The Republican meltdown over its decisive loss at the ballot box in the presidential election has been a sight to behold. Karl Rove flipped out on Fox News. Mary Matalin had a near-meltdown on CNN. And, according to The Post, the GOP has begun “an exhaustive review to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.” That’s a waste of time and (more) money. Everyone in the reality-based community knows what went wrong.
The coalition President Obama put together in 2008 came out big for him again in 2012. A big chunk of the reason is because African Americans, Latinos, young people, women and more than a few “white guys” like him. But the intemperate remarks of Republican candidates, including presidential nominee Mitt Romney, on a host of issues that many of these groups care about also did them in.
What many Republican leaders fail to understand is that the party is leaving votes on the table that could be theirs. Votes they once were able to attract before they became viewed as a collection of mean, monochromatic and reactionary people clinging to Ronald Reagan’s America instead of coming to terms with, if not embracing, the vibrant nation we live in today.
Romney snatched 6 percent of the African American vote away from Obama. That was 2 percent better than Sen. John McCain attracted in 2008. But Romney has nothing on the late President Richard Nixon, who got 18 percent of the black vote in 1972. No Republican has matched that level of support since.
Romney got 27 percent of the Latino vote. But that was 17 points below what President George W. Bush garnered in 2004. No Republican had reached that level of support before him, and none has since. McCain earned 31 percent of the Latino vote, four points more than Romney.
While African Americans and Latinos are reliable voting blocs for Democrats, they certainly are not beyond reach of Republicans. And polls of blacks and Latinos in key swing states show that, had Romney shown a combination of moderation, compassion and interest, he could have won.
On the eve of the election, the NAACP asked African American voters in Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Virginia if they would be more likely to vote Republican if the “GOP took a stand for civil rights/equality.” The four-state total was 14 percent. In Florida, the percentage went up to 15 percent. The president won the Sunshine State by just 74,000 votes.
The NAACP also asked those same voters if they’d be more likely to vote Republican if the party’s nominee were former secretary of state Colin Powell. The four-state total was 14 percent, but in Florida his support shot up to 19 percent. Trying to get black votes while running against the first African American president is tough enough. But when the GOP nominee repeats proven lies about the president’s welfare policy, has surrogates calling him the “Food Stamp president” and has fellow Republicans in other states trying to suppress black votes, the task of winning them over was damned near impossible.
And while we’re at it, let me remind you about the gay vote. A Harris Interactive-Logo TV poll of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans released in August showed that Romney was leaving LGBT votes on the table. Romney was pro-gay rights before he was against them. His promise to sign a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and his waffling on support for civil unions and adoption rights were particularly off-putting.
Yet, when asked if Romney “held the same positions on issues related to gay rights” as Obama, 22 percent said they would be “more likely to vote for Romney.” Considering that 67 percent expressed support for Obama, a shift in support that big toward Romney would have tied the two for the LGBT vote. That’s nothing to sneeze at in an election everyone believed to be close.
Each of these groups has its specific concerns. But the issue that united them was the one that concerned all Americans: the economy and jobs. So the Republican Party needs to spend less time figuring out what went wrong and more time figuring out how to talk to these voters in a way that broadens its appeal rather than insults potential supporters.