It’s been a week since President Obama won re-election, and since then, Republicans, Democrats, and pundits alike have been trying to make sense of his surprisingly decisive victory. And even though the popular vote was close (50% – 48%), most experts see the President’s victory as an indictment on the Republican Party.
There were many factors in Obama’s win. Mitt Romney’s “47% of Americans” remark reaffirmed the Democrat’s assertion that Romney was insensitive to middle and lower-class Americans. Hurricane Sandy played a major role late in the game. The storm put the President in a heroic spotlight and forced the Governor to the sideline. I personally believe that the difference on Election Day itself was Obama’s outstanding ground game. Despite the struggling economy and scandal in Libya, Obama got more of his base to the polls than Romney did.
No matter what the specific election factors were, there have been two major theories circulating among cable news, talk radio, and opinion columns that try to explain how Romney lost this election, and what the Republican Party needs to do to fix it.
The first and most popular theory is that American demographics have changed. There are less white men and married women and more people of color and single women than any time in American history. The people of color and single women are disgusted by the Republican Party. They think the Republicans want to deport them, take away their birth control, and give their hard earned money to the rich. So, they vote for Obama and other Democrats to feed their fears. And since there were now more of these people, Obama and the Democrats won the election and will continue to win future elections until the Republican Party caters to these people.
Within the last week experts from both sides have called for the Republican Party to take a more moderate stance on immigration, birth control and abortion, taxes, etc. However, this wouldn’t work. No matter how moderate a stance the Republican Party takes on these issues, the Democratic Party will always have a more liberal position from which to launch slanderous attacks. There is also a lot of talk of nominating more Hispanic, black, and female Republican candidates. But any contrived effort to do this will be transparent and backfire.
Some Republicans know all this, and they don’t want to compromise their core principles. Instead they have another theory. They believe that the last 2 candidates, John McCain and Mitt Romney, lost because they were not conservative enough. Last week fewer Republicans voted for Romney than for McCain in 2008. And in 2008, fewer Republicans voted for McCain than for George Bush in 2004. Therefore, the hard line conservatives want to support more conservative candidates, which might reinvigorate the base and tip the voter turnout advantage back to the Republican Party. But couldn’t that increase in conservative turnout be offset by the loss of independents and moderates?
Both of these theories and sets of solutions have merit, but they are missing the point. The real reason Mitt Romney lost last week was Mitt Romney. Just like the real reason John McCain lost in 2008 was John McCain. And the real reason Barack Obama won in both elections was Barack Obama. Romney was not a good communicator. Barack Obama was. That’s it, pure and simple. The better communicator is the better candidate. And the better candidate wins.
Romney allowed Obama and the media to define who he was from the beginning, and he did not do enough in the time he was given to change people’s image of him. He didn’t do enough to change people’s image of Obama either. He couldn’t articulate why the President (and not George Bush) was destroying the economy. He couldn’t convince people that he could relate to and care for the common man. And ultimately he didn’t convince voters that his ideas were good, that they would work, and that they were better than the President’s. The Republican Party doesn’t need a new message, it needs better messengers.
Were the demographics of the United States that different 8 years ago than when George Bush defeated John Kerry? When Gore and Kerry lost back to back elections, did people say the Democratic Party needed to move to the center? Of course not. Gore and Kerry lost because they were stale. They had no juice. W. was never eloquent, but he was enthusiastic, and at times even convincing.
Obama didn’t win because he was liberal, and he wouldn’t have won if he were moderate. He didn’t win because he was in tune with the American people on the issues. Most of the country is against abortion, and almost half of the country still opposes same sex marriage. In fact, there are more people who identify themselves as conservatives in this country than those who consider themselves liberals or moderates. And Obama most certainly didn’t win on his record. His economic and foreign policy records have been abysmal the last 4 years. Obama won because he’s a superstar. He knows what to say, who to say it to, and how to say it.
That is exactly what the Republicans need to regain the White House in 2016. They need a superstar, an all-star. Someone cool, calm, and collected that can really speak to the people. They don’t need someone to give in to amnesty, or tax hikes, or abortion, or isolationism. They need someone to explain in a sensitive, but unapologetic way, why alternative solutions are better. Someone who makes Sandra Fluke look like a spoiled brat instead of a martyr. Someone who makes welfare reform look like an act of trust and respect instead of an act of greed and cruelty. Someone who doesn’t spend all their time defending his principles, but instead makes his opponent defend his. That’s what Obama did. He never had to defend his controversial stance on late term abortions, because he flipped the argument on Romney.
So instead of promoting more moderate candidates, instead of promoting more conservative candidates, instead of promoting more minority candidates, or instead of changing the party platform to pander to certain demographics, the Republican Party needs to find their own “Obama.” Someone who can debunk the Republican myths, and articulate and romanticize the true merit of taking a less liberal stance. This person will save the Republican Party like Obama did the Democratic Party in 2008.
Latest posts by Robert O'Hara (Posts)
- Republican hangover: it’s not the message, it’s the messenger - November 15, 2012
- The real reason why Obama might actually win - November 5, 2012
- Where’s Kanye West? - November 2, 2012
- Hope and Chains - August 19, 2012
- London 2012: final thoughts - August 13, 2012