GOP Effort Falls Short
Columnist's post-election wrap up includes a mea culpa.
What I Got Right: The Electoral College numbers.
What Else I Got Right: Not much.
With very little time to process it and absolutely no time to dig through exit poll cross tabs, here’s what I saw last night.
First, while I got the Electoral College vote numbers almost exactly right, I got the candidate completely wrong. As predicted, many swing states were close, but in the end almost everyone one broke for the incumbent.
From a political analysis point of view, this is a surprise for many reasons. Traditionally, when the incumbent has approval ratings as low as Barack Obama’s, he loses. Traditionally, an election like this brings greater turnout from the opposition. Traditionally, late-deciders always break for the challenger. Tradition was blown to pieces last night.
What pundits and talking heads will debate for the next several weeks will be why. Unemployment remains near 8 percent and job creation isn’t keeping up with population growth, the President’s “signature” legislation continues to be widely unpopular, more Americans continue to live in poverty, Americans now carry more debt per capita than the citizens of Greece, the President continues to plan huge spending and debt increases and America continues on the path to economic collapse. And yet the American people chose four more years.
I call it a complete communications breakdown. The Democratic effort was extremely effective at framing the debate, making a huge election about small things. No matter where you stand politically, there is no denying that on every issue that has come up in the general election, the mainstream media protected and promoted the President, including but not limited to underperforming jobs numbers and what will eventually turn into the political scandal of our lifetimes, the assassination of four Americans in an unprotected Consulate in Benghazi. And the Republican effort, while extremely well-organized and fueled by great enthusiasm, fell short of connecting the dots and closing the deal.
In New Hampshire races, there is no question that the results of the gubernatorial race impacted the entire ticket. Again, the Democratic effort was successful at diverting the attention from $900 million deficits, devastating taxation and crushing growth of government to talk instead about fabricated charges and small ideas.
But in the end, it is up to the candidates and the party to articulate their message. While we can identify many influences on how the message was framed, the ultimate responsibility for communicating with voters belongs to the candidate. Campaigns are not birthday parties and politics is not children’s play. It is a tough business that requires skill, discipline and dedication to a higher purpose. If you are going to succeed and connect with voters, you need a strong and honest message and both the ability and willingness to take on all comers, whether it is a dishonest opponent or a biased press.
I will write more about the consequences this election will have on future generations later, but for now, there are some hard lessons to be learned here; lessons about organization, turnout and voter insecurity.
A note of caution, however, to Democrats in general and President Obama in particular: while the Electoral College may look like a landslide, the popular vote was not. If the next four years look very much like the last four years, the results in 2016 will be dramatically different.