Can the GOP turn things around and win in 2012?
3 years ago, things started to turn around for the GOP. After the Democrats took control of Congress and the White House, the American people rejected the left-wing Democratic agenda. Christie and McDonnel won governorships in NJ and Virginia, and poll after poll showed increasing GOP leads. By 2010, the GOP had peaked and started losing momentum. The 2010 elections –which initially had projected GOP House and Senate take-overs — were less effective than initially thought. The GOP won the House; however, the Senate was lost.
2010 was a big win, but not perfect. We lost the Senate because (1) we nominated nominees in Nevada and Deleware who were too conservative. In retro-spect, we would have won these Senate seats if we went with the moder moderate choice. We also lost because the Democrats started to turn things around. WV is a perfect example. The seat was ripe for a GOP pick-up, but Joe Manchin came out against Obamacare, and –more-or-less- against Obama. Democrats maintained these 3 seats, despite GOP oppertunities.
From 2010 through today the polling numbers have dropped for the GOP. We maintained a double-digit lead for the House in generic polling through 2010, and into the start of 2011. Now, Rassmussen shows our lead in for generic House votes down to 4% and within the margin of error. If the election is today, we keep the House; However, at this pace will will lose the House in November.
The Senate was considered a sure-thing GOP pick-up in 2010. Suddenly, there is now a real chance Democrats will hold the Senate. In 2010 the only GOP seat considered at-risk was Scott Brown’s. Now, we are almost certain to lose a seat in Maine, and face multiple seats that the Democrats have shots at taking. Further, many seats that looked ripe for GOP pick-up are not looking so good. A perfect example is Virginia, a seat that now shows Democrat Kaine leading Republican Allen by about 1%.
The biggest loss for the GOP has been at the presidential level. Obama is now +4 against Romney nationwide. In key swing states it is worse. Virginia now shows Obama up by 8 points against Romney. If Obama picks Bob McDonnel (Virginia’s Governor) for his VP, the numbers are 50% Obama, 43% McDonnel. The GOP has no path to win the White House without winning Virginia. Ohio and Florida — also must-win states — are also not looking great.
There can be no doubt that the GOP has spent the last couple years imploding. There are 3 simple reasons for this:
- The GOP took such a beating in 2006 and 2008 that almost all the GOP leadership represents safe GOP states and districts. The elected leaders who represent purple districts lost. As a result, the main concern with GOP’s leadership is avoiding a primary challenge to their right; not trying to win swing districts.
- The GOP lacks a leader. Typically the GOP has had a leader — usually a president — who has a responsibility to win a majority for the party. From 2000 – 2008, we had Bush. From 1994 – 1998, we had Gingrich. Prior to that we had George H.W. Bush, and Reagan. In all those cases the leader pushed the party toward what was needed to win moderate and swing voters.
- The tea party was a key part in pushing forward the conservative movement. Now, however, a portion of the tea party is under the idea that the GOP should only consist of tea partiers. They want ideological purity, even at the expense of winning elections. They are a good part of the GOP, but cannot be allowed to be the only part of the GOP — if they are, the GOP will never get 50%. Movements move ideas; parties win elections.
What is the road to recovery? Unfortunatly, there is now a divide in the GOP between folks who realize that Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich are all poorly-possitioned to pick up swing voters, and between folks at the party base to are fed-up with the liberal direction of the country to the extreme point where they would rather shoot themselves in their face to spite their nose. IN other words, they are so sick of the liberal direction that they find it unacceptable for the party to take possitions needed to win elections (and thereby stem the move to the left).
The solution to the problem will need to come as great leadership by the nominee and party leaders. The party needs to move to a winnable platform and form winnable coalitions. Here is where the GOP needs to move back towards Reagan-Bush:
- The most importaint area is with civilian federal employees. Without these voters the GOP loses Virginia and the election. About $450 billion dollars is spent on total federal pay. Of this about $150 billion is spent on military pay and $300 billion on federal civilian pay. Of these $300 billion, about $200 billion is spent for national security employees such as DOD and homeland security. $100 billion is spent for civilian federal employees who work elsewhere. The majority of the 2/3 of civilian federal employees who work in the national security area typically vote Republican. This year polling shows that the vast majority plan to switch to Obama soley because of GOP efforts to cut their pay. If we decided to completely eliminate all federal pay (not pay judges, not pay border patrol agents, not pay intellegence agents in Afghanistan, not pay VA doctors, not pay treasury officials who issue debt), we would save less than $300 billion out of our $3.6 trillion budget. Less than 10% of the budget. GOP plans to cut healthcare, retirement, and pay for federal employees have put Virginia out-of-reach since over 250,000 Virginians work for the federal government. They and their spouces are votes that went for George Bush, Geroge H.W. Bush, Reagan, Ford, and which are now going to Obama. Cutting federal civilian pay by 10%, for example, saves 30 billion on paper, but costs the GOP the election. Compare this to the 2.9 trillion dollar cost of Obamacare. If the GOP is to win, the first group the new nominee needs to become best friends with is federal employees.
