Political Animal


November 09, 2012 9:34 AM The Search

By Ed Kilgore

WaPo’s Peter Wallsten tells us the GOP is really getting out the torches and bloodhounds to figure out why the irresistible march to victory that began two years ago broke up in disarray on Tuesday.

Top Republican officials, stunned by the extent of their election losses Tuesday night, have begun an exhaustive review to figure out what went so wrong and how to fix it.
Party leaders said they already had planned to poll voters in battleground states starting Tuesday night in anticipation of a Mitt Romney victory — to immediately begin laying the groundwork for midterm congressional elections and a Romney 2016 reelection bid.
But as they watched one state after another go to President Obama and Senate seats fall away, party leaders quickly expanded and retooled their efforts. Officials told The Washington Post that they’re planning a series of voter-based polls and focus groups, meetings with constituency group leaders, and in-depth discussions with their volunteers, donors and staff members to find ways to broaden their appeal.
The review is a recognition that party leaders were confounded by the electorate that showed up on Tuesday. Republican officials said that they met all of their turnout goals but that they underestimated who would turn out for the other side.

But there’s one catch:

Party officials said the review is aimed at studying their tactics and message, not at changing the philosophical underpinnings of the party.

So they’ll look high and low for the problem, but not there, no no no.

And guess what? They’ll find it somewhere else, in mechanics or messaging or candidate quality or even insufficient fidelity to the philosophical underpinnings of the party. Or maybe a combo platter of these alternatives to being wrong about important things.

Believe me, an alternative explanation will be built and will quickly become CW, certainly among Republicans but possibly in the MSM as well. I encourage all conservative-watchers to give a quick read to a Byron York article that seized on Sean Trende’s tentative finding (which I mentioned in yesterday’s last post) that Romney’s problem in Ohio was a dropoff in turnout by white voters, not anything positive that Obama did. Ah, could it be that Mitt just didn’t fire up these nice white people sufficiently? York’s tentative conclusion:

[I]t’s fair to say Romney’s problems stemmed as much from his failure to appeal to white voters as his failure to appeal to any other voters. He lost because he did not connect to large swaths of the voting population.
That’s where finding a great candidate comes in. Romney is an able, accomplished, intelligent and hard-working man, but Republicans knew from the start he was an imperfect candidate. During the primaries, GOP voters tried every alternative possible before finally settling on Romney. He remained a flawed candidate in the general election.
Now, because of Romney’s loss, some are urging that the Republican Party completely remake itself. Some argue that GOP lawmakers must support comprehensive immigration reform and change positions on other issues. The answer, they say, is broad, across-the-board change….
There is a less complicated lesson to this election. Voters want to believe in a candidate. If Republicans find that candidate, they will win.

So why go wandering off into those sketchy neighborhoods full of dangerous people looking for votes, O Party of the Great White Fathers? You just need candidates that get all of the good people of this country fired up, just like Obama’s fired up The Others. When you’ve got 100% turnout in the exurbs, then, and only then, will it maybe be time to look elsewhere, and horror or horrors, look at the party’s “philosophical underpinnings” to see if perhaps there’s some rot.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Mudge on November 09, 2012 9:46 AM:

    Sounds like a situation that calls for voter supression. I'm sure Trende really meant that Ohio was unable to suppress the Domocratic vote sufficiently. They'll work on that..and I see Husted is now advocating splitting the electoral college vote amongst Congressional districts..having been nicely gerrymandered by the Ohio Republican state legislature.

  • sjw on November 09, 2012 9:46 AM:

    Geez, this Republican Reformation, if it even happens, is going to be one long, messy, f**ked up affair.

  • stormskies on November 09, 2012 9:48 AM:

    Until they learn or can point the fingers at themselves, to look in the mirror in an objective way, they will just keep being and doing the same old thing over and over.

    And that will only lead to a PROGRESSIVE rejection of them as the demographic changes of our country accelerate.

    And that can only be good for our country.

  • gregor on November 09, 2012 9:49 AM:

    Or they can just pay a few million dollars to Frank Lutz and come up with a larger number of bigger words to lie. For example Obama did not win, but he mugged Romney in broad daylight.

