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Was last night disastrous for the Republicans or simply disappointing?

By Tim Montgomerie
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Over on ToryDiary Pete Hoskin has listed five lessons for the British Tories from last night's election result.

But what does it mean for America's Republicans?

It was certainly not a good night for the Republicans but was it a disastrous night?


  • The case for it being a disastrous night was the fact that President Obama got re-elected despite presiding over very difficult economic times. He supported gay marriage, higher taxes on wealth creators and had enacted a controversial, unpopular and expensive new healthcare entitlement. The last three policy areas are deeply liberal policies and yet America voted for the man who embraced them. In addition to Obama's big lead amongst women, many demographic trends are not going the GOP's way and with the Republicans continuing to win many votes among black, Hispanic and gay Americans it isn't going to get easier for the Republicans to build a majority. It's going to get harder. A lot harder. Moreover, just as Gordon Brown extended dependency and therefore increased Labour's core vote, Obama's policies are doing the same.
  • But there is a case for saying that the night was not so terrible for Republicans. Although Barack Obama easily won the electoral college he only won a very narrow margin in the popular vote. He didn't win with a big agenda. This was not a 'mandate election'. At the time of writing Mr Obama is on 49.6% against Mitt Romney's 48.9%. Incumbent presidents are nearly always re-elected and without Hurricane Sandy Obama might have lost. A series of terrible candidate selections mean that Republicans missed the opportunity to make gains in the Senate but they've retained the House and consolidated their dominance at Governor level. To a large extent America remains the 50/50 blue state/red state nation that it became in 2000. Romney proved to be a competent and likeable candidate but he wasn't the most charismatic or compelling of candidates. Next time the GOP could nominate Rubio, Christie or Martinez. Many wish they had done so this time.
Touring the blogosphere this morning I'm noticing:

(1) A determination to continue to fight Obama's big government agenda. House leader John Boehner's statement on the Republicans keeping control of the House was uncompromising:

"For two years, our majority in the House has been the primary line of defense for the American people against a government that spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much when left unchecked. In the face of a staggering national debt that threatens our children’s future, our majority passed a budget that begins to solve the problem. While others chose inaction in the face of this threat, we offered solutions. The American people want solutions — and tonight, they’ve responded by renewing our majority. With this vote, the American people have also made clear that there is NO mandate for raising tax rates... We’re humbled to have again been entrusted by the American people with the responsibility of leading the People’s House. We’ll never take it for granted, and we won’t let you down.”

Grover Norquist agrees:

"America gave him less support after watching him govern for four years than when he ran promising hope and change.  Normally a reelected president expands his margin of support. The Republican majority in the House was reelected after spending two years opposing Obamacare, Obama’s taxes, and Obama’s spending."

(2) Republicans must move policy on immigration. Wisdom from Ron Radosh --- "The percentage of Latinos voting increased significantly, and although many are Catholic and socially conservative, the tough stance on immigration reform taken by Romney in the primary campaign hurt his chances of gaining enough of their votes. Republicans like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, both of Florida, were serious about conservatives developing a position more flexible and less dogmatic than the anti-immigration position of many conservatives. Their views, supported by The Wall Street Journal and most of the business community, were not that of most conservatives. When the voting statistics are tallied, I think we will find that with more Latinos voting for Republicans, Romney might have been able to do much better, if not win. As it is, he will have won far less than George W. Bush, who tried to develop a different policy but lost his fight to gain conservative support on the issue."

(3) An awareness that Obama enjoyed more advantages than Republicans realised: "The main obstacle to a Republican victory was that they were seeking to defeat the first African-American president aided by a supportive mainstream media, buttressed by the power of incumbency and what turned out to be a tremendously efficient campaign organization." More here from Jonathan Tobin.

(4) Questions about a lack of coordination of the GOP ground game? Erick Erickson wonders if there are too many infighting Tea Party groups, too many SuperPacs and too many egos getting in the way of an orchestrated GOP ground game.

(5) A challenge to the Republicans to realise that the issue of homosexual equality is moving sharply against them. Just eight years ago gay marriage referenda helped keep George W Bush in the White House. Today, gay marriage is being (narrowly) accepted in key votes. The trends are all one way.

(6) Even Democrats are acknowledging the GOP has a 'strong bench'. Paul Begala at the Daily Beast: "You have a terrific bench. Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez, Brian Sandoval. Maybe you can run one of your Midwestern governors like John Kasich or Scott Walker. Maybe a senator like John Thune—heck, he’s so gorgeous he makes Mitt Romney look like the Elephant Man. Or why not the only Republican candidate who ran in 2008 and who was never in the lead: Jon Huntsman? Huntsman has been a governor, a businessman, an ambassador. He speaks Mandarin and Moderate and could get a ton of Democratic votes. Or not. You can stay in denial and run in 2016 on a ticket of Rand Paul and Michele Bachmann, and lose to… well, to anybody."

More tomorrow.


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