To Hawthorn Friends & Family —
Well, with a difference of 100,763 votes in Ohio in a Presidential election in which more than 117,000,000 Americans voted, it was all over a lot earlier last night than I expected, with an outcome about what I expected/predicted and not terribly different from the status quo, e.g., mired in partisanship, devoid of effective leadership.
Yet, the next four years will surely be – in ways we can’t even imagine today – different from the last four.
And the electorate will never be looked at/modeled the same way again as the Romney team looked at it (at least by candidates and parties that want to win).
We can try to draw some lessons from – or, at least make some observations about – what appears to have happened yesterday.
The Romney Loss —
What happened? Principally, I think three things:
A bad candidate, coupled with a bad campaign, usually loses . . . and this one did. Stiff and unappealing as a candidate, out-of-touch, gaffe-prone, unable/unwilling to address contradictory shifts in position, sequentially running behind a “sorry lot of losers” in the GOP primaries (Bachmann, Perry, Gingrich, Cain, Santorum), a Mormon unafraid to hold views not shared by the larger public, unbending on releasing his taxes, and ineffective in defending his role at Bain . . . and served by a campaign with flawed modeling/targeting/polling, a failed communications strategy/timing, lackluster advertising, ineffective last-minute media buying, and wasted late spending (Minnesota –??; Pennsylvania — ??) Romney, truly, “seized defeat from the jaws of victory.”
We started warning almost a year ago, “It’s the Republicans’/Romney’s to lose . . . and they seem determined to lose it.” And they did!
To win the GOP nomination, a candidate has to run too far to the right to ever get back close enough to the center to win the general election. The Republican primaries – driven by Tea Party/social issue/SuperPAC interests – force candidates to take positions too far to the right of the majority of American voters.
At least two highly regarded, enormously popular Republican U. S. Senators from Missouri, John Danforth and Christopher S. “Kit” Bond, could certainly, in my view be re-elected today in a Missouri general election (after all, Missouri re-elected Democrats to the U.S. Senate, Governor’s office and a number of state constitutional offices yesterday). But what Jack Danforth and Kit Bond could NOT do today is win a primary fight for the GOP nomination in Missouri, not from a party that this year nominated Todd Akin.
The Republican Party saw its share of vote increase yesterday among older white male voters. But it is all the OTHER voters in America – women, African-American, Hispanic, Asian, younger – who are growing in absolute numbers and in turnout per centages. Getting more White male support will not solve the GOP’s problem.
No “ground game.” Republicans talk about an effective “ground game,” but that’s all they seem to do: talk about it. The late Matt Reese invented it for the Democrats in the 1960’s, then spent decades perfecting. Except for the Tea Party, the GOP has yet to catch on to it, in part because they don’t believe in building, sustaining and using it.
The Obama Victory —
Broad if not deep, it was an impressive triumph for a President who “should” not have been able to win re-election, given the economy, the international chaos, the reaction to ObamaCare, etc. Yes, Romney DID lose it . . . but it’s equally true, Obama WON it!
Despite his woeful performance in the first debate (and spending election day in Chicago . . . and never giving a truly inspiring speech until election night), generally Obama was a great candidate served by an even better campaign. They got right nearly everything the GOP got wrong . . . especially the “ground game” turnout organization.
As evidenced by that “ground game,” Obama’s campaign understood, mobilized, and benefitted from the increasing importance of minority voting in America.
In the face of losing support from some key groups from ’08 – Obama lost Independents 45% – 50%, having won them by eight or nine points four years ago – and seeing his support drop among White voters, generally – Obama won more than nine of 10 African Americans and nearly seven in 10 Hispanics . . . a solid majority (just slightly off of ’08) of women and two-thirds of unmarried women . . . about six in 10 of voters under 30 . . . more than 90% of Democrats and nearly 90% of liberals . . . and, consistent with a pattern we’ve tracked since Bush-Gore in ’00, more than six in 10 of those who never attend religious services.
This was critically important because yesterday (and over the last six weeks of early voting) White voters made up 72% of the electorate this year — 4.6 points less than in 2008 when they made up 76.3% of the electorate— while Black voters remained at 13% of the electorate and Hispanics increased from 9% to 10%.
While Bill O’Reilly is complaining that “it’s not a traditional America anymore,” Obama’s team anticipated/kept up with the changing demographics while Romney’s pollster Neil Newhouse insisted – supported by conservative critics of all (save Rasmussen) other pollsters and the media – that this electorate would look and behave exactly like 2004. Neil was wrong. And Bill’s vision is firmly fixed “on the rear-view mirror.”
The U. S. Senate —
Exactly as we predicted – and in the face of odds (23 D seats up and only 10R) that should have made it impossible – Democrats not only kept their majority in the U.S. Senate, they increased it by at least one seat. Indeed, if the “too-close-to-call” race in North Dakota, where the Democrat is leading, breaks for the Democrats, Democrats COULD increase their majority by two seats (still not enough to be filibuster-proof).
Perhaps one reason for the Democrats’ success was their better reflection of the nation’s growing diversity (noted above). Of the 33 Senators elected yesterday, the 25 Democrats/Independents are:
14 White Men
1 Latin Male
9 White Women
1 Asian Woman
and the 8 Republicans elected yesterday are:
7 White Men
1 White Woman (Fischer, the Nebraska Tea-Partier, NOT the GOP Establishment’s candidate)
Before the last of the absentees are counted this week, attention is already shifting to the 2014 elections, the GOP’s next chance to take control. Again, Republicans are numerically well-positioned for ’14, with 20 Democrat seats up and only 13 Republican . . . but the GOP blew a 23-10 advantage this year. Among the more vulnerable include Senators from Alaska (Begich), Arkansas (Pryor), Louisiana (Landrieu), North Carolina (Hagan), South Dakota (Johnson), and (in a primary) South Carolina (Lindsey Graham) . . . all of whose vulnerability impacts their votes starting with this month’s lame duck session.
