There has been much talk about the “lost” voters who backed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) but who did not turn out for Mitt Romney in 2012. Well, there aren’t that many of them, as it turns out.
As of last Friday, Romney’s popular vote total was 59,142,004, about 800,000 short of McCain’s total. By contrast, President Obama’s has reached 62,615,406. That is about 7 million fewer than he got in 2008. With that perspective, you can understand how a malfunctioning get-out-the-vote operation, misallocation of ad money (due to internal polling assumptions) and failure to define Romney early in the battleground states could be decisive. (Moreover, some of the lost vote may have been voters in deep-red states who saw no need to turn out, as well as Sandy-affected voters.)
It also suggests 2016 may not be so gloomy for Republicans. As Jonathan Capehart acknowledges, “The president got 93 percent of the African American vote. But when black Democrats in Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Virginia were asked whether they would be enthusiastic about Democrats without Obama on the ballot, support nose-dives.” Frankly, among the entire electorate it nose-dived, to the tune of 7 million voters with Obama on the ballot.
While Republicans such as Govs. Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), Bob McDonnell (Virginia) and Scott Walker (Wisconsin), as well as up-and-comers such as Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisconsin), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire) and a batch of others, are enjoying room to grow and refine their views, the left has decided to go after one of its only reformist centrists with executive chops, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (My advice to Republicans on this: Hush!)
Do the Democrats pine for a President Biden or a President Clinton ? (The latter’s future, I suppose, depends in part on how long a trail of foreign policy bungles she leaves behind.) Biden will be 74 four years from now and Clinton, 69. Not unfit for service, but hardly fresh faces or innovative figures.
More to the point, without Obama, and more important, without Romney, what do and will Democrats believe in? Big government and debt? We really don’t know since Obama has run two races about nothing, and aside from climate control (anti-coal and gas production) and tax hikes on the rich, we don’t know much about his economic agenda or whether there is something approaching an economic revival agenda.
The challenge for the Democratic Party, as opposed to that of the president, is to figure out if it can win presidential elections without bogeymen and attract the broader coalition that Obama cobbled together in 2008 when he had the luxury of running as a blank slate.
The party of Cuomo or of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn? Do Democrats want to bring California and Illinois to the rest of the country, or now Sen. Mark Warner’s Virginia’s model? The party is short on governors and stuck with a Senate bent on doing as little as possible. Republicans have begun thinking about where they want to go and will later get to who they want to want to take them there. As Obama’s lame duck-ness sets in, Democrats will need to do the same.