On so many levels Mitt Romney should have won the popular vote for the presidency by at least a six point spread. Also, the Republicans should have picked up seats in the Senate and House. As noted in another posting, changes in House districts helped the Republicans retain control of the House. The election results were not encouraging for the Party.
This should have been a poor year for the Democrats. The economy was not strong. Seniors were concerned about the future of Social Security and Medicare. From a multitude of deep pocket donors giving tens of millions of dollars to the GOP PACs, the PACs were flush with cash to be used on television and radio ads, mailings, get out the vote initiatives. Combined, they could outspend the Democrats by at least 2 to 1. Also, on the campaign trail Obama was stiff and disengaged until the last five weeks. Obama’s overwhelmingly poor performance during the first debate should have sealed Obama’s defeat. So, why did not the Republicans gain seats and the presidency? Political pundits are pointing fingers and spinning their rationale, some insider pundits doing so more as a way to deflect blame from them or their allies.
With the cool passage of time with its dispassionate sifting process historians will be able to give a reasoned picture. Until then there will be a mixture of biased and balanced perspectivies. With no axe to grind, and only from my perspective as an independent, below I note factors that impacted me and several other independents I know in their decision making process:
· Voting for the Republican party is increasingly more difficult for independents. The Party's hard dogmatic uncompromising stances on an array of social and financial issues is moving them away from many independent voters. Contrary to the view that independants are right of center on social issues, poll after poll on social issues are more left of center while more right of center on the budget.
· The Republican campaigns, presidential and congressional races, were too focused upon the economy claiming Obama's handling of the economy was poor. That rationale lost traction as most voters recognized that Obama inherited an economy from Bush that was crashing. While was not stellar it was much better than the one he inherited. The Republican strategy did not take into account the perspective of the general public. Even more importantly, the economy improved and that unemployment fell in the year prior to the election. As the numbers improved, spinning that “we could have done better” did not gain traction as the Republican Party was saddled with the “obstructionist” baggage of hindering efforts to help improve the economy.
· Romney has postured himself too far to the right on fiscal and social issues. In order to win the Republican nomination Romney had to posture himself well to the right and away from his earlier positions that were more moderate. Selecting Ryan as his running mate solidified his well right of center posture. Hence, efforts to be more a centrist in the general election was difficult. By pointing to earlier moderate positions made it seem like he was pandering...saying and doing whatever was needed to win the necessary votes. Thereby Romney come across as a man who lacked principals.
· The Democrats defined Romney in May and June as an elitist multimillionaire who is out of touch with the common citizens and lacks understanding of their concerns. The Republicans never adequately countered this definition process. Instead they saved their money for overwhelming the market with media buys in September and October...more is not better for after a certain saturation point people tune-out the ads (I tuned out).
· Along with the economic plank, Romney running a campaign as a referendum on Obama’s leadership did not provide adequate ground for proposing a policy-backed argument for credible change. Let's not unduly fault Romney for other primary candidates were doing the same. Romney and his primary running mates remained vague on too many policies. Policies that they fleshed out came across either as too thin and not well reasoned out or too extreme for the middle of the moderate voter. Romney in his campaign missed the opportunity to break from the past, to emphatically state that a host of Bush and Obama policies were failures, state why they failed and then give well a reasoned alternative.
· Romney’s 47 percent statement reinforced the image that Romney was a wealthy elitist disconnected from the common citizen. His statement reinforced May and June ads defining Romney as an out of touch person of wealth. The candidate’s initial response, that his point was “inelegantly stated” was not only feeble but suggested he believed what he stated to be true. As the campaign progressed voters still wondered if he understood them. In the last month of the campaign Obama played into this perspective by repeatedly stating that he stood squarely and firmly for the middle class.
· For four years the Republican Party was overly focused upon “defeat” Obama. Blocking and criticizing initiatives as mnay of his efforts dominated the Party. When he pushed forward ideas that originated from Republican sources over the prior two to five years left informed independents with the impression that the Party was more interested in winning power than about improving the lot of the Country. Obstruction for the sake of obstruction came across at times as the “divine right to rule” attitude.
· The Republicans increasingly appear as a party of and for the financial elite. It appears to many Independant and moderate Democrat voters that the Republicans nominated a wealthy guy who looked and talked like a rich white male who was being funded by other rich white males to advance and protect their interests.
· Romney’s initial Benghazi statements were a huge mistake. They lacked the balance expected of a presidential candidate seeking to portray himself as ready for the office. He made judgements while most of the details remained unclear. Over the subsequent days efforts by surrogates to defend and justify his comments came across poorly as they were trying to defend a mistake.
· The Republican polling matrix and number crunching processes were so seriously faulty it left their strategy flawed and their expectations surprisingly inflated.
· The Republican ground game was poorly developed and managed. It lacked organization which did not reflect well on a candidate who postured himself as a great business manager who would bring his honed management skills to Washington. His "well experienced and skilled manager" argument sounded shallow as the campaign progressed and people started to sense his campaign was not well managed.
· Romney did not connect well with women. This is more of an issue influenced by the Party than the candidate. His past moderate views were lost in all that he had to say and embrace on the right to win the nomination.
· Lack of appeal to minority voters. He rarely campaigned in ethnic minority territory. His 47 per cent comment played into this issue as well. As noted in an earlier blog, this is not just a candidate issue as it is a wider Party issue.
· Republican efforts in various states to curtail early voting, hamper voter registration processes, ads and robo calls designed to depress minority turn-out as well as the implementation of voter identification laws appeared to be efforts to suppress the minority vote. Such efforts left the impression that the Party was mainly focused upon being a Party of and for whites. Rather than suppress the minority votes all these efforts energized the minority community to turn out at a higher rate than expected. The minority community stood in lines for long hours to speak clearlty that their voice will not be suppressed. The Republicans in heavy minority areas suffered.
· The Party's general stance against the bail-outs of the auto industry. Romney's op ed. arguing for the government to let the big three go into bankruptcy court, made him the face of the Party's common posture. He suffered because of such a stance, particularly when for the last two years GM, Ford and Chrysler were back to financial solvency, and with the federal budgeting gaining profits earned off that support.