Going Over The Numbers

As of November 22, it appears Mitt Romney has received 47,000 more votes than John McCain in 2008.  Considering George W. Bush received just over 62 million votes in 2004, it is apparent Romney woefully underperformed.   When one realizes the US population has 19 million more people than 2004, it is fair to say Romney missed out on close to 8,000,000 votes.  Yet, the Romney apologists say he is not to blame.  I believe there is much blame to go around from Romney the candidate, to the GOP leadership, to the GOP nomination process.

Romney the candidate was dreadful.  He was utterly clueless on issues outside of what he wanted to discuss and never counterpunched Obama;  even where Obama was most vulnerable.  Even economic issues, which was supposed to be Romney’s bailiwick, seemed to be PowerPoint presentations from the late-1980s to mid-1990s.  Romney looked like Ronald Reagan but campaigned like Jane Wyman.

The GOP leadership was, in essence, non-existent.  It was as though they treated the results of the 2010 midterm election as rare event, instead of a trend.  They treated the Tea Party as a bunch of ignorant yahoos and thought Senate losers like O’Donnell and Angle were the norm and not the exception.  Thus, they ran a bunch of GOP Establishment retreads for winnable Senate seats.  They all lost.  In the two other winnable races in MO and IN, the GOP ran for the tall grass from Akin (I don’t blame them as Akin should have had the decency to allow another candidate to win this race) and failed to coalesce around Mourdock.  A divided party can never win. They also lost seats in the House.  Some of the more winnable seats were lost by inept candidates (a seat in GA comes to mind).  Others were lost because leadership did nothing to combat poor redrawing of congressional districts by “non-partisan” Commissions.  Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority Whip, actually agreed to the process.  And why not, he got a better district.  Others were not so fortunate.  A word of advice to the GOP;  if they have to put “non-partisan” to describe a group;  they are not.  California lost 4 seats through this process. In FL, Allan West lost his race.  He was not only a target of the Democrats but The FL State GOP redistricted West out of his old district.  A question for the Democrats;  how is it “racist” to criticize Obama, yet, okay to disparage West?

Another problem confronting the GOP is money. A lot of money has been redirected to SuperPACs like American Crossroads. American Crossroads, which is run by Karl Rove, spent close to $400 million in this election cycle.  It would be fair to say their efforts were a disaster. Unfortunately, if the money were directed to the GOP, there would be no telling what those inept political strategists would have accomplished.

The biggest problem with the GOP during this election was a lack of strategy and message.  It was amusing and sad to watch Romney discussing the need for tax cuts, without really addressing the need for significant spending cuts.  There were several moments during the campaign where Romney was asked about parts of the Paul Ryan plan, which dealt with entitlement reform.  Each time, he either punted or worse, he denied the plausibility of Ryan’s plan.  It does make one wonder why Romney even bothered putting Ryan on the ticket.

In 1992, Bill Clinton ran on the slogan, “it’s the economy, stupid”.  The Romney mantra was not to attack Obama because the voters believed Obama was nice and likable.  The political strategists who thought this was the best way to win an election should really consider another line of work.  There was certainly a lack of political acumen by Romney and his strategists.  There were many times Obama would lead with his chin and Romney refused to strike.  In the end, it was the failure of Romney and his political strategists to address economic issues such as regulation and overspending by the Democrats, foreign policy debacles, and most of all attacks on the Church and Faith by the Obama administration.  This failure allowed Obama to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. This was Romney’s race to lose.  Obama did not steal this election but there was one significant event that all the punditry missed;  the decision by Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Fed, to inject $40 billion into the market.  The market soared, and many did not vote to change the presidency.  The election was lost at that moment.  Romney can discuss 12 million new jobs, but they fall on deaf ears when people are fixated on their portfolios.



The Ghost of Moderates Past

A wise historian once claimed, “those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. As I look at the results of the 2012 election, I am amused by the number of excuses why Mitt Romney lost this election. They range from the usual suspects, the TEA Party, the social conservatives, hard-line conservatives, a lot of dumb people who don’t know any better, to complete fantasies like Obama “stole” the election, Obama “bribed” the American people, and the Democrats hacked into Romney’s Orca GOTV system on election day, causing the GOP to lose Ohio. They never blame Romney and excuse all of his tactical and strategic mistakes; nor do they ever provide direct proof of their fantasies.

You see, many of these folks have no sense of reality and history. The GOP have nominated folks like Mitt Romney since Herbert Hoover and none of them have ever been elected. The one exception was Dwight Eisenhower. I doubt even the foolish of fools could compare Romney to Ike but I am sure some blonde will try. Even Nixon, who ran as a moderate in 1960, learned his lesson and became a “conservative” in 1968. Unfortunately, for the American people, Nixon left us a legacy of a greater bureaucracy with such acronyms as OSHA and EPA.

The problem is, the Republicans have slowly dismantled the Reagan coalition of fiscal, foreign-policy, and social conservatives.

The fiscal conservatives are frustrated. When the GOP did some very fine work ( thanks in large part to Bob Livingston) paring the budget during the 1990s, they were overshadowed by Newt Gingrich’s inarticulate sound bites. After the loss of Livingston from the GOP caucus, the GOP spent like drunken sailors during the Bush years. They abandoned fiscal responsibility and past bad laws like the Medicare prescription drug benefit (which is the largest new entitlement program since the 1960s) , and No Child Left Behind (which federalized our K-12 schools). They are also frustrated over the lack of respect and understanding what the midterm elections of 2010 meant. Since the election, John Boehner has signaled his willingness to work a deal with President Obama and some members of Congress want to break their pledge not to raise taxes. This will not sit well with the fiscal conservatives.

