Is Voter Turnout the GOP’s Main Problem?

Discussion of the Week
The political chattering class has been dissecting Mitt Romney’s defeat.

Democrats and their supporters say the Republican party is full of stale ideas and frustrated white men, unsuitable for the new American demographic, on its way out. Its views on social issues such as abortion and gay rights are out of step, its views on immigration become a headwind against a rising contingent of hispanic voters, and its economic viewpoint is ruined for a long time because most of the population believes it was George W. Bush who killed the economy.

Republicans say their core ideals are intact and fine, but they ran a flawed candidate in Mitt Romney. It was the messenger, not the message, that lost to an eminently beatable incumbent with approval ratings below 50 pct and an unemployment rate near 8 pct. Despite running for president since 2006, Romney never created an attractive profile of himself. This enabled the Obama team to play off the caricature of Romney provided by Gingrich in the primary season to define Romney as a rapacious capitalist. This neutralized Romney’s main strength, which was that he’s an effective businessman who could improve the economy and provide more jobs. Romney’s flip-flopping, unwillingness to reveal tax records, and the 47 pct video sealed his profile. Voters on the fence never bought Moderate Mitt, and fence-sitters determined the outcome of the election.

All of this may be missing the simpler story, however. What if, instead of the outcome having had anything to do with core party messaging or the messengers, the slim majority of the popular vote went to Obama only because his campaign was better at getting supporters to the polls?

A new infographic by Chloe Carter suggests precisely this. Here it is in its entirety, with more written below:


Did You Vote?

Maybe the GOP’s just not good enough on Facebook and Twitter.

Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman told the Wall Street Journal CEO Council that turnout from the Democratic base was much better than it was for the Republican base, better than Republicans expected, and probably better than Democrats expected. Democrats did a better job getting their voters to the polls. Mitt Romney received fewer votes in Ohio than John McCain received in 2008, yet came within 2 points of Obama’s tally.

The level of micro-targeting employed by the Democratic party was impressive. For example, it knew through its database of social connections which relatives of people who’d already voted had not voted. It could then automatically call up the one who voted, thank them for the vote, and ask them to call their sister who had not yet voted. Against such technology and coordination, the GOP fell flat.

These data suggest the GOP would be wise during a period of introspection to consider not just its core ideals, but the tactical side of winning elections: motivating the base, getting out the vote, running a ground operation of knocking on doors and maintaining field offices where people can meet local GOP supporters who can explain the benefits of conservatism. If not for Obama being such a weak candidate, Romney would have fared much worse than a 2 pct loss because of his inept get-out-the-vote operation.

This is not an argument for or against either party. It’s a look, rather, at how the election may say nothing about the superiority of the Democratic message and/or candidate, or the inferiority of the Republican message and/or candidate. With the margin of victory small enough to be explained by poor Republican turnout alone, the only message of the election may be that Democrats are better at exciting supporters, and that Republicans had better step it up in this area.

Sound off, citizen! Join the discussion in the comment area below.

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30 Comments

  1. Tom
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Ok, I might as well put my two cents in. First, I’m one of those “crusty old white guys” as one commenter posted. I’m 66 years old and semi-retired. I’m on SS and Medicare (thank goodness), and I used the GI bill to get through college after the Viet Nam era. So, I guess I’m one of the 47% who Mitt thinks are freeloaders. By the way, I’ve been working since I’m 14 and hope to continue until I’m physically, or mentally, unable to do so. I still consider myself a contributing member of society as I work to expand STEM education in our public schools. Why am I telling you all this? Because, there seems to be a big focus on voter demographics in these comments and the analysis.

    Next, what political party am I? For many, many years, I was a Republican. Finally, during the George W. Bush years, I became fed up with the Republican party. It was no longer the party I agreed with. It was now the party of Faux News (MSNBC is just as absurd!), Grover Norquist (still not sure who he is), Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity. Nor, did I agree with the Democratic party. Since I am an endangered species, a moderate, I became an Independent voter. I believe they are many of us but we may be a “silent majority”.

    Now, how did I vote, and more importantly, why? I did not vote for Mitt. Right up until the time I went into the voting booth, I continued to wait for details on the Republican Party platform. “Just trust me on the details”. Last time I heard that from a CEO, it cost me my job. Still, I was willing to give Mitt the benefit of the doubt if only I heard some details so I could make an intelligent choice. But the Republican party message from Romney was so garbled, to this day, I still have no idea what the party stands for. Am I thrilled by Obama? No way! But, there a is track record there even if I don’t agree with some it. I do agree somewhat with Obamacare but feel it didn’t go far enough. I believe this country should have some form of Universal Health Care. It is absurd in a country with the wealth of ours, that there are people who do not have health care or are one serious illness away from bankruptcy. I know some of them!