  • David in NY on November 09, 2012 9:49 AM:

    Before they decide that firing up the whiteys is the way to go, they better listen to Lindsey Graham -- they can't make more angry white guys fast enough. And they might listen even to Kevin Drum, who says you can't get Hispanic (and other minority) voted until you cut out the "gratuitous ethnic mockery," the "pretense that pretense that reverse racism is the real racism," the "suggestions that minorities just want a handout," the "screeching about the incipient threat of Sharia law," and so on. They'll be the Grand Old Party of the Confederacy, and vanish in history, if they don't cut the racist appeals out.

  • Josef K on November 09, 2012 9:51 AM:

    When you’ve got 100% turnout in the exurbs, then, and only then, will it maybe be time to look elsewhere, and horror or horrors, look at the party’s “philosophical underpinnings” to see if perhaps there’s some rot.

    That would take a dram more moral courage and intellectual maturity than the GOP and its movement drones are apparently capable of right now. Just my own opinion there.

  • c u n d gulag on November 09, 2012 9:54 AM:

    GOP POV:
    It's NOT the racism, or misogyny, or xenophobia, or homophobia, or ageism, or anti-labor efforts!
    Or our steady march back to the 1850's.

    Our ideology is sound - it's just our messaging that needs some tweaking!

    And we're rapidly running out of angry white men and women, so we'd like to thank the Liberals for their suggestion that we "GO FECK" ourselves!

    It seems like wise council, indeed!
    And who will take the brunt of the blame?

    Mitt Romney.
    Conservatism cannot fail! It can only be failed.

    Modern Conservtism learned something from the Communist nations that they hated and feared:
    They are a cult, it search of a personility!

    Oh, where or wher is their Lenin, Stalin, or Mao?

    Of course, they'll have to drape the American flag over him, and hand him the Bible - so, what they're looking for, is the next Reagain.

  • T2 on November 09, 2012 9:57 AM:

    with the exception of TeaPartiers, most of us don't like being lied to.

    I find it quite funny that the GOP and Romney were soooo certain of victory. It is precisely that sense of Entitlement that the majority of Americans picked up on very quickly.....and rejected. Romney felt he should be president just because he felt he should. That's not a winning reason.

  • TP on November 09, 2012 9:58 AM:

    Presidential elections are very different than off year elections.
    What factors will affect 2014? Improving economy? Successful obama standoff over
    Fiscal cliff? Lower dem turnout? Huge influx of superPAC money
    In down ballot elections ? The last is my biggest concern. $100k goes a long
    way in a state rep election.

  • Jim M on November 09, 2012 9:58 AM:

    Thing is, Ed, the 2014 election is likely to confirm their belief that it was just a demographic blip. Like 2010, the midterm electorate will be smaller, whiter, and older than the one in 2012. And I don't think economic improvement will distinguish 2014 results from 2010 very much. Dems need to do big GOTV if they want to defend, or this could get weird.

  • ex-curm on November 09, 2012 9:59 AM:

    Rush Limbaugh was asserting that "3 million conservatives" stayed home, and that was the only problem.

  • bkmn on November 09, 2012 10:01 AM:

    Sales are falling. What to do?

    You put a new wrapper on it...but sales still continue to fall. But we've done everything we can!! OH NO!!!

    When you have a bad product all the wrapper changes in the world are not going to help.

    Can ya learn that lesson GOP?

  • Ronald on November 09, 2012 10:02 AM:

    wait a moment...they're using _polls_ to determine what went wrong?

    Well, there's your problem!

    Y'all didn't listen to the polls the first time, what makes anybody want to believe them now?


    From the same article:
    “This is no different than a patient going to see a doctor,” said Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s spokesman. “Your number one thing is to say, ‘I’m not feeling well. Tell me what the problem is. Run some tests on me.’ ”

    The Republicans, though are refusing to accept the diagnosis as to what's wrong! It like the Doctor saying 'you have cancer', and the patient saying 'no no. I don't. Run more tests.' And the Dr saying 'we've run more tests, it is still cancer', and the patient saying 'It can't be. Must be diabetes. Yeah. Give me medicine for that.'

