In many aspects of the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney and the establishment Republicans who were running his campaign just plain got outgunned and outsmarted.
Yet, in the aftermath of Romney’s defeat, he said he lost because he couldn’t overcome the effect of Obama’s “gifts” to key demographics: student loan modifications for young voters and amnesty for young and predominantly Hispanic illegal aliens.
We think Romney missed the mark with that analysis because conservative ideas have successfully countered the Democrats’ attempts to bribe voters in the past. To avoid the kind of defeat Republicans suffered in 2012, conservatives must learn from the successes of the Obama campaign.
Let’s start that learning process by examining five of the top reasons Obama won.
Obama won because he defined Romney, destroyed his image, nationalized the election and drew a stark contrast with him. It is the law of the political jungle – define or be defined. Obama defined Romney in negative terms, but Romney never defined Obama or himself.
What’s more, the one candidate who took our advice and said over and over that the election was about two world views was Barack Obama. Obama framed his world view as one where only the power of government could create “fairness” in a world that otherwise would be unfair through the machinations of big business and other forces hostile to average citizens – even social issues, such as same-sex marriage, were cast as issues of “fairness.”
Obama then worked relentlessly to put Romney in the context of this argument for fairness. The Bain Capital attacks orchestrated by the unions and Democrat Super PACs all hammered home the point that Mitt Romney was not just unfair to working people, but heartless. The fictional, but unfair “war on women.” The unfairness of people not having health care. The unfairness of the tax rates paid by the “wealthy” – the contrast was clear. Obama stood for fairness, Romney stood for all of those forces in society that make life hard for the little guy.
The obvious lesson here is define or be defined – but there’s a deeper lesson for Republicans here as well. Republicans will never win if they accept or fail to rebut the idea that it is government’s job to impose “fairness” on society. If the Republican candidate for President won’t make a passionate argument for freedom, liberty and opportunity, and oppose the whole notion that it is government’s job to impose “fairness” on society, he’s bound to lose.
Obama won because he focused like a laser on the states he needed to win to block Romney’s path to 270 electoral votes. By rights, Obama should have lost the states of Virginia, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin, all of which had Republican Governors and Republican legislatures going into the election – but he won them all. Some were closer than others, but Obama won credible victories in each state by putting in place strong voter ID and get-out-the-vote programs over the course of his first term, and working each state relentlessly.
Romney never seemed to commit himself to a similarly well-focused plan. The futile last minute spending in Pennsylvania by pro-Romney PACs, and visits from both Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan to a state where he had no ground game, had alienated the Tea Partiers who elected a Governor and new Republican members of Congress in 2010, and that he ultimately lost by some six points, is but one illustrative example.
The lesson here is one Republicans should have learned a long time ago: to win the Presidency, they have to be a national party and build world class political organizations all across the country. They will not win if all they do is come around every four years and run millions of dollars worth of TV in a relatively few “swing states.”
Just as the Democrats and unions do in their urban and coastal strongholds, Republicans need to build, and maintain between elections, world class political organizations in center-right states, particularly in Florida, Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Michigan, Colorado and the rest of the Great Plains and Trans-Mountain West.
Obama won because he ran as himself. Despite Republican carping about how “phony” Obama is, he actually ran for President as himself. He campaigned on hitting the “wealthy” for more taxes, on implementing Obamacare and for advancing the radical secular liberal agenda on almost every issue, and, despite the overwhelming evidence that it is a complete failure, he defended his economic record.
Obama didn’t turn himself into a pretzel trying to mollify conservative independents or soft Republicans the way Romney tried to appeal to center-left voters who were not natural allies of his candidacy. Obama ran as an authentic liberal, and came away with more credibility, more likability and more votes than did the inauthentic Mitt Romney.
The lesson here is, again, one that establishment Republicans should have learned a long time ago: campaigning as a conservative in the primaries and then “shaking the Etch-A-Sketch” or “pivoting toward the center” -- which is what most Americans outside the Beltway call lying -- is a recipe for defeat.
Obama won because he understood this was a base election and he solidified, energized and turned out his leftwing base. For the better part of two years commentators were predicting 2012 would be a “base election.” Obama energized his leftwing base by throwing down the gauntlet to Romney and the Republicans on the entire range of values issues.
Same-sex marriage, government-paid abortion on demand at any point in a pregnancy, repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, continuing the war on religious freedom and the Catholic Church over Obamacare’s contraception and abortion mandates... Obama and his allies never backed down and made this radical secular liberal agenda a centerpiece of the campaign.
In response to Obama’s challenge on the social issues, Romney went AWOL and failed to even respond, let alone campaign on the conservative agenda and the social issues – even those the polls showed to cut substantially in his favor, such as the right-to-life and reining-in the size and scope of government.
Indeed, instead of solidifying his base, Romney and his establishment Republican allies did everything they could to distance themselves from the small government constitutional conservatives of the Tea Party and from social conservatives.
The lesson here is that without fully engaging all four legs of the 2010 wave election coalition – national defense conservatives, economic conservatives, social conservatives and the small government constitutional conservatives of the Tea Party -- Republicans will have a difficult time defeating a Democratic coalition of ethnic voters, big labor, young singles, traditional progressives and radical secular liberals.
Obama won because his team understood and effectively used the new and alternative media to get-out-the-vote and dominate communications with voters who only get their information through online media. No campaign is perfect, and no doubt someone will identify a laundry list of things Obama’s online team could have done better. But to win, you don’t have to be perfect, you only have to be better than the other guy -- and Obama’s online effort was light years ahead of Romney’s.
The Obama Team understood that among adults younger than age 30, according to a Pew study, as many saw news on a social networking site (33%) as saw any television news (34%), and just 13% read a newspaper in print or digital form.
In contrast, Romney and the Republicans were stuck in a 20th century air war campaign strategy that relied on TV and denigrated digital communications. Obama spent at least $52 million just for online ads during his 2012 campaign, compared to the $26 million spent by Governor Romney's campaign – and that does not include their social media, email and other online and digital platforms.
Obama’s online effort was a key piece of his landslide in the young voter demographic, and thus his victory. Digital and social media were also key to Obama's get-out-the-vote effort, which used social media and a weird, but effective form of online peer pressure to squeeze every last vote out for the President.
Technology is neutral and the digital world thrives on freedom. Ron Paul and the Tea Party have built huge networks and online communities of conservative voters. The Romney campaign and the establishment GOP forfeited access to those networks by alienating those voters and distancing themselves from Ron Paul and the Tea Party.
The communications lesson here is simple: Republicans need to get in the 21st century.
What’s more, the larger lesson is equally simple: the small government constitutional conservatives of the Tea Party Movement, economic conservatives and libertarians, social conservatives and national defense conservatives must redouble their efforts to reassemble the 2010 coalition and take over the GOP.
Click here to see Part 1 of 10 Reasons Why Romney Lost And Obama Won -- A Two Part Series
or go to http://www.conservativehq.com/node/10927