2012 GOP lessons learned

The GOP is undergoing the type of re-examination that occurs whenever a party loses. That useful exercise should be guided by facts. Here is some of what we know.

The media's postelection narrative is that Democrats won because of a demographic shift. There is some truth to that, but a more accurate description is that Democrats won in a smaller turnout by getting out more of their vote.

Turnout dropped by 7.9 million voters, falling to 123.6 million this year from 131.5 million in 2008. This is the first decline in a presidential election in 16 years. Only 51.3% of the voting-age population went to the polls.

While the Democratic "ground game" was effective, President Barack Obama received 90.1% of his 2008 total while Gov. Mitt Romney received 98.6% of Sen. John McCain's vote. Neither party generated a higher turnout nationally.

Tactically, Republicans must rigorously re-examine their "72-hour" ground game and reverse-engineer the Democratic get-out-the-vote effort in order to copy what works. For example, a postelection survey shows that the Democratic campaign ground game was more effective in communicating negative information. It would be good to know why—and how to counter such tactics in the future.

Republicans should also emulate the Democratic "50-state" strategy by strengthening the ground game everywhere, not just in swing states.

It will be important for the GOP to erase the data advantage Democrats may have in their targeting of potential supporters for their candidates. And local GOP organizations must persistently focus on adding to the voter rolls the millions of people likely to vote Republicans if they were registered.
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One reason the GOP didn't do better with its pro-growth agenda was that Mr. Romney's character and record were undermined by early, relentless personal attacks that went largely unanswered. In a world of Twitter, YouTube and cable TV, the cliché that "if you're responding, you're losing" is dead. Republican campaigns need to get better at responding, setting the record straight, and bending the argument back toward their narrative. 
According to exit polls, turnout dropped among white and black Americans (by 8.3 million and 1 million, respectively) but rose among Hispanics. They added 850,000 votes to Mr. Obama's total compared with 2008. Millennials (those aged 18-29) were a larger share of the turnout than in 2008, but 176,000 fewer in number. They cast 1.5 million fewer votes for Mr. Obama than last time and 1.1 million more votes for Mr. Romney than they did for Mr. McCain. To win, the GOP must do better—much better—with Hispanics and millennials, and also with women voters. 
Republicans need not jettison their principles. But they must avoid appearing judgmental and callous on social issues. Offensive comments about rape by GOP Senate candidates in Missouri and Indiana gave the media an excuse to put social issues at the election's center in a way that badly hurt the entire party, as well as costing Republicans two Senate seats.
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While I am all for improving Republican voting strength will all demographics  this race was lost because of the failure to turn out millions of white working class voters.  Rove hints at the effectiveness of the Obama negative campaign in suppressing their votes. It was not just the Democrat ground game that hurt Republicans, since they obvious lost more voters this cycle than Republicans.  They were able to target voters with particular ads at particular times to get their negative message out.

I have also made the point that we need to coach our candidates better in how to respond to abortion and rape.  Candidates need to show empathy for the victim and the unborn child if they are going to oppose abortion  Their message has to be about life and not about rape.

I think moving up the convention is a good idea until the law is change on expenditures.  Republicans need to start preparing now for a relentlessly negative campaign from Democrats no matter who the nominees is.  This cycle the Democrats were negative starting before the primaries with any perceived viable candidate.

Daniel Henninger also has a good piece on Obama's propaganda machine.  He offers suggestions on how to counter it.

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