Why, How, What Now?

It’s been almost a week, and it’s still hard to fathom. Mitt Romney was so confident in a victory that he created a transition web site and planned a fireworks show in Boston.

Headlines claim that Romney was “shell-shocked” when he realized that he had lost. Mitt didn’t see it coming. That sad fact underscores the magnitude of the campaign disaster that was the Romney/GOP organization. Unbelievably, John McCain got more votes in 2008 than Mitt Romney in 2012. And this occurred against a backdrop of a weak economy teetering on the brink of another recession, less than 2% GDP growth, record high unemployment, the assassination of our Ambassador in Libya by Al Qaeda, a cover-up by the Administration, a bungled FEMA response to Hurricane Sandy, and a President who ran a nasty, negative campaign with no vision for the future.

Why were the Democrats successful? Four reasons:

First, they are masters of propaganda. Before Romney was even chosen as the nominee, the Obama strategy was to “kill Romney.” They successfully portrayed Romney as a callous, rich, white, pro-business multi-millionaire who is “not one of us.” They called him a felon, a murderer, a tax cheat, a racist; Joe Biden warned that Romney would put people “back in chains.” Democrats alleged that Republicans would take away African Americans’ right to vote. This barrage of ads hit the airwaves in television ads beginning in May and ran throughout the election; the Romney campaign did not respond in kind, citing lack of funds. The Obama campaign also didn’t have the money but went into debt to run the ads prior to general campaign funds being available. Class warfare, the 1% versus the 99%, rich versus poor, white versus minority, the Democrats never stopped their propaganda. Republicans did not answer the attack. Game over.

Second, the Democrats have invested heavily in infrastructure. Following the 2008 campaign, they kept field offices open in preparation for 2012. Dems never stopped campaigning, micro-targeting and identifying new voters. The Obama campaign registered 1.8 million voters in key battleground states, nearly double their 2008 tally, with an impressive 125 million personal telephone calls and door knocks. Also, their internal pollsters were accurate, and their GOTV program is sophisticated.

Third, Obama ran as “Santa Claus.” For women, he promised free contraceptives; for Hispanics, he promised amnesty; for students, free college loans. More food stamps, more government programs, free Obama cell phones, the list goes on and on. As Rush Limbaugh said, “In a nation of children, Santa Claus wins.” Exit polls showed that voters overwhelming believed that Obama “cared about people like me.”

Fourth, stating the obvious, demographics are changing in America. The Hispanic vote was up; the white vote was down. It’s clear that Republicans are not successfully communicating our message to Hispanics, Blacks, Asians, young people and single women. This should not have been surprising to the Romney campaign, although GOP pollsters did not believe that the turnout would look the same as it did in 2008; they were wrong. If Romney had turned out the same amount of voters as McCain he could have won.

How did the Democrats win? Obama won small, but a victory is a victory.

Obama’s vote tally in 2012 was 9 million fewer votes than 2008, yet he still won. How is that possible? He ran an overwhelmingly negative campaign with no positive vision for the future. He defined our nominee before we could. Obama’s campaign from 2008 never shut down; it continued for four years. Just one example, in Ohio Obama had 131 field offices compared to Romney’s 40. Obama’s campaign had superior GOTV methodology and software. In comparison, Romney’s campaign used a new super-secret voter turnout program named Orca. The much-hyped program was evidently untested, rolled out on the eve of Election Day, and ultimately failed miserably. Worse, there was no Plan B when it didn’t work. Volunteers were unable to do their job, and the result was a lower turnout for Romney than McCain’s 2008 turnout.

What now?

The RNC needs to open up field offices in the battleground states beginning now. It costs a lot of money, but if we are to be competitive, that is what it is going to take.

Figure out the best GOTV software, beta test it before Election Day 2016, and start using it now. Republicans must find the best and brightest tech guys to compete with the Democrats. We know they are out there; find them and hire them. Same with pollsters. Liberal analyst Nate Silver of the New York Times called every single state correctly.

The Republican primary has too many candidates, goes on for too long, and drains precious resources from the nominee. Anyone who wants to run for President can certainly run, but Republicans need to get real: Let’s choose a conservative who can win, and let’s do it early. How about we agree on Marco Rubio now, and let’s not fight it out until the bitter end. And how about a conservative woman as vice president? Choosing a candidate based solely on race or gender rather than on merit is not the normal conservative path, but it just so happens that Marco Rubio is young, conservative, articulate, fabulous, happens to be Hispanic, and is traveling to Iowa this week. Done deal.

Conservative ideas did not lose. Several moderates lost their Senate races, along with conservative candidates. Republicans gained governors, bringing the total to 30. When two-thirds of the states have a GOP Governor, we should be able to win the White House. Again, it’s been obvious for quite some time, but we need a candidate who can overcome Democrat propaganda by communicating our principles. While Romney did win the first debate, he was not the most effective campaigner when it came to persuading voters. We need communication, not moderation.

Stop hiring the establishment monopoly of Republican operative good old boys. No consultant who was involved in the McCain or Romney campaigns should be hired for 2016. Two strikes and you’re out. It seems obvious that Mitt Romney was hustled by consultants who told him he was winning when in fact he wasn’t. Some of these staffers were paid millions and millions of dollars, and they were shamefully incompetent. Beginning with the fatal bad advice to ignore the early “kill Romney” ads, to an abysmal ground game, climaxing in a multi-million dollar untested turnout program that did not work on Election Day, it is hard to even imagine how this campaign could have been worse. There are sure to be some who say that we should not criticize Romney’s campaign, and I certainly wish we didn’t have to, but seriously, this is embarrassing. Romney was a better candidate than McCain, and Romney deserved much more. He and Paul Ryan did leave it all on the field.