When your candidate of choice loses a presidential election, it is imperative to sit down and really think about what the results mean. It’s not easy, and the conclusions you draw may not always be to your liking, but it is a necessary step in understanding the scope of what transpired.
I supported Mitt Romney for President for many reasons–his executive experience, proficiency on economic issues, and leadership skills were just a few. Romney was never my ideal candidate, and I openly admitted that from the start, but he did a solid job of presenting an alternate vision to that of Obama. He performed well in the debates and I was pleasantly surprised by his impressive interaction with voters on the campaign trail.
Regardless, Romney was just defeated by a President who presided over month after month of high unemployment, pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy via taxpayer-funded stimulus that yielded no significant recovery, and added trillions of dollars to the national debt. If you’re not asking yourself big questions about why Barack Obama won this election, you should be.
First off, let’s talk campaigns. President Obama is a fantastic campaigner. He plays to win. However, his campaigns also play dirty. Scare tactics, demagoguery, false narratives–nothing appears to be off the table. The view articulated by many in media is that the American people don’t like negative campaigning, that they are repelled by attack dogs and prefer stand-up candidates with positive messages. I’m not sure I buy that, and Barack Obama’s two presidential election victories support my doubt. The fact is that negative campaigning–as ugly as it may be–often works. Those false narratives stick, and once they do, they are hard to reverse. They can crush a candidate. Recall the ads run by Romney advocates against Newt Gingrich in Florida during the primary season.
Like it or not, Obama’s negative campaigning against Romney was successful.
Secondly, does style matter more than substance? Many of us would hope not, but to ignore the impact of delivery, the impact of one’s ability to resonate with voters, the impact of likability and the “coolness” factor, is to ignore reality. Barack Obama was a charismatic candidate. He knows how to sell his ideas. He knows how to package them in rhetoric that hits home. And yes, for many, he is the guy they would still like to have a beer with at the end of the day. One can argue that these shouldn’t be qualifying characteristics for a president’s re-election–and believe me, I agree–but voters are telling us time and again that these things matter to them. Like it or not, these factors are important. They impact elections, and to ignore them when choosing candidates on the right is a recipe for failure.
Beyond campaigning, there are some serious issues to consider. Is America still a center-right country? I’d like to think so, but would a center-right country elect and re-elect Barack Obama? Would a center-right country re-elect the man who ushered in massive government overreach into the health care system? Would a center-right country welcome an Obama Doctrine that reeks of weakness on the international stage? Would a center-right country embrace class warfare rhetoric and redistribution of wealth? Not in my book.
The questions we should all be asking today are, “What is the state of the modern American electorate? What do the majority of American voters value? What are their priorities?”
As we ponder the answers to those questions, which I suspect we will be doing for some time to come, I must make two final points.
First, GOP presidential candidates must pay attention to the youth in this country. They are the future, are they not? The Left has mastered outreach to young people. Where is the GOP? Are they even trying? Young people do care about their freedoms. They care deeply. Look at Ron Paul’s following. However, the GOP has ignored them for a very long time. The outreach has been minimal and when it exists, it is strategically poor. The messengers are wrong. The messaging is flawed. To continue to ignore the youth in this country is another recipe for long-term failure.
Finally, in light of the GOP’s Senate losses in Indiana and Missouri, I can’t help but ask candidates to think before they speak. If you can’t make a coherent argument on the pro-life issue–or any other issue the left-wing media is hungry to talk about–you shouldn’t be running for office. If you make an outrageous, indefensible statement–I’m looking at you, Todd Akin–take some responsibility and get out of the race. You are responsible for your words, but the rest of the country shouldn’t have to suffer because of them.
Last night’s victory wasn’t just about Barack Obama, just as Romney’s loss wasn’t just about Mitt Romney. The same thing goes for the individual House and Senate candidates. Now is the time to pay attention to the big picture and evaluate not only the priorities of the American electorate, but the template for what can and should constitute good campaigns and good candidates.