- Teachers. The majority of state employees are teachers. Married teachers vote in strong numbers for both Republicans and Democrats. Obama made a play for their votes by sending money to states to avoid teacher layoffs. The same is true for police, fire, rescue, etc. These state employees represent key GOP voters who the GOP is turning off. There is no reason for the GOP — at the federal level — to say these employees are overpaid, or lazy, or get too much in benefits. The GOP needs to attrack these voters and make peace with them. Teachers get the summer off. Unless we want them going door-to-door for Obama over summer, we need to make peace with teachers, and their unions.
- Blue collar union workers. These voters do not like Obamacare. Many of the are Reagan Democrats. They vote GOP for values issues. Claims that union workers are overpaid, lazy, etc. only serve to give Obama their votes. The GOP needs to reach out to union members who share our values.
- Latinos. Bush got over 40% of the Latino vote, McCain got less than 1/3. Hense the loss of Florida. The latino vote is of far greater value than the vote of folks who are opposed to illegal aliens; and must be sought at all costs if we are to win in 2012. I’ve heard folks argue that on ideological grounds that we need to hold strong here. Not really. We need to win elections; we cannot do that without appealing to Latinos.
All 4 of these items are items that gave the GOP control of the House, Senate, and White House from 2002 – 2006. If it were not for Iraq, that formula would have won in 2006 and 2008. Now in 2012, that formula is still what is needed to win. There simply are not other voters out there to replace the above groups.
If we decide to reject seeking the votes of civilian federal employees, there is no other path to win Virginia. None. Does anyone actually think we will attrack African-Americans to switch sides in 2012? Does anyone think that folks who are pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, and pro-Obamacare will switch sides? Does anyone think that folks who Obama’s increased their minimium wage will switch sides? Does anyone think that folks who are against drilling will switch sides? No. There is no other way to win Virginia.
Ohio is easier than Virginia, but again, there are only so many swing voters. If we write-off state employees and unions we lose Ohio. The numbers just don’t add up. The referendum to repeal the anti-union laws in Ohio passed with 62% of the vote. The GOP cannot afford to make that an issue in 2012.
Florida and a number of other swing states have large Latino populations. We cannot win without Florida. The demographics just don’t work for Florida to be winnable without getting 40% or more of the Latino vote. There is simply no other way to win the state.
Some folks live in a dream world. They argue what they believe on the idea that they can get others to change their minds. That will not take place this year. Turnout will not be as heavily Republican as 2010. The reality is that the GOP faces a simple choice: run to win; or lose. Running to win means attracking 50% +1 of the voters in Virginia, Ohio, Florida, and elsewhere. Right now, without a strategy that give the GOP a chance to win, we are losing. Virginia — the state we need to win that is most at-risk shows Obama winning 50 – 43% even if we pick the popular Republican Governor as VP. The only way to have a big enough tent to fit 50% +1 of folks in states with 269 electorial votes in them. The reason Obama is up by 7% in Virginia is federal employees. At the cost of saying that the GOP will adjust their pay in accordance with what the current law says — at no budget cost — the GOP, wins Virginia. If the GOP continues to hold pay cuts for federal employees as way to cut costs, we lose Virginia and the election. Simple, clear, choice.
Ohio and Florida are not as simple and clear. We are doing better in these states. However, it is still unlikely that we will win them unless we can attrack state and union workers. Like Virginia, both of these states are must-win.
As a final note, it is not being liberal to want to win. And it does not compromise values to believe that (1) federal pay should be market based, performance based, and that we should have the best workforce we can to support our troops and protect our security, (2) that state pay is a state issue, and (3) that all union issues are state issues. These are possitions held by the GOP under Bush. Bush provided cost-of-living adjustments to federal pay every year, never cut benefits. Bush spoke positively about teachers, state employees, and union employees. He took winning possitions. Oh, and under Bush the deficit was less than 1/2 what it is under Obama.
I hope others will see the light and see the need for the GOP to start trying to win.