As a Senior Advisor during the George W. Bush administration, Karl Rove’s reaction encapsulated the shock and disbelief at the heart of the Republican Party. He desperately denied Obama’s comfortable presidential victory as Ohio was finally called for the Democrat candidate. It was a race that shouldn’t have been close. Obama’s failure to properly re-energise America’s stalling economy would normally have been enough to finish off any other wounded President.
While the Grand Old Party displayed little grandeur in its comprehensive defeat on Tuesday, it did ring true to its name in appearing woefully aged and out of touch with the ever developing demographics of the electorate. Simply securing the white middle class vote won’t help win elections any more, which will be evident when Republicans sit down to mull over their figures of ethnic minorities. The minorities make up 28% of the total electorate and Obama dominated the Black and Latino vote, with 93% and 71% respectively.
This isn’t the only area where they haemorrhage votes due to solely targeting a certain sector of the vote. Women, especially unmarried women, were also more supportive of Obama (perhaps understandably following the unsavoury comments of a few of Romney’s Republican colleagues), as were low income voters, certain religious groups (i.e. most religious groups other than Protestants and Mormons) and young voters. This adds up to a chunk of the electorate whose progressive views on immigration and social issues such as abortion and gay marriage cannot be ignored and must force Republicans to rethink some of their more uncompromising right wing policies. To turn back to a traditional white male candidate such Chris Christie or Jeb Bush in 2016 would show an astonishingly stubborn lack of consideration for the transforming electorate and they would surely be punished again at the polls.
The danger for the Republican Party is that they see their defeat as a reflection of Romney’s personal unpopularity. It has to be considered a factor but when compared to his nearest rivals in the Republican Primaries, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, Romney’s more moderate tone, which finally appeared following his nomination, was undoubtedly more suitable for the national stage.
The importance and appeal of the Tea Party can now be seen as less a renaissance for the right and more of a reaction to Obama’s policies, with the Tea Party surge during the 2010 mid-terms being an assertion of voter dissatisfaction. While the renewal of certain Tea Party seats in Congress does cement their grip on the heart of the Republican Party, it does not show a broadening of the Tea Party’s voter appeal. This is reinforced by the Tea Party’s failure to win seats in the Senate with Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock being too strong to stomach for most independents.
Ultimately, this was detrimental to the Republicans, destroying any chance of the party taking the Senate and handing Democrats an unexpected stronger hand for Obama’s second term. What Republicans must now ask themselves is why move further right and preach to the converted when there’s a new growing segment of the electorate in which the Democrats dominate without any challenge.
Following a thorough post-mortem of Romney’s devastating defeat, an internal ‘civil war’ is set to begin to reclaim the heart of a party that has been spread too thinly on the right. Romney’s lack of focus and flip-flopping over key issues in order to appease both the new strong far right of the party and the moderate independents he needed to win over to succeed, have undoubtedly cost him the place at the White House he had poured the last five years into. The Republicans arguably haven’t won a Presidential election convincingly since George H. Bush in 1988, who latched onto the success of the party’s glory days under Republican icon Ronald Reagan. Therefore, they must reconsider vital areas of policy and introduce America to the Marco Rubios and Nikki Haleys of the party, but, most importantly, they must recapture the centre ground they have abandoned before it’s lost forever.