Recently a myth has been developed around Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). In this telling, the likely Republican nominee is cast as believing that a few million evangelical voters refused to vote for Mitt Romney and stayed home, handing the 2012 election to Barack Obama. The truth is that evangelicals who voted before also mostly voted for Mitt Romney, and Cruz does not believe otherwise.
Immediately after Mitt Romney’s timid loss to Barack Obama in 2012, many Republicans blamed the loss on demographics. If only Romney had carried a few more voters from this or that group, the story goes, he would have squeaked out a win.
Romney’s troubles were bigger than that, revealing the poverty of piecemeal politics. He accepted the false premises of his leaked statement that Republicans have 47% of the vote, Democrats have 47%, and we campaign over the remaining 6%. Romney further appeared to believe that people who accept government benefits a) pay no taxes and b) would never vote for him. He believed he was in a box and could not win.
The details of Romney’s tactical flubs — arguing that Romneycare was popular but Obamacare was bad, characterizing Obama as a nice guy who was merely failing to lead, and wasteful campaign spending both in the primaries and the general — all flowed from his belief in the 47% paradigm. The damaging leak of Romney speaking as a wealthy class warrior paled next to the real problem: he believed it.
The conventional wisdom in DC political circles holds that demographics generally and skin color in particular determines how people vote. To win, it’s said, Republicans need to go after non-white voters. Here is Obama flack Dan Pfeiffer pushing the idea:
— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) May 26, 2015
Writing in Commentary, Noah Rothman calls Cruz’ electoral strategy the product of happy myths:
Since the moment Barack Obama won reelection, the Republican electorate has been bombarded with pronouncements from party elders and pundits alike contending that the GOP cannot win a national race if it does not expand its appeal to voters who are traditionally more amenable to the Democratic message. In practice, this means peeling off members of Barack Obama’s “coalition of the ascendant” – single women, minorities, and young people – one sliver at a time. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’s response to this challenge is simple: No, we don’t.
The Economist, a liberal magazine loosely devoted to economics, repeated the charge that Cruz is “pedding self-serving myths about presidential politics.
By way of proof, the first-term senator informs Republican crowds that in 2012, when the party nominated Mitt Romney, roughly half of all born-again Christian voters and millions of blue-collar conservatives stayed home.
Cruz does not say that people who voted for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and George W. Bush refused to vote for Romney. Rather, he’s talking about the far greater mass of non-voting Americans.
Redstate’s Dan McLaughlin put together the definitive post on the myth voters stayed home.
The vote totals from the 2012 elections show that about 130,000,000 Americans voted for president that year, leaving about 90,000,000 votes uncast, according to McLaughlin.
It’s that larger pool of voters to whom Cruz always refers. His intent is to locate, register if necessary, and attract to the polls voters who have been disaffected by the two major parties and their candidates.
It’s an effort that should have been underway since 2008. It should be underway now, in all 50 states. Republicans can’t afford to rely on Democrats repeatedly nominating the worst possible candidate to replace the worst president in history.
Cruz is determined to attract these voters on his own terms, with only minor polishing of his stalwart conservative policy positions. The voters are out there, waiting for a strong leader with a consistent message. Whether DC Republicans will fall in line remains to be seen.