    Live by the echo chamber, die by the echo chamber...

  • Patrick Star on November 09, 2012 10:02 AM:

    I'm just gobsmacked that the R's are so shocked that they lost. How can a political movement so disconnected from reality consider itself qualified to run the most powerful country on earth? It kinda gives me chills to consider the consequences for the country, and the world, of a Romney victory.

  • millsapian87 on November 09, 2012 10:04 AM:

    David in NY is on to it. Thanks to Nixon's Southern Strategy, the GOP is overrun by the racist whites that formerly made up the Solid (Democratic) South. The GOP like to smugly point out that the Democrats were the party of the Klan and Jim Crow, and Condi Rice famously said that she is a Republican because of how poorly her father was treated by Democrats back in the day. Fair enough, but those Democrats are Republicans now, the result of a deliberate strategy by the GOP.

    When modern Republicans open their mouths and say what the really think and believe (Akin, Mourdoch, Angle, et al) people are rightly horrified and appalled. Finally the chickens are coming home to roost. When you court and cater to assholes for political gain, eventually you become known as the Asshole Party and nobody (except other assholes) will vote for you.

    It is my fervent hope that this is what we are seeing now.

  • sparrow on November 09, 2012 10:07 AM:

    It will of course never occur to them that the simple fact was that majority of voters simply didn't buy the crap they were selling. To the Republicans, it's all about packaging, not a problem with the content. OK by me though.

  • Rick B on November 09, 2012 10:12 AM:

    Yep. It has started already. The Republican problem is not the (idiotic) conservative ideology that drives them. It's the fault of inadequate candidates carrying the message.

    When the message is rejected, blame the messengers and find better messengers.

    How very, very conservative of them. It's also exactly what the Communists used to do in the USSR. The meme has built in ways of defending itself. The "idea, behavior or style" defends itself by rejecting failed messengers and recruiting new ones to replicate itself.

    Can we just rename the Republican Party as the party of potential conservative meme-carriers?

  • berttheclock on November 09, 2012 10:15 AM:

    @T2, but, those Tea Party types and mainstream Republicans have been lied to and they have bought the lies. This AM on "Morning Joe", David Frum spoke of how the powers to be have lied to their constitutents. He said he attended many Tea Party rallies and asked the same questions. When, asked whether their taxes have been raised in the last four years, they, collectively, yelled "YES". He told them their taxes had not been raised and they wouldn't believe him. He asked whether $1 trillion dollars was being spent by the Federal Government on Welfare and, they, collectively, yelled "Yes". When he told them that was false, they wouldn't believe him. Those people have bought into the many lies fed to them by opportunists. BTW, try to explain to them that the vast majority of the debt under President Obama was a result of two things. First, the Emergency debt incurred by the Wars in the Middle East were transferred openly as debt when President Obama took office. The other massive part was due to the Bush tax cuts not supplying needed revenue for paying for those debts and adding far more debt. However, those who have been lied to and accepted the lies as "Fact", will, collectively, scream "NO".

  • Ron Byers on November 09, 2012 10:17 AM:

    We have to remember that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh sit astride the conservative communication machinery. Neither has any interest in identifying and solving what is going horribly wrong in the modern Republican party. In fact both benefit from continued dysfunction. I feel sorry for Republicans. They are wandering around clueless and that is the way Fox News wants to keep it.

  • berttheclock on November 09, 2012 10:22 AM:

    "Fox loves me, this I know, because, Rush told me so. The demoncrats are weak, but, we Republicans are strong, We will never have to just get along, Yes, Fox loves me, yes, Fox loves me................"

  • Bo on November 09, 2012 10:23 AM:

    Excellent post, Ed. You have it exactly right. The GOPers are going to do what they always do in the aftermath of their gut-wrenching defeat -- they will swallow the camel and strain out the gnats.

    This was amply demonstrated by Condi Rice on the CBS morning program today. In a nutshell, she said that the republicans lost because "we are misunderstood". Of course, it is exactly the reverse -- the GOPers and teabaggRs lost precisely because they ARE understood. They are "marketers" more concerned with "protecting their brand" than with leading, governing or dealing with the challenges of the nation.