    Why did Obama win? Simply because the Dems did a much better job of determining where the votes were to get the electoral votes needed and getting them. If was a good strategy and they executed well. If only we could apply some of those same strategies to the issues facing our nation. Good luck on that.

    More important however, is to take a close look at today’s Republican party. In my opinion, it is badly broken to the point of being dysfunctional. The whack jobs that ran in the Republican primaries set any candidate up to lose. It was entertaining but I couldn’t take any of it serious. The platform set the party up to lose. Mitt changed “what he believed in”, more often than I change my socks. In my opinion, had the Republican party actually been truly more moderate in it’s platform, the race would not have even been close. Even saying they should be more moderate, it would have been difficult for any voter to believe that given the track record of changing positions.

    Perhaps it’s time for the Republican’s to go back into history, way before the Dubya era, and see what their party once was. Perhaps go as far back as Ike, who must be turning over in his grave. I can say for myself, I’m quite unlikely to rejoin the Republican party as long as their leaders are folks like Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and their ilk. They simply do not reflect this ex-Republican’s, and it appears many others, views. But sadly, I doubt that will happen. There appear to be many in party that continue to believe they have the right path but used the wrong message. That’s not what I believe. Others may, and they are entitled to their opinion. I repeat, a more moderate Republican party, and the election would not have even been close.

    My two cents…….for what it’s worth………now back to your regularly scheduled Jason Kelly podcast……

  2. Chuck
    Posted November 21, 2012 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    Bravo Tom, well put, and thank you for your service.
    I am also a middle aged (53) white guy. I voted straight republican or conservative for decades. But that party has been pandering too much to the lunatic fringe. It has become the party of “No”, as in saying no to science (global warming, evolution), and no to expanding health care. It has also come under the influence of a bunch of nannies who want to tell other people how to live their lives (abortion, gay marriage).
    When you combine these far right stances with a candidate who’s proposed budget had no numbers(!), you have a losing party. The president was able to state over and over how he plans to reduce the deficit with one dollar or new taxes for every two dollars cut from spending. It is a plan endorsed by many, many economists. Every bipartisan think tank that looked at Romney’s proposed budget (the one with no numbers), said there were not enough loopholes in the world to make up for his proposed 20% tax cut. And BTW-that was the same 20% tax cut he ran on for 18 months, until he disavowed it during the second debate (SMH now).
    Mitt Romney was a pig in a poke. I had no idea what I would be getting, or even what the man believes in.

  3. Kent
    Posted November 21, 2012 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    For
    Chris in Denver,

    Dear Chris, of all the respondents so far, you have been able to put foolish political jargon aside, you dont get caught up cheering for one team or the other, rah rah.. Hooray for the home team, etc. You cut right to it. The man we elected doesn’t have an ounce of fiscal common sense. I know he has no military background and he is a child in international politics. In fact, other than sex appeal, I am not sure what he has any talent for? But in money matters he should be tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail. Bankrupting the greatest country in the world, and reducing the U.S AAA rating should have eliminated him from any voters choice. But the voters listen to his wonderful sounding voice, and disregard his economic record. You know, Hitler was elected by popular vote, the people loved him. Go figure.

  4. Kent
    Posted November 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Health care.

    Some have mentioned the universal health care as a good deed by our President. I cannot argue against health care for all US residents, although the country has prospered for over 200 years without it, it just sounds so damn good. Just like no one can argue against more money for education without sounding pretty bad.
    .
    But if everyone has healthcare, that means everyone has to pay for the healthcare. There is no source of revenue in our country except the working man and woman. We can say we are taxing employers or corporations or the drug companies, but they just pass taxes on in the cost of the product. So at the end of the day, all health care costs will be paid for by the taxpayers.. You and me. Of course we have the govt running the program, so figure an extra 20% overhead and waste. And of course most voters will think the healthcare is free, and they will overload the system and drive costs sky high. The govt will step in and borrow money from China to pay for the extra costs, and the US will be further in debt. If you doubt this,prediction, just look at how the govt pays for the other entitlements, and you will know what is coming. It will not be pretty, but it sounds so good. God, are we stupid!

