It’s the candidate, stupid!
Republicans have lost another presidential election, and the gnashing of the teeth has begun. And it’s well warranted. Barack Obama is the worst president of our lifetime. For nearly four years, he kept unemployment above 8 percent. He managed to reduce it to 7.9 percent by using tax dollars to bribe people to drop out of the workforce and go on Social Security disability. Some claimed that Obama would win Ohio because the economy here is relatively good. I doubt anybody calls 7 percent unemployment good.
The talking heads want us to believe the problem is demographics. Republicans are too white and too male. Republicans have to change their appearance to attract Hispanics, blacks and single women. This is baloney. The problem with Republicans is they pick terrible candidates and their policies don’t match their rhetoric.
There’s only a handful of people in the country that Obama could have defeated this year. Last year I made the case that Mitt Romney was uniquely unqualified to beat Obama because of his record. Republicans nominated him anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I thought even Romney could beat Obama, but Romney lost because of his record, his policies and his campaign strategy, not demographics.
To understand why Romney lost, you have to go back to 2008. Obama beat uber-moderate warmonger John McCain handily. The lesson that should have been learned from that election is Americans won’t elect warmongers or Republicans who support the same big-government policies as Democrats. In a choice between a big-government Democrat and a big-government Republican, the Democrat always wins.
Voters drove that point home in 2010. The tea party-powered Republicans to an historic victory, giving them control of the House and many pickups in the Senate. The mandate was clear: stop the spending and repeal Obamacare.
But Speaker John Boehner and Republicans didn’t want to stop the spending. As soon as Congress convened, Boehner surrendered the mandate by partnering with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling. For two years, the Democrats were unable to overcome the tea party, but Boehner and House Republicans neutered it as soon as they took control of the House.
But the one issue that still had people fired up was Obamacare. Rasmussen reports that Americans favor repeal of Obamacare by 15 points. All Republicans had to do was nominate a candidate who was unequivocally against government-run health care and who would credibly cut spending in order to reinvigorate the tea party and sail to a major victory like they did in 2010. The Republican who was uniquely positioned to fail on both counts was Mitt Romney.
The Democrats modeled Obamacare on Romneycare because they knew Republicans had supported that in the past and they wanted a few Republican votes so they could claim it passed in a bipartisan manner. Romneycare was modeled after a Heritage Foundation policy proposal. During the campaign Romney said he liked certain aspects of Obamacare, like the disastrous coverage for preexisting conditions. More than any Republican, Romney had no credibility regarding repealing Obamacare.
Romney was equally not credible on spending. After claiming he would cut spending all campaign, he told Time magazine he wouldn’t, “Well because, if you take a trillion dollars for instance, out of the first year of the federal budget, that would shrink GDP over five percent. That is by definition throwing us into recession or depression. So I’m not going to do that, of course.” Besides being bad politically, this shows he has no idea how an economy works. He also promised to increase spending on defense and Medicare, making it impossible for him to actually cut spending.
The same with taxes. Out one side of his mouth, Romney claimed he was going to cut taxes for everybody. Out the other side, he said his cuts would be revenue neutral. If it’s revenue neutral, it’s not a cut. It’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Exit polls showed the American people want government to do less, not more, but Romney had no credibility to make that happen.
But the biggest issue, and the one not being talked about, is war. Poll after poll shows Americans are tired of perpetual war. Obama has dragged us into new, illegal wars in Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Nigeria, that we know of. He’s arming al Qaeda in Libya and Syria. He escalated the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He tried to extend the war in Iraq past the deadline negotiated by President Bush, but he was rebuffed by the Iraqis. He’s negotiating to extend the war in Afghanistan past 2014. Yet Romney claimed Obama wasn’t aggressive enough and threatened to start a war with Iran. Polls show the American people want less intervention in the Middle East, but Romney advocated more. Romney managed to look like more of a warmonger than Obama.
Romney also alienated the libertarian wing of the Republican Party with strong-arm tactics. Given how close the popular vote was, this corruption might have cost Romney the election.
Because Romney was a uniquely poor candidate, Democrats once again enjoyed a large enthusiasm benefit, and that’s why Obama won. But Republicans aren’t dumb. They don’t want to cut spending because they get rich off it just like Democrats, so it’s more profitable to blame demographics than bad candidates and policies. So the U.S. may never see another white male president.
Reach DCP freelance writer Mark Luedtke at MarkLuedtke@DaytonCityPaper.com