    They don't show any hope of recognizing that it's not the messenger -- it's the message; it's not the packaging -- it's the product. They are and will continue to be self-unaware and unenlighted I fear.

  • paul on November 09, 2012 10:28 AM:

    "... meetings with constituency group leaders, and in-depth discussions with their volunteers, donors and staff members to find ways to broaden their appeal."

    Here's a hint from the business world: You don't ask people who are already in your camp how to broaden your appeal. That's like McDonalds asking people in their restaurants how to get people who don't currently eat fast food to change their habits.

  • Nick on November 09, 2012 10:28 AM:

    In just a few trips around the dial last night, I heard several GOP types prattle about 'messaging.'

    Excellent plan! Come up with a marketing scheme to sell ten pounds of crap in five-pound bags.

    I swear I am loving this like mad. The air is sweeter, the birds are singing ... I mean I am LOVING it!

  • joanneinDenver on November 09, 2012 10:32 AM:

    Well, I have learned a lot from this election. I am a listener of right wing talk radio because there is little else in Denver. Radio is preferred because of an eye problem. I was convinced that there was a Romney momentum, based on what I was hearing.

    Plus, the "drums" of talk radio were instrumental in forging the Senate victory of in MA in 2010, the Republican mid-term sweeps in 2010 and the loss in Wisconsin. Those "drums" facilitated and predicted each one of those Republican victories. So I share surprise with the shocked Republicans.

    But, will happen, I hope, is that right wing radio may fall of its own weight. I think it will lose credibility. Right now, the talk is all about moving further to the right and challenging Boehner in a primary, etc. etc. There is also the sense of "despair:...it is all over. The latter speaks to a greater divide and more bitterness on the part of the losers and that does not bare well for the country.

    But, I stand ready to learn a lot more. I am very encouraged that the propaganda machine failed.

  • Barbara on November 09, 2012 10:34 AM:

    I grew up in Western Pennsylvania not far from Ohio, so I feel like I have some insight into the political dynamics of so-called Reagan Democrats -- probably the voters most likely to have stayed home (which seems to be some kind of emerging narrative).

    The truth is, these voters have never voted Republican because of its so-called "economic liberty for all" platform, but out of fear that they were losing their place and privilege in some kind of new world order. These are the "what's the matter with Kansas" people whose voting habits confounded Democrats -- why are they voting so repeatedly against their economic interests?

    If the Republican party were to go all-in on its economic message, pretty much as Romney did, these voters won't bite. The really good news is that the dog whistling did not seem to be enough to get them to vote this time either. In my view, it really is in Obama's ballpark now, to persuade them that Democrats are not playing a zero sum game that can only give to "others" by taking from "them." Honestly, I think that they should have figured this out with Bill Clinton, and probably many did. So while the economy was not improved enough to reward Obama, they no longer see Republican messaging as being in their interests -- Kasich's bloodlust for unionized workers no doubt played a big role in unmasking the true face of Republican ends.

    Also, I don't buy the "we were shellshocked" story. I think it's a face saver -- in my view, anyone confident of winning Ohio would not have put "Jeep is sending your jobs to China" on the air at the last minute. That was always a high risk strategy that could have been undertaken only because they did not see the kind of positive turnout numbers from these same kinds of voters that they needed to be there.

  • beejeez on November 09, 2012 10:38 AM:

    You guys are way too pessismistic. Sure their leaders are soulless suits, but large numbers of their constituents are our perfectly nice if poorly informed families and neighbors. If the GOP runs "a series of voter-based polls and focus groups, meetings with constituency group leaders, and in-depth discussions with their volunteers, donors and staff members to find ways to broaden their appeal," I think their findings will quickly swamp their determination to maintain the party's "philosophical underpinnings." I am encouraged that the party is asking people questions instead of telling people what their opinions should be.

  • Robb on November 09, 2012 11:04 AM:

    Honestly, I still think we-- the liberals-- are the ones who are screwed.

    I think all that really separates 2010 from 2012 is turn-out... and their foot soldiers are still more likely to show up on off-years.
    They won the ability to gerrymander most of the map, which mains they have a strong structural control of the House. We might have a slight advantage for the Presidency, but we won't be able to get the House for at least a decade.

