The presidential election is over – even in Florida (well maybe). The consensus is that even with a very spotty record on the economy, President Obama won the election, because Mitt Romney and the GOP failed to connect with the majorities of minorities that have changed U.S. demographics in the last quarter century.
The numbers speak for themselves: Obama won the Latino vote, and he won it overwhelmingly – 71 percent, according to numerous sources (up from a 67 percent victory in 2012). The president won 73 percent of Asian voters, the Los Angeles Times reported, and he took 93 percent of the African-American vote. Exit polls from the Huffington Post gave Obama 78 percent of the American Jewish vote, and a similar poll from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) tracked an 85 percent vote from American Muslims for the President.
Several exit polls also showed that Obama carried 60 percent of voters under 30 years and unmarried women by a margin of 2 to 1.
So the verdict is that the GOP is strictly an old white man’s party.
This was the big problem: Throughout the campaign, Romney could not portray himself the moderate, or even liberal, that he is and which his record in Massachusetts truly reflected. Doing so would have won over many of Obama’s voters.
Instead, he had to pander to an extremist socially conservative base during the early, archaic primaries in small states. Distracting social issues that allowed the Obama camp to push successfully both the anti-immigration and the war on women perceptions to gain votes also constantly hindered him.
As a result, he had no concrete message. He was rightfully called a flip flopper, the Etch-a-Sketch candidate.
But the failure to capture the hearts and minds of these Obama coalition voters is not in itself the true problem of the GOP; it’s a symptom rather than the true illness that is crippling the GOP.
In terms of presidential elections, the GOP comes out of the gate behind in the Electoral College by lacking half the votes needed to win the White House. Add up the electoral votes of New York, California, Oregon, Washington, New Jersey, Connecticut, and the rest of New England – and now Florida, too, all Democratic-voting states – and a GOP win is almost impossible.
In Romney’s case, he had to win a number of battleground states where the Republican Party still had some influence, including Wisconsin, Iowa, Florida and Virginia, just to have a chance to win the 270 votes needed in the Electoral College. Some races in these states were close, but the margin of victory for Obama was drawn from his coalition of minorities, women and young voters whom Romney failed to win over.
Romney lost for the most part because of the underlying structural problem that the Republican Party has: It is an antiquated regional party centered in Texas and dominated to its Southern core by the Christian right. It’s the 21st century version of the anti-immigration Know Nothing Party of the 1840s, with an additional religiously intolerant streak toward women’s and gay rights.
The GOP has no viable party organization anymore in major states like New York and California, and even, now, Florida, to gain the trust of moderate and liberal voters in these states. As the president has shown in both 2008 and 2012, it is their votes that win presidential elections.
It’s not that Republican candidates can’t win in these states. Look at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who won with a fiscally conservative message in an overtaxed state. He was able to garner the votes of many of Obama’s coalition, many not far removed from conservative values and traditions, because he stuck to fiscal themes and followed the once-proud Republican tradition in the Northeast states of being liberal on social issues like abortion and immigration reform.
The true path toward rebuilding a new tolerant GOP weaves through the Northeast and California among moderate candidates who can capture the hearts and minds of the Obama coalition by sticking to traditional small-government and fiscal-conservative agendas. The party must build a stable of candidates who, like Christie, don’t voice the GOP’s traditional anti-immigration, anti-abortion mantra.
In these big blue states, Democrats are not as strong as the Obama vote reflects. Dominating Albany, Trenton and Sacramento are corrupt Democratic leaders who have led their states to the brink of bankruptcy, and voters there want that to change.
The small government, anti-waste, strong defense message of the traditional GOP is still a good, electable message. It’s time to bring the GOP back to it and, starting with Christie’s re-election effort next year, to rebuild the party and hone the messaging to put another 100-plus electoral votes into play on both coasts.
Steven Kurlander blogs at Kurly’s Kommentary, writes a weekly column for Fort Lauderdale’s Sun-Sentinel and is a South Florida communications strategist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.