For the candidate and for most of the GOP brain trust that surrounded him, defeat was completely unexpected. Their demographic analyses right down to the precinct level were flawed in that they apparently did not even take into consideration readily available 2010 census data. On the other hand, Democratic campaign had such data in hand and distributed its workers in accordingly. The latter were then able to work effectively to get likely Democratic voters registered and to the polls on election day. They put their main efforts into districts where they expected to be strong. The level of organization and effectiveness of Republican campaign workers was strong but not as focused and effective as the strategy mounted by Democrats. Nevertheless, Republicans fully expected to win the election. Many were shocked at the final outcome.
Election polls conducted throughout the run-up to the election were highly contentious. When they favored Democrats or were nearly even statistically, Republicans suggested they had been conducted with over representation of Democratic respondents. In fact, the evidence suggests that most widely conducted state and national polls under-counted younger voters and minorities, particularly Hispanics. In fact, this proved true in several Western states and in Florida where final election results favored a strong Democratic Hispanic vote that was under-counted in polls done just days before the election. Interestingly, the same result was seen in 2008, but was more pronounced in 2012 as there was a small relative increase in the Hispanic population. In taking this under-count into consideration the outcome favored in nine of eleven swing states, and produced comfortable Democratic majorities in states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota that Republicans had thought to be much closer that they were. Pennsylvania was so much more favorably Democratic that predicted in late polls that it’s hard to understand what happened — or what could have led the Romney campaign to think it had a chance such that it made several visits to the state just before the election.
In fact, Democrats received strong majorities among mostly young, unmarried women, young voters under the age of 30, Hispanics, African Americans and Asian Americans. Each of these groups felt under attack during particularly contentious Republican primaries when strict conservatives pushed candidates into positions that were harsh or at least difficult for one or more of these groups. All Hispanics felt the hostility of the candidates who were being driven into harsh positions on immigration. Even those Hispanics who were long-term second and third generation American citizens felt under attack. When Governor Perry of Texas took a credible but soft position on the education of the children of illegal immigrants in Texas, he was nearly booed off the stage. It was difficult to see him getting the nomination after that. He made other mistakes afterwards, but his campaign never really got going after his comments on immigration. Student loans and other views that Republican candidates took that were important to young people pushed the 18-28 young voters away from the Republican party. Women felt strongly harassed on issues related to health and particularly to abortion and birth control. At the same time, a number of legislatures in states dominated by Republicans weighed in with controversial laws which most young women saw as a major interference into decisions they felt they should be making about their own bodies. The harsh commentary of conservation talk show hosts on radio and television served to fuel these fires.
Many states began to establish voter identification schemes, regulations or even laws that minorities saw as an attempt to limit voter participation–mostly these laws were interpreted as attempts to exclude African Americans and Hispanics. In the end some of these rules and regulations had the effect of increasing turnout of these offended minorities at the polls.
The stinging effects the Republican primaries had in driving candidates into strongly ultraconservative positions carried over into the campaign in the general election. Mr. Romney who had had to paint himself as an ultraconservative, or as he later said as a “severe conservative,” reversed many of his positions early or later during the presidential campaign. Early on he was painted as one with extreme positions by Democrats and later as someone who changed his mind a lot — as a “flip flopper” or even as the ultimate “quintessential flip-flopper.” Who he was and what he stood for became a problem for many voters. His harsh comments that focused on the “takers” or the 47 percent of the country who wanted a free ride in his terms , nearly sank him. At the time, President Obama started to increase his lead significantly in the polls. Had it not been for the impossibly bad performance of President Obama in the first of three presidential debates, the election would have been over. In fact, President Obama let Mr. Romney back into the race after that debate. The race was closer after that, but in the end too much damage had been done.
Indeed, President Obama won a comfortable electoral victory. Mr. Romney had a majority vote among white males over 30, but the President captured every other identifiable demographic constituency as well as a comfortable electoral, and popular vote victory. Democrats captured a larger majority in the Senate, through defeats of a number of poorly considered conservative candidates. In addition, Democrats gained seats in the House, though Republicans still have a majority. Several controversial Tea Party Republican representatives were defeated.
Republicans may be able to reverse some of these trends, but will most likely be required to take a more conciliatory approach going forward. A repeat performance in 2016 anything like the collective effort in 2012, would likely produce an even more stinging defeat. Thus it is not outside the realm of possibility that the GOP will decline in the next election and beyond. This is not to suggest that the party can’t make a quick comeback. However, moving the party away from its ultra right wing contingent is easier said than done, and the GOP may have to experience the greater pain of more stinging defeats before it can make a comeback. They may not be convince by the 2012 outcome.
Captured constituencies also have a tendency to become more powerful with time. The young Millennials of 2008 were 18-24 at the time. In 2012 they are 18-28 as those in the 14-17 age range in 2008 have moved up to voting age. In 2016 the current 14-17 year-olds will be added to the group that will then be the 18-32 year old voting block consistently voting Democratic at a 60-70 percent level or higher. The size of this group in 2016 will have doubled since 2008. In addition, the combined size of the Hispanic, Asian and African American population will continue to grow relative to the white population. Whites were at 76 percent in 2008, at 72 percent in 2012 and likely at about 68 percent in 2016 and at 64 percent in 2020. Thus, unless Republicans begin to attract citizens in these groups, they will move more an more toward minority party status.
Richard A. Hudson is a writer, reader and blogger committed to exercise, proper nutrition and health. He’s interested in politics, economics, alternative energy, gardening and sustainability and has written brief essays on many of these topics on his bloghttp://richlynne.wordpress.com. Despite his generally positive and optimistic views about globalization, he wonders whether we will survive current destructive forces that increasingly promote warfare among political and social classes. He is also beginning to think about the declining influence of the know-it-all baby boomer generation just as the next generation born in the 60s begins to slowly stumble into a dominant position in the U.S.
He received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago (1966) and subsequently spent 42 years in academics, gradually developing all sorts of interests well beyond his basic training. He ended his academic career in 2008, having published about 100 scientific papers, reviews and commentaries. In his last several years in the academy, his role as Dean of the Graduate School afforded him many opportunities to interact with students from all over the world seeking graduate degrees.
Since his retirement, he has served as a layout editor for The Daily Source, an online news service,http://www.dailysource.org.