    The conservatives lie to themselves and think they can just tweak one issue (immigration this time) and win... but really America rejects their whole philosophy.
    But what does it matter?
    They still show up in off-years and they still shove the Overton Window to the right.

    We win the Presidency... but they still win wherever it counts, popular opinion be damned.

  • Ron Byers on November 09, 2012 11:13 AM:

    Robb, the answer to your concerns is really simple. We have to organize in off years. For reasons that escape me our "leaders" think in four year cycles. The Republicans are always working. We need to immediately dive into party building and work to win elections from dog catcher up. We need to expand beyond our urban base into suburbia and then exurbia. The Republican party around here starts early and stays late. The Democratic party goes back to whatever they do between presidential elections.

  • Bokonon on November 09, 2012 11:16 AM:

    The Karl Rove approach would be to use those focus group results to create new and better attack ads ... and better propaganda ... to deliver one or two more percentage points to the GOP's vote total.

    No retooling. Just different messaging.

    Of course, if we were talking REAL introspection here, the GOP would address the fact that they already tried this, and went all out with that same strategy in this election. They already used focus groups and narrowcasting, said they ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that particular demographic groups wanted to hear. Loudly. Over and over. Backed by millions of dollars of advertising. And it didn't work.

  • Gary on November 09, 2012 11:17 AM:

    What is the MSM?

  • Perspecticus on November 09, 2012 11:22 AM:

    It probably doesn't matter, and I would hate to think anything I say might budge a "conservative" off his/her "core principles," but apparently Rmoney gathered the exact same percentage of the white vote as Sir Ronald of Reagan, yet mysteriously did not win 49 states. Perhaps the problem was how they presented their message, or maybe it was Obama baselessly and cruelly painting Rmoney in a light that revealed who Rmnoney truly is?

  • vvo on November 09, 2012 11:23 AM:

    You know what amazes me the most about all this ? it is that the believed their own BS.
    I always thought that the guys who are spewing the message still had enough grasp on reality that they knew they were selling damaged goods. but no, they are all flabbergasted, from Rush to Hannity to Rove to Romney himself. One more good reason to be happy he was not elected, if he is naive like that to believe the BS from his own bubble

  • Sector 7 G on November 09, 2012 11:49 AM:

    "If Republicans find that (perfect) candidate, they will win." I have a little advice for them: look for a guy riding a unicorn, because the odds of finding a unicorn are slightly better than those for finding that candidate. Ronald Reagan would be unelectable for his social policies, Jesus Christ for his economic policies. I do not want to see what kind of monster they would have to have to stitch together to meet their criteria.

  • Rick B on November 09, 2012 11:54 AM:

    @joanneinDenver 10:32 AM

    Let me suggest that you listen to KERA radio out of Dallas. It is mostly National Public Radio news - talk all day long. If your only alternative is right-wing talk radio you will never go back.

    It's mostly national NPR - PRI - BBC news, with an outstanding local program called "Think" on Monday thru Thursday from noon 'till 2:00 PM (Central time) which is two segments of talks with excellent authors by Krys Boyd. They should offer grad school credit for listening to "Think." They are also available in podcasts. 9:00 AM to 11:00 is Diane Rheme, 11:00 AM to noon is Terry Gross.

    I prefer KERA to the Houston NPR stations.

  • wheresthebeef on November 09, 2012 12:00 PM:

    The Republican party is in an inescapable death spiral entirely of its own making. As we've seen from this election, their only hope (in the long term) is to find a way to broaden their appeal among Latinos, Blacks and the young. Any reality-based analysis of the election results and the demographic trends in America will demonstrate that this, and not doubling down on their out-of-touch philosophy or slathering the same lipstick on a more attractive pig, is the only way that they can hope to remain viable as a political party.
    Their quandary is that they've made themselves so dependent, both electorally and financially, on a base (as the David Frum anecdote illustrates) that's either unable or unwilling to accept reality, and which rejects entirely the concept of compromise. Any move toward moderation, and they run the real risk of losing more of their base than they could possibly hope to gain elsewhere, leaving them damned if they do, and damned if they don't.
    My bet is that they'll have to continue to dance with the ones that brung 'em rather than take the chance of having no dance partner at all. They may (or may not) moderate their language at the national leadership level, but they'll continue to obstruct any movement toward progressive (or even centrist) solutions to the nation's problems, continue to coddle the tea party faction in the House and continue to insist that it's the messenger, and not the message, that's the cause of their woes. They have no other option.

