I think I know what the morning after the 1948 election was like, when everyone’s expectations of Dewey’s victory over Truman were upset. I recall my mother once telling me that normally gregarious people in her west LA workplace walked around in shocked silence all morning.
No silence here. We’re in it for the long haul. As T.S. Eliot said, there are no lost causes because there are no gained causes. (Though it would appear that Obamacare is here to stay. But it will likely become increasingly unpopular with time.) I’m with Scott: no sugar coating this. This was, to borrow Churchill’s words from the Munich speech, a total and unmitigated defeat.
A few observations:
• Resist the temptation to blame Romney for being a bad candidate, with two caveats. Of course it is always possible to fault a campaign, and (caveat number one) Romney’s campaign should have found a way to respond to Obama’s late spring/early summer attacks that softened him up. One lesson I think we now know from the last several election cycles is that these elections often take shape in the spring and summer; waiting till the fall is too late now. That Romney, as a Bain venture capitalist, was vulnerable to Obama’s attack on the 1 percent should have been on their minds earlier than the first debate in October. And his economic message could have been sharper. No, I don’t think pushing the Benghazi scandal harder would have made much difference.
But note that Romney ran ahead of several losing Republican Senate candidates. I’m not sure Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels would have run any better. I’ll stand by what I said here yesterday that Romney turned out to be a pretty good candidate.
• Republicans have to stop spotting Senate seats to the Democrats with bad candidates. Between this cycle and 2010, the GOP has forfeited seven Senate seats by my count. This points to a longtime beef of mine about the rhetorical incompetence or imprudence of too many Republican politicos. (This applies also to Alan West, a good man who lost his House seat in Florida in part, I’d argue, because of a loose tongue.)
The worst examples were Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, for their complete failure to handle the abortion-in-cases-of-rape questions. Notice something here: with polls showing more and more Americans coming to have generally pro-life views, the media are defaulting to asking about the most extreme and difficult circumstance as a way to corner Republicans. Don’t let them put you in that corner. Here they should take a page from Newt. The weekend after Akin put his foot in his mouth, Newt was on Meet the Press with Thomas Friedman, and counterattacked on partial birth abortion. He had Tom Friedman blubbering and retreating in no time flat. Akin, Mourdock, and any other pro-life Republican asked about abortion in cases of rape ought to attack the media: “How come you never ask Democrats about their support for partial birth abortion? How come Obama has never once been asked about his vote in Illinois against the Infants Born Alive Act, which passed Congress almost unanimously because even most liberals can spot infanticide when they see it?”
• Likewise, don’t fall for the media line that the Tea Party is the problem. In one or two cases (Sharron Angle in Nevada and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware in 2010, for example) this is true, but more because they were bad candidates in general rather than their Tea Party views. Note that Republican moderates lost too, most notably Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin. I always thought he was a bad choice (ditto for retread George Allen in VA); he was the Republicans’ Mondale—past his prime, and with much less appeal in his old home state. At least Mondale in 2002 jumped in because of odd circumstances. Thompson, who was a mediocre HHS secretary under President Bush, just didn’t know when to hang it up.
• Based on the exit polls, it appears that Mediscare didn’t work. The figures I saw show that Romney/Ryan got a higher share of the over-65 vote than McCain in 2008. But we’ll need to see if Florida-specific numbers tell a different story.
• In hindsight, the real turning point in the campaign was perhaps the Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision. If it went the other way, Obama goes into the fall campaign with the black eye of having pushed an unpopular and unconstitutional measure onto the American people. Not sure whether this can be measured in polls.
• One interesting exit poll finding that NBC reported last night is that voters by a 2 – 1 margin are against raising taxes to reduce the deficit. Only 47 percent (that number again) say if taxes must be raised, they should only be raised on the top 1 percent of income earners. The got their wish in California, where Proposition 30—a retroactive income tax increase on incomes over $250,000—passed. (However, Proposition 37, the genetically modified food labeling law, lost big. Score a small victory over green hysteria and trial lawyer greed, since Prop. 37 was designed as a lawsuit machine.)
• Does the GOP need to change its message (and hence its principles and opinions)? The party does need to take note of the demographic challenge. Romney apparently won the same share of the white vote as Reagan in the 1980s, but the share of the white vote has simply shrunk. It will be supposed (by liberals, so beware) that the party must pander to minorities on things like immigration. The basic problem is that the GOP has little or no permanent infrastructure for reaching those minority voters—and I think there are a lot of them—who are receptive to a conservative, pro-growth, pro-opportunity, pro-family message. It isn’t enough to run radio and TV ads on black and Hispanic radio stations for a few weeks every election cycle. The good news is that the GOP has some up and comers like Marco Rubio who could help on this. But there’s no substitute for GOP office holders and candidates simply interacting with minorities between elections.
• And don’t look now, but . . . the stock market is selling off big this morning.
I’ll be back later with thoughts about what’s ahead for Obama. Short answer: he should enjoy the moment while he can.