    • Tom
      Posted November 22, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

      “so figure an extra 20% overhead and waste”. Possibly, but as I understand it, administrative costs are lower for Medicare than for private insurance. I understand that is up for debate but I believe that debate should happen.

      True, universal health care costs will be paid for the tax payers. Taxes are what we pay so we can live in a civilized society that has things like running water, sewer services, good roads, healthy infrastructure. I personally, would rather pay taxes for a universal health care plan than for military things the military does not want.

    • Tom
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 12:32 am | Permalink

      Sorry, I just have one more comment, then I’ll put my soap box back under the desk.

      ” And of course most voters will think the healthcare is free, and they will overload the system and drive costs sky high. ”

      From a personal perspective…..

      I am a type 2 diabetic. I exercise everyday, eat a low carb diet, and do the things that a type 2 diabetic is supposed to do to keep healthy. Latent diabetes is in the DNA of our family, so my kids are also destined to become latent diabetics. Family members before me have all been latent diabetics. I don’t run to the Dr. all the time, even though my health care is “free” since I am on Medicare and Medicare Advantage (which I pay for).

      Here’s my point . It has been infinitely less expensive for Medicare (and previously my company sponsored health care) for me to be diagnosed as a diabetic and treat it as a chronic disease than not “run to the Dr.” and wait until I eventually had renal failure which would then have required vastly more expensive kidney dialysis. Practicing medicine, in my opinion, means we should be treating medical situations before they become acute and require much more expensive interventions. My belief is that Universal Health Care could do that. To me, stupid is not taking care of a health care situation while it requires minimal intervention than waiting until it becomes a crisis intervention and much more expensive to treat. Those without health care tend to do that.

      I would be curious however, where you have come up with the extra 20% because the government is running the program.

  5. Posted November 22, 2012 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    I think it is true that the Democrats are just better at getting the vote rather than having a better actual platform. For instance, women and latinos favor the democratic party because they think Democrats are somehow pro woman/latino and Republicans are anti-latino and anti-women. Latinos and women should relate more to the Republican party(if they sent the right message) because women and latinos are some of the fastest growing demographic in terms of small business ownership and they are driving our economy forward. Also people somehow think if Mitt Romney won the election women would be forced to cook at home and not go to work. Obviously this couldn’t be further from the truth and Mitt couldn’t keep women from working if he wanted to. It just frustrates me that the Republicans somehow can twist good political ideas to sound so overbearing and backward in the spotlight.

    The Republican party doesn’t need to change it’s core ideals, it just needs to re-package them so that the “new” generation can understand them better.

  6. matt
    Posted November 22, 2012 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    The problem is that the republican party leaders (not all republicans, but the leaders of the party and their followers) stand for the cultist mindset known as free market capitalism. They do not believe in the nation as a whole but rather profit and personal wealth as the driving force of their ideology. At it’s core the idea of free market capitalism works fine. The problem is human greed creates an imperfection in that concept of capitalism, it corrupts it. Instead of a rational market place we get a market driven by lobbyists urging policy makers to limit potential competition. That is not a free market, it’s a biased market. Almost every action the party leaders take, every stance they take serves to further the goal of greater wealth concentration at the expense of who ever is in the way at the time. They do this and try to champion it as ‘small government being good for the economy’ when it is only good for the few that profit and no one else.

    A large portion of the active republicans have been rolled into this mindset, fooled into believing that the goals of the few are good for the whole of America. The republican party changed hands in the 50s and 60s, and it’s then that they stopped promoting the welfare of the nation and instead promoted the notion of free market capitalism. It was a small wealthy group mostly based in Texas that lead the coup, with Eisenhower believing that the group were ‘ stupid’ and that Americans were too smart to fall for their game. Fast forward 70 years and the whole party is now on board with the small government mindset, championing the idea of a free market but not realizing the votes they pass are stifling the freedom they supposedly seek.

    JP Morgan would be proud while Teddy would be rolling in his grave. The country needs to be a center focused country because if we are weighted too far left or too far right, having lost we would topple over ourselves as Lincoln warned us we would.

  7. Posted November 28, 2012 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    Obama’s tally would have been much greater were it not for Republican suppression of the vote. That’s the only way Republicans win elections: cheating, destroying democracy. Republicans and their 1% masters are traitors and have done more damage to the United States than al Qaeda ever could.

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