  • bigtuna on November 09, 2012 12:01 PM:

    What really impresses me is the speed that some of the Rs are trotting out memes - maybe to try them out? Obama suppressed the vote; the 'takers' of society vote for Dems etc. that are as insulting as some of the things they did to piss us off before the election.

    However, what I am really amazed by is the press. NOT EVEN ONE day after the election, they interview the same dumb shits who lied, spun, and bullshitted them for months. Who gives a f*** what Karl Rove thinks about the future; or Dick Morris; etc. There is no introspection seeminingly, within the press, to see if maybe these arses are not really giving them anything newsworthy. It is sad commentary when Megyn Kelly is a good example of calling bullshit, twice, on Rove.

  • joanneinDenver on November 09, 2012 12:15 PM:

    Rick B.

    We do have NPR in Denver, but only one hour is local. What I like about local talk radio is the chance to listen to other Coloradans. We have about 100 hours a week of local talk radio. About 20 percent of that is sports talk. We do have a "progressive" station, but only about 15 hours a week is local. The rest is almost all Republicans hosts preaching to the choir.

    But, I do thank you for your information. "Think" sounds really interesting.
    I think I can get it on the Internet.

  • Peter C on November 09, 2012 12:22 PM:

    My takeaway from this is very similar to that of @Ron Byers: the Republicans are studying the election results and making plans for 2014 AND WE SHOULD TOO!

    Here's one proposal: WE SHOULD PLAN AND HOLD AN OFF-YEAR CONVENTION in 2014. Conventions no longer really pick Presidential nominees, but they do galvanize, they reinforce, they motivate, and they spread our message. I think our convention really helped our election efforts this year. There is no reason we have to stick to an 'every 4 years' paradigm.

    We have to act like a party all the time and not just every 4 years. We have to act like more than just a national party; we've got to build locally all the time.

  • bdop4 on November 09, 2012 12:30 PM:

    Jim M and Robb - I don't think 2010 is going to repeat itself in 2014, mainly because the House will be the sole obstruction to accomplishing anything, and will require a big effort to bring a Dem majority (or at least a workable coalition). I don't think people are going to get fooled twice (if so, shame on them).

    Beejeez, I just don't see the rightwing bubble bursting in the next few election cycles. Self-introspection is not a strong suit with conservatives. They'll try to put lipstick on the pig, but that won't work anymore.

  • Rabbler on November 09, 2012 12:35 PM:

    So much for the power of positive thinking.

    Perhaps this can be added to the stuffed quiver of examples of the right's unwillingness to face reality. A brave face during the conflict is de regueur, but a circle jerk of delusion is more than a little embarrassing. They actually do believe reality is their punk.

  • Peter Principle on November 09, 2012 12:50 PM:

    Shhhhh! We don't want to discourage them.

  • dianne on November 09, 2012 12:51 PM:

    Go over to Ace of Spades - they are commenting about the Repub's Orca program which is some sort of app for poll watchers - so funny. A giant fail, I guess.

  • Anonymous on November 09, 2012 1:14 PM:

    @ Rick B.

    Thank you, again. I am listening now! The link worked well.

  • BJ smith on November 09, 2012 2:50 PM:

    Whew! Patrick, me too! That's what happens when you make stuff up. No one should doubt they co-ordinated their internal polls with Fox or maybe even just let Fox do their internals. Main stream polls, & especially Nate had it right from the very beginning,all the way to the end, with just a slight dip after the first debate. Romney NEVER had a lead. You really can't just make it up, but they did. How you can explain that is beyond me.

  • Rick Massimo on November 09, 2012 3:29 PM:

    And it will never occur to the GOP that some of these "white voters" are also women, who may or may not be too crazy about running all requests for contraception past a panel of clergymen.