Inside footage of Republican operatives on Election Night
A little less than a week ago, the founders of this site were reeling as Swing State after Swing State reported their results and swung – hard – for Barack Obama and against Mitt Romney. Obama won eight of nine of the hotly contested States, sealing the fate of the 2012 Presidential Election. We are saddened, but not surprised, that our home State of Ohio provided Obama his winning edge. (See our previous post about the difficulties facing Romney in securing Ohio’s electoral votes.) At the end of the process, Obama obtained the votes of approximately 51% of the electorate (62.1 million votes of 120.8 million ballots cast) and compiled an impressive 332-206 Electoral College victory to comfortably win reelection. The Republican party is left scratching its collective head as exit polls suggest the ‘broken glass’ election they anticipated -- i.e., their supporters would crawl over broken glass to vote against Obama -- was far from a reality.
The Sons took a little time to let these results, and the inevitable gloats of the winners and recriminations of the losers, wash over them. We now offer the following brief post-election observations and commentary.
It’s Very Hard to Beat an Incumbent. History proves that incumbent Presidents are rarely defeated. In recent memory, the only exceptions are Jimmy Carter and George Bush (Senior). (Ford was not an elected incumbent, so he doesn’t count.) In the case of Carter, the country essentially threw him out of office. We were experiencing an excruciating and demoralizing hostage crisis, Stagflation (the combination of very high unemployment and very high inflation), and a general sense of national malaise. Ronald Reagan was a once-in-a-generation candidate who hit his stride. Even in 1980, the polls suggested a dead heat until just before Election Day. In the case of Bush Senior, I am convinced the dynamics of a viable three-candidate race (remember Ross Perot?), along with the last minute indictment of Casper Weinberger by the Iran Contra Special Prosecutor, altered the trajectory of that race and contributed mightily to Clinton’s victory in 1992.
As an incumbent, Obama had the impressive and powerful levers of the Executive Office at his disposal. Every day for four years, the public saw Obama as the sitting President, with Air Force One, the Presidential Seal, the State of the Union Address, daily press briefings and the occasional press conference, all reinforcing the fact that Obama is the President. Not to mention the use/abuse of Presidential power practiced by this particular incumbent (Executive Orders benefitting unions, implementing immigration reform, altering welfare reform, the HHS Mandates, etc., as previously discussed in this blog) all of which enhanced his position with special interest groups. Quite obviously, Romney did not make a convincing case that Obama should be unseated as the incumbent.
The 2012 election is really the mirror image of the 2004 Kerry-Bush Election. Kerry looked strong in several of the Presidential Debates, the incumbent seemed a bit flat-footed at the outset of the campaign, and momentum appeared to be on the side of the challenger. In both elections, the incumbent pivoted and directed his campaign not so much as a defense of his first administration (compared to Reagan’s sunny and optimistic 1984 reelection campaign of “It’s Morning in America”), but an indictment of the personality and character of the challenger. In retrospect, and as reflected by recent history, it is an uphill battle for any challenger to defeat an incumbent.
The Successful Reagan "Morning in America" Ads
One additional note: the advent of early voting schedules across the country, in our opinion, gave Obama a running start from which Romney never recovered. In our home jurisdiction of Hamilton County, the early voting lines were continuously long and consisted primarily of minority voters whom, we now know, nationally broke over 70% (Hispanic) and 95% (Black) for Obama.
The War on Women…Worked. An integral element of the Obama reelection campaign was the so-called “War on Women” waged by Republicans generally and Mitt Romney specifically. The first salvo of the War was launched by
Obama spokesperson ABC correspondent George Stephanopoulos during one of the myriad Republican Primary Debates when he asked Romney, seemingly out of left field, whether the States could legally ban birth control/contraceptives. Romney responded as though George had just asked him his position on UFO Invasions. Nonetheless, the seed was planted and the mission launched: the Obama campaign would fear-monger the Republican candidate – who turned out to be Mitt Romney -- as the evil Moralists at the Gate who would deny women their God-given right to practice birth control. The HHS followed soon thereafter with its controversial mandates requiring all employers who offer health insurance to provide contraceptives, sterilizations and abortifacent drugs at no cost to their female employees. (As we have discussed at length, this mandate applied to most Catholic employers, despite the fact the requirement directly contradicts and is in blatant violation of Church Dogma.) Obama Campaign references to the life of Julia only drummed into the consciousness of the single woman that she is, essentially, a ward of the benevolent Federal masters (see Jack's insightful comments here.) This was all part of a coordinated effort to woo single and divorced women to cast their ballots for Obama.
