Tuesday, November 13, 2012

“Nice guys finish last!”

“Romney is a good man who made the best argument he could, and nearly won. He would have made a superb chief executive, but he could not match Barack Obama in the darker arts of public persuasion.”

--Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post  

“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

 --Barack Obama

Rephrasing von Clausewitz, I have maintained, "[Politics] is . . . a continuation of [war] by other means." And so it is. I really liked Adlai Stevenson (loser 1952, 1956) and Michael Dukakis (loser, 1988), and I acknowledge Mitt Romney (loser, 2012) is, as Krauthammer says, “a good man.” But on the whole, I’d rather back a winner.

Republicans got whipped last week. In the spirit of taking a lesson from what happened, here are answers to “What happened?” from several leading conservatives:

  • From Christopher Caldwell, Weekly Standard:
the Wesleyan Media Project last week found that the Obama campaign was the most negative campaign ever. With 59% of its ads negative, it outstripped even the notorious George W. Bush reelection campaign (55%) of 2004.
Romney hardly knew what hit him. He liked to describe his experience running companies as relevant to running a country. . . A modern, diverse democratic republic is something very different from a company. It relies for cohesion on shared narratives passionately believed in. . . Run it as a business and it will fall to pieces. Obama has made a lot of mistakes, but running the country as a business is not one of them.
  • From Michael Barone, “RealClearPolitics”:
Obama owes most of his electoral vote majority of 332 to negative campaigning. His strategists barraged the target states of Florida, Ohio and Virginia with attack ads against Romney for months. The ads took a toll. Preliminary figures show that outside the eight clear target states, Obama's percentage declined by 2.8 points. In [Florida, Ohio and Virginia], it was down by only 1.4 points and in [the] five other target states by only 2.1 points. [He won the three] firewall states by a total of about 250,000 votes.
  • From Karl Rove, Wall Street Journal:
By Election Day, 53% of voters in the exit polls said Mr. Romney's policies would "generally favor the rich." They backed Mr. Obama with 87% to Mr. Romney's 10%. Even among the 59% of voters for whom the economy was the No. 1 issue, Mr. Romney prevailed only 51% to 47%. And the 21% of voters who thought "care about people like me" was the most important candidate quality split 81% for Mr. Obama, 18% for Mr. Romney. The president was also lucky. This time, the October surprise was not a dirty trick but an act of God. Hurricane Sandy interrupted Mr. Romney's momentum and allowed Mr. Obama to look presidential and bipartisan.
  • From Rick Moran, American Thinker:
Romney let the Obama campaign define him and he never effectively countered their image of him as a rapacious, evil capitalist even after he was able to advertise in response to those charges. . .while the voter gave Romney high marks in his ability to better handle the economy and deficit than Obama, the issue of trust dogged him throughout the campaign. . . the video that emerged of Romney talking about the "47%" did [real] damage[, playing] directly into the tens of millions of dollars in advertising by the Obama campaign that defined Romney as a heartless businessman.
So much for the whipping. How about moving forward?

There is general agreement, and across the ideological lines, that Republicans have to do better with minorities, especially Hispanics (only 27% of whom supported Romney). Nominating an Hispanic like Marco Rubio for president would help the party. But Hoover Institution’s Thomas Sowell is one of several who believe Hispanics, blacks and other minorities benefit from the same economic policies as whites; it's just up to conservatives to win minorities over to their side's economic message. Sowell writes:
the gap between black and white incomes narrowed during the Reagan administration and widened during the Obama administration. . . because free market policies create an economy in which all people can improve their economic situation.
Conversely, . . .minimum wage laws, which are usually pushed by Democrats and opposed by Republicans[, meant] unemployment among minority youths skyrocketed when minimum wage increases priced them out of jobs. [And t]he loss of income from an entry-level job is only part of the loss sustained by minority young people. Work experience at even an entry-level job is a valuable asset, as a stepping stone to progressively higher level jobs.

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