Where Do We Go From Here?

Part II:  Political Observations and Ideas

In the last 20 years, it has become obvious that the GOP ( as well as the conservative movement) has become collectivist in nature and in purpose.  What used to be an organization reliant on bottom-to-top ideas and movement has become DC-centric; where DC tells the state and local operations what to do and what is acceptable.  This gives rise to the dreaded political consultant/strategist whose inane ramblings become marching orders. Even sadder, it is apparent that many of the Reaganites who came to DC when Ronald Reagan became president have also been co-opted into the mindset that power and money trump principles.  During the Reagan years, the joke going around the White House was, “how many people work at the RNC?  Oh, about half of them.”  I would bet that during the Bush years it was greater than half.

Thus, the GOP needs to return the political power, talent, and money back to the states and local operations.  The states have a better idea how to allocate money and resources.  Let the states and local organizations conduct their own voter registration drives and recruit candidates.  The RNC needs to only provide guidance and knowledge.

Another problem is the primary process.  This is the area which creates the greatest havoc and provides very little benefit for the general election.  We have seen this occur in three-way races for US Senate seats held by Democrats. In 2010, three candidates ran for the GOP nomination against Harry Reid.  Sue Lowden was probably the best of the three candidates, but she was savagely attacked for every faux pas.  Meanwhile, one of her opponents, Sharon Angle, received favorable media coverage.  Sharon Angle was probably the worst of the three candidates. Angle won the primary, but did not garner 50% of the vote.  In the general election, the flawed Angle candidacy was exposed and Harry Reid easily won reelection. In 2012, we saw the same thing happen in Missouri and Florida.  In the end, two Senate seats that should have gone to the GOP remained Democrat.

The problem is even greater in the primary process for president.  The first race is the Iowa caucus.  With so much media attention focused on the Iowa caucus, a candidate must cozy up to the social conservative base or play footsies with the ethanol interests.  There were rumors this year that certain influential social conservatives were asking candidates to pay $1 million for their endorsement.  It is a small price to pay for a great showing and momentum going into the New Hampshire primary. The New Hampshire primary is beset with problems.  The current New Hampshire electorate does not resemble the electorate of William Loeb and Meldrim Thompson.  It is less conservative.  A bigger problem is that it is an open primary.  This certainly is an invitation for crossover mischief.  Thus, by the time the results of the Iowa and New Hampshire races are known, the conservative candidates are behind with little momentum going into the next primary races.

First, there needs to be closed primaries for the GOP.  They should not be open to independents and Democrats.  It is common sense only allow members of the GOP to select the GOP candidate.  If independents and Democrats desire to cross over, they need to wait two years from the date of their last ballot cast.  The next thing for the non-presidential primaries is to have an automatic runoff between the top two contenders.  This will cut down on the mischief of an opposition party trying to influence the outcome in favor of a preferred opponent.  In the end, the GOP must close ranks.  There should be no toleration for petulance from either the conservatives or the GOP establishment.  The behavior of folks like Mike Castle in 2010 and Richard Lugar in 2012 are an embarrassment.  Such divisions doom  the candidate that remains in the race.



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.