The U. S. House —
Also, as predicted, the Republicans kept a firm hold on the U.S. House. The question is how willing Speaker Boehner will be/will be allowed by his Tea Party and right wing to be to reach compromises with the Democrats in the Senate and “the” Democrat in the White House.
And despite John Barrow’s survival in Georgia as the last White, male Democrat in the House from the Old South, when the next congress meets in January, it appears the House Democratic Caucus, will be, for the first time in the history of Congress, NOT a White, male majority body, but with a majority of minorities and women.
The State Houses —
The GOP so far as picked up, net, one governor’s office, winning in North Carolina . . . with two governors’ races – in Washington and Montana – remaining too close to call.
In terms of state legislatures, Republicans gained control of two state senates (Alaska and Wisconsin) and one state house (Arkansas) . . . Democrats gained control of the New York State Senate, took majority control of Houses in Colorado, Maine and Oregon, and won both chambers in Minnesota.
Ballot Issues —
With some 175 issues in 38 states, it was – perhaps more than usual – a “mixed bag.”
On taxes, Jerry Brown’s big tax package passed in California, despite heavily funded business opposition/alternative. Floridians declined the opportunity to limit tax revenues to population/inflation growth. Missouri kept the lowest cigarette tax in the nation.
A number of states – Alabama, Missouri, Montana and Wyoming – voted to block implementation of ObamaCare (although whether these will survive constitutional challenges is not sure) – while Florida declined to oppose it.
A Michigan effort intended to require utilities to use 25% “renewable” fuel sources by 2025 went down to massive defeat.
For the first time in statewide contests, pro-gay marriage votes succeeded in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington. California rejected abolishing the death penalty. Florida defeated an amendment that would have prohibited public funds being used for abortion. None seemed to have especially driven conservative turnout (unlike 2004). Maryland also narrowly approved a gaming expansion measure in what looks to be a $100+ Million ballot-issue campaign.
A voter ID requirement lost in Minnesota.
The Big Losers —
Among those that have to be counted among the big “losers” in this election are:
The Tea Party – Who saw their Senate candidate get less than 40% of the vote in Missouri (while Romney, with 54%, was beating Obama by 10 points) . . . whose Senate candidate in Indiana knocked off Dick Lugar in the primary, only to lose yesterday in another state where Romney was winning with 54% . . . saw “the mouth that roared,” Rep. Alan West, appear to lose in Florida (tho’ it’s headed for a re-count) and Rep. Joe Walsh lose in Illinois to Tammy Duckworth. However, Alabama did elect extreme conservative Roy Moore of “Ten Commandments” fame as the state’s Chief Justice.
Karl Rove – Last seen “begging” Fox last night to reverse their call of Ohio for President Obama. His SuperPAC and 501c-3 spent nearly $300 million and would be hard-pressed to claim where they made the critical difference in a race the GOP otherwise would have lost.
SuperPACs, generally – Which were, with Rove as the general strategist, supposed to “blow the Democrats out of the water,” spending – the Koch brothers and the US Chamber promised – as much as $500 Million (twice the Democrats’ spending), but which as pre-emptive strikes, failed to knock the Democrats off the playing fields.
The Connie Mack family – Not only did Florida re-elect Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson over challenger Rep. Connie Mack by 55% – 43%, it appears that, although still subject to recount, across the country, California voters also defeated for re-election to her House seat, Mrs. Connie Mack (see Mary Bono).
Governing the Nation, “a house divided” —
The late Adlai Stevenson said,
“The true test of a political party,
the final, acid test,
is not winning the election,
it is governing the nation.”
And we are – in different ways, but perhaps to an even greater extent than in 1858 when Lincoln coined the phrase – truly “a house divided.”
Writing in USAToday this morning, Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page observed:
“The changing U.S. electorate split in two Tuesday —
not only along lines of political party and ideology
but also by race and ethnicity, gender and marital status,
region and religion, education and age.
The divisions are even sharper than they were four years ago,
when Obama attracted broader support, especially among whites.”
And what she describes is a house deeply divided . . . and, perhaps, ungovernable.
Of course, the parties are also divided. We’ve already referenced the Speaker’s challenge keeping his right wing “on the same page” as the rest of the GOP in the House. And in the Senate, Harry Reid can’t automatically count on his 20 fellow Democrats up for re-election in ’14.
And the crushing defeat the Republicans suffered yesterday (at least given the opportunities for victory they had yesterday, the defeat is hard to characterize as anything less than “crushing,” especially for the party leadership) seems – admittedly, to this Democrat – less likely to lead the party to the center, than farther to the right, determined next time (in ’14 and ’16) to nominate MORE conservative candidates (going down the same futile path the Democrats did with ever more liberal candidates in the 1960’s and 70’s).
One interesting question – from our great friend Keith Lee in Nevada – for our Republican friends and those of us who try to divine the mysteries of their sometimes stunning political victories (and, like our own, sometimes crushing defeats): What was the last Republican ticket to win the White House that did NOT have a Bush or Nixon on it?
Answer: Herbert Hoover in 1928! And that was 84 years ago.
Can you say “Jeb Bush in ’16?”
We’ll be providing more in-depth analysis of voter behavior, SuperPAC spending, the fiscal cliff, and what this all means in terms of federal and state actions in the lame duck session and 2013-14, as time permits.
Thanks for being with us during this exciting season!