bottom line is the GOP had a golden opportunity to paint a picture of a better future for America and they failed miserably. I’ll address the message issue and more in an upcoming article entitled It’s Time For The GOP to Swing Their Compass.
This issue was by far the most challenging to grasp and I admit I still don’t have all the answers but there are certain numbers and trends that are quite disconcerting.
On October 28 the last six polls in each of the eight swing states – Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin – showed an average support from Conservatives that favored Romney 87% to 10% but exit polling found that Obama picked up 10% of those voters on election day.
A more detailed look at the support by ideology for each candidate bears this mutiny out and graphically expresses the impact relative to Liberal and Moderate support.
In the same eight day period Obama netted a 3% gain from Liberals and 2% gain from Moderates, both of which pale in comparison to the 10% gain amongst Conservatives. I can comfortably attribute the Liberal and Moderate gains to the aforementioned highly effective GOTV effort by the Obama campaign but the Conservative abandonment is another issue altogether.
The targets of this mutiny may seem easy to identify but in reality it’s a bit more complicated.
Many conservative pundits were quick to group Evangelicals, Social Conservatives, Tea Partiers and the “radical right” as the offenders but the numbers don’t bear those assertions out.
Ralph Reed wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Round Up the Usual Social Conservative Suspects, which tried to defuse the attacks on his supporters and their so-called SoCon allies. Reed states:
They must resist the temptation to form a circular firing squad, especially one with evangelicals and their social-conservative allies in the middle.
The problem is that the numbers show Reed and his associates failed to deliver the Evangelical and SoCon vote with 21% of self-described Evangelicals voting for Obama, or 5% more than the 16% average for all Conservatives cited above. Tea Party supporters though were more in line with the October 28 numbers with a final split of just 11% voting for Obama while 87% went for Romney.
Let me say it for all to hear, there will never be a President elected in the United States that runs on a hard-core conservative social issues platform. If this bothers you or you disagree, get over it and start coming to terms with the realities of the evolving electorate. What these voters believe they have gained by eschewing Romney in favor of Obama I can’t speak to since the logic, if there really is any, eludes me but the numbers are clear that many Evangelicals and SoCons bolted from Romney and the GOP.
The GOP is currently in a state of great upheaval suffering from a clear and concise platform that connects with the broader group of voters they will need in 2014 and beyond. There are few easy answers but the solutions are not rocket-science either and I’ll delve into them in greater detail in my next article, It’s Time For The GOP to Swing Their Compass.