The foreign-policy conservatives are in disarray. On one hand, they embrace our venture into Libya and hope for intervention in Syria. On the other hand, they embrace the Muslim Brotherhood brokered peace plan between Hamas and Israel but they cannot articulate a good reason why.

As for the social conservatives, they are the most maligned of the Reagan coalition. They are the bogeyman of modern American politics. Yet, their influence within the GOP has greatly diminished since 1988. 1988 is the year when many either retired or were pushed out by the George HW Bush folks. They have also lost two of their most articulate spokesmen with the passing of Paul Weyrich and Father John Neuhaus.

I believe the seminal point for social conservatives was the passing of Terri Schiavo in 2005. Subsequently, they failed to vote in 2006, 2008, probably 2010, and in spite of exit poll data, I believe they failed to vote in 2012. As long as the GOP ignores the concerns of social conservatives, I believe the GOP will be relegated to, at best, mediocre candidates with inarticulate positions.

Mitt Romney could not articulate any position beyond creating jobs. He never discussed any specifics as to spending cuts. In fact, on several occasions, he took swipes at the Paul Ryan plan. It makes one wonder why he bothered making Paul Ryan his Vice President. Mitt Romney did not articulate the events surrounding the killing of our ambassador at Benghazi or the feckless response of the Obama administration in the aftermath. He could not articulate how the Obama foreign-policy, more particularly the concept of “soft power”, has been a disaster.

Most of all, Mitt Romney never used the C word to hammer the Obama administration; corruption. From ‘Fast and Furious’ to Solyndra, Romney wouldn’t make an issue of this administration’s ethical issues. In many ways, the last two debates seemed more of a love fest than a competition to be the next president of the United States. Mitt Romney failed to heed the advice of Ronald Reagan of “raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all the issues troubling the people”.

Mitt Romney now takes his place with other such GOP luminaries as Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie, Thomas Dewey, Bob Dole, John McCain; all ghosts of moderate past.


Divide and conquer: Romney and the social conservatives

For various reasons that I have discussed, Mitt Romney was a uniquely horrible candidate to be the GOP standard bearer in 2012. He was not only a technocrat, but he lacked any sense of leadership skills. Outside of running Bain Capital, running the 1998 Winter Olympics, running against Ted Kennedy for the U.S. Senate in 1994, and an unremarkable four-year term as the governor of Massachusetts, there is very little background to discern who is Mitt Romney and what does he believe.

Before Mitt Romney ran for president in 2008, he was, based on his previous statements made as a politician from Massachusetts, a liberal. In 1994, when the Republican Revolution embraced Ronald Reagan and won convincingly around the country, Mitt Romney ran as a liberal. In his race against Ted Kennedy, Romney ended up taking both sides of the abortion question. This led Ted Kennedy to remark; “Mitt Romney isn’t just pro-choice, he’s multiple-choice.”

In 2002, Mitt Romney ran as a pro-choice Republican. In 2008, Mitt Romney ran as a pro-life Republican. For many people, especially social conservatives, “just trust me” wasn’t going to work.

In 2012, the Democrats ran a strange ( at the time) GOP War On Woman campaign. It made very little sense. That is, until Todd Akin, the GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, made the ridiculous claim that women could not get pregnant from “legitimate” rape. Romney did not respond. Republican politicians and movement conservatives demanded Todd Akin step down and allow someone else to run for the U.S. Senate. Todd Akin refused. Todd Akin lost his race by almost 16 points. It was a disaster that could have been averted.

Two weeks before the election, Richard Mourdock, running for the U.S. Senate from Indiana made a comment during a debate that was deliberately twisted by his opponent to say that “rape was a gift from God”. An examination of Mourdock’s statement shows that he had said ‘life, resulting from a rape, was a gift from God’. In response to the manufactured firestorm, the Romney campaign released the following statement: “Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock’s comments, and they do not reflect his views”. Richard Mourdock lost his race by 5 ½ points.

The vote totals from both states reflect an interesting trend. In Missouri, Obama received 286,175 less votes than 2008. Mitt Romney received 34,136 more votes than John McCain in 2008. In Indiana, Obama received 217,446 less votes than 2008. Romney received 70,522 more votes than John McCain in 2008.
It should be noted that Obama ran his campaign with abortion rights being the centerpiece of said campaign. I submit that Romney’s silence in Missouri and his rebuke of Mourdoch’s position in Indiana gave social conservatives the reason to stay home on election day. Romney made many egregious tactical errors. He ceded the foreign-policy debate to Obama and he took the social conservatives for granted after selecting Ryan as his VP candidate. He, and his political team, could not and would not make a reasonable and definitive argument to assuage the skeptics within the social conservatives. The more the Obama campaign promoted abortion rights, the Romney campaign responded with economic issues and promises. Obama conquered Romney by dividing the GOP base. Romney was all too willing to drive that bus.

One final note on the Indiana race. Mourdoch defeated the incumbent Richard Lugar in the primary. Lugar never endorsed or campaigned for Mourdoch in the general election. It would be safe to say the petulance of Lugar and his supporters played a greater role in defeating Mourdoch than anything Mourdoch said in the last two weeks of his campaign. Divide and conquer, indeed.