Exit polls prove that single women broke hard for Obama. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the farcical “War on Women,” as well as Obama’s position on other social issues (gay marriage), played a very significant role in this voting bloc. While the Republican War on Women is of course a sham, imbecilic comments about rape made by Republican Senatorial candidates Todd Akin (Missouri) and Richard Mourdoch (Indiana) not only doomed their own campaigns but reinforced to the casual voter that there may be some legitimacy to this propaganda. The Obama Campaign also seized upon a casual reference by Romney in the second debate to ‘binders of women’ as evidence of his inherent chauvinism.
Grudgingly, and disappointingly, we have to acknowledge the War on Women worked.
The Demise of the Reagan Coalition? Conservatives and Republicans speak fondly of ‘the Reagan Coalition’ – the combination of small business owners, rural farmers and ranchers, inhabitants of small and medium towns, blue collar workers (some of whom were union members), married couples and their families, evangelicals, etc., that drove Reagan to a convincing victory in 1980 and an electoral Tsunami in 1984. Every Republican Presidential candidate since has yearned to resurrect the Reagan coalition in the hopes it would lead to electoral victory. Bush the Elder won the 1988 election -- against a lackluster candidate (ironically, also a former Governor of Massachusetts) -- on the premise of a third Reagan term. Bush was turned out of office with a viable third party candidate taking 20% of the vote, and when the country decided it no longer needed a Cold War President after the Berlin Wall fell. Since the 1988 Election, Republicans have won the popular vote in only one of six Presidential elections (2004, when Bush the younger gained 51% of the popular vote, about the same as Obama in 2012).
Ronald Reagan: a giant of a man
Message to Republican candidates: it’s nearly impossible to recreate the Reagan Coalition when you do not have the qualities of a generational candidate such as Ronald Reagan. Reagan honed his rhetorical skills for years as an actor, a spokesman for General Electric and Wagon Train, a public speaker and radio commentator. He was a successful two-term governor of our largest state – California -- in difficult times, and learned how to cobble together warring factions to win elections against popular incumbents. Reagan could easily have been the Republican Presidential nominee in 1968, should have been the nominee in 1976, and was a popular nominee in 1980 and 1984. Reagan spoke eloquently and movingly of the promise of America. He made Americans feel better about themselves and their country. He stood unambiguously for personal responsibility and less Government, stronger national defense, and the defeat of the Soviet Union and related Communist menace.
All that said, even the great Ronald Reagan would have a difficult time winning a Presidential Election with the 2012 Electorate. The country has changed dramatically in the 32 years since Reagan was first elected. The Soviet Union and Communism no longer pose a security threat. China is now our largest trading partner. Our most serious threat to national security is an amorphous, boundary-less terrorist mindset which is manifested throughout the world. The U.S. is a different place socially than it was in 1980. Gay and Lesbian interest groups are loud and proud, and demand political homage for their support. We have fewer intact families, especially among whites. Communication is instant and abundant. Businesses must prove their environmental bona fides. A Carbon Tax seems not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ and ‘how much.’
I am equally confident that a Ronald Reagan, were he to run today, would not waver from his core and fundamental principles of vital national defense, lower taxes, controlling the regulatory reach of government, strong families and communities, and personal responsibility. Ronald Reagan is dead. His coalition may not be recoverable. But future Republican candidates must conform Reagan’s core principles – which should continue to be the foundation of the Republican ideology - to today’s social and economic environment to create a new winning coalition.
So, last Tuesday was not a good day for the Sons of Cincinnatus or, in our humble opinion, the country. We lick our wounds and perform an autopsy on the unsuccessful Romney Campaign (and the pathetic Republican showing in most of the Senate races) so we can have a better day tomorrow and, optimistically, in the 2014 mid-term elections and four years from now as fresh slates of potential Presidential candidates emerge from both parties. We implore the Republican House to stand firm against the tyranny of an empowered Executive and an even stronger Democrat majority in the Senate. We urge the Republican leadership to anoint Rob Portman, the very capable Senator from Ohio, as the designated leader to recruit and train competent candidates for the 34 Senate elections in 2014. We beseech the 30 Republican Governors to apply core principles of lower taxation, less regulatory burden, and personal responsibility in their respective States.
And we commit, here and now, to continue our effort to, in some small way, provide a unique perspective on the political news and trends of the day. We hope you, dear reader, will continue to indulge us and join in the ride.And in the spirit of providing cinematic inspiration, we offer the following for your consideration: