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November 19, 2012

Top Headline Comments 11-19-12

Happy Monday.

It's important that we learn some lessons from this election, but it's more important that we don't learn the wrong lessons.

I am quoted in this LA Times op-ed, that proposes Sarah Palin as a "GOP cure." The post that's being quoted (without being linked; bad form, LA Times) is at the NYDN and that post was an extension of this one here at the HQ.

The column and both posts are worth a read or a re-read, if I do say so myself. All three are trying to get at why we lost so as to make reasonable predictions about how we can win next time. But the LA Times column proceeds from a false idea, one that I've seen repeated elsewhere on conservative sites, including our own.

One problem that we should shoot down immediately is claim by the LA Times writer that the GOP is in need of a cure. That's just not the case. We lost by between 300,000 to 400,000 votes in swing states. That's an amazingly close election. It does not represent a repudiation of Republican ideas at all. We lost an election, not an argument.

Another problem that we should be shooting down is the claim that Romney failed to turn out the GOP vote. It's a complete myth; turnout does not explain our loss and anyone trying to tell you that it did is simply trying to sell you something. Usually, they're trying to sell you on the idea that Romney wasn't conservative enough, which conveniently dovetails with their own political preferences. (But, note well, they'd have said Romney wasn't conservative enough even if he won.)

To answer the turnout question, let's look at the numbers. In 2008, 131.3 million people voted. Obama got 69.5 million votes; McCain got 59.9. In 2012, 123.2 million people voted, but the difference was almost entirely on the Democratic side of the ledger. This year, Obama got 6 million fewer votes than in 2008. Romney only lagged McCain by 0.274 million votes.

And how did Romney do if we just look at the swing states? Actually, in swing states Romney exceeded McCain by 256 thousand votes. He also outperformed Bush in 2004 in the 2012 swing states.

So the idea that there was some untapped pool of voters just itching to go GOP, if only we'd run a different candidate just isn't supported by the evidence. The failure here wasn't a failure of ideology, but one of strategy. Romney (and me, and virtually every conservative strategist and commentator) thought the election was about the economy. And for Republicans it was. But for swing voters, it was about whether they were comfortable siding with Republicans. Obama contested that with vapid, frivolous japes about binders, Big Bird, and blame Bush.

There is another lesson lurking here, but it's one that many folks don't want to hear. We did not lose this election because Obama promised voters handouts. Maybe that's how Obama thought to buy core Democratic turnout, but he still massively underperformed his numbers from 2008. And it's certainly not how he got the swing voters; they recognized a pander. Instead, he got the swing voters by making Romney the icky candidate. The same thing could have been done to any candidate we ran because it wasn't about Romney's politics, it was about a caricature of Republicans that we have repeatedly failed to rebut.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 06:56 AM

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