Friday, November 09, 2012

Thoughts and Observations on the Election

As we all know, Tuesday evening, November 6th, 2012, we had another Presidential election.  It was in fact the 54th election in our country's short history and with Mr. Obama's reelection, he is the 44th man to hold the office.

Many things have become apparent, (at least to me) as a result of this election.  I'll list a few, and I'm sure many of you have more than what will be detailed below, but the most compelling things that occurred to me are below.

1.  President Obama and his team know how to win elections.  From the outset of the campaigns, and with the exception of the poor performance of the President in the 1st debate with Governor Romney, there have been very few mistakes made by Team Obama.  They defined their opposition very well, continued to focus on the Get Out The Vote efforts that were so successful for them in 2008 and remarkably even better this time around.  In fact, the campaign was so successful in establishing its on the ground team, that they actually increased the African American voter turnout in Ohio by 33%.    I suppose having been a Community Organizer in one's past experience can pay some dividends.

2. The Republican Party didn't lose this by running the wrong candidate. No doubt exists that  Mr. Romney was not a good campaigner. He was indeed very stiff and came off as someone who would have rather been looking at a spreadsheet than talking to a person.  But, even with that, he wasn't the problem.  The problem is that the Republican Party lost this race because they focused on the wrong message.  Of course, the economy should have been the appropriate message to drive home, but not in the manner by which they did this.  They conflated the notion that economic issues encompass all other issues and that is just not so.  The President captured the woman's vote, the minority vote and the young vote by an astounding margin, and Governor Romney's base shrunk.  He won white males by a significant amount and married women by a small margin, but beyond that, every other major demographic went the President's way. Why? Because social issues do matter to people.  Women's issues, immigration issues, personal liberty issues and others were either poorly dealt with (I'm talking to you Todd Aiken, Richard Mourdoch, Paul Ryan) as in the case of the "rape" discussions, or just not talked about at all.  I believe Mr. Romney was poorly advised.  He stood firm on not providing in insight into himself (not releasing his Tax Returns), into his policies (no specifics on programs such as his tax plan) and refused to get specific on his foreign policy agenda.  This election like any other is a job interview, and the advice I believe Mr. Romney received was to focus on how the other guy failed and "trust me", I'm a business expert, so I'll make everything better.   People actually are expecting a little more.  Mr. Obama was in a precarious position given the performance of the economy, yet the results are telling.  332 electoral votes compared with Mr. Romney's 206.  26 states going to the President versus 24 to the challenger.  More than 50% of the popular vote going to the President than Governor Romney. Given the economic circumstances (the analogy here is 1980), one could have easily predicted the results being reversed in the Republicans favor.  Many did predict that, like Karl Rove.  However,  the approach the Romney campaign took toward the electorate came off to me as "You don't need to know the details, just elect me and it will be OK" came off as arrogant and ultimately a failure.

Snidely Whiplash
3. The country is not a conservative country. It is not a liberal country.  The country is a centrist country.  This election, as much as any other I've seen in the past 20 years was chock full of extreme nonsense from both parties.  The left screamed about Mitt Romney's being this guy over here ------>
and that his approach to governing would put the uber rich before every one else.  Derision abounded about the aristocratic manner the Romney family had toward "Real Americans".  It was stupid and it was wrong.  Sure Mr. Romney's stature as a rich, venture (or in Rick Perry's words "Vulture Capitalist) capitalist and Bain's history didn't play very well, especially when Bain was going about the business of shutting down plants like the Sensata Plant in Freemont, Illinois (see reason 2 in this post for why Romney lost.  Why in the world would you not get in front of this with your connections at Bain and say "Hold off on the decision to shut the plant guys, it might not play well for me in the election."?).  The left played this theme "Romney doesn't care about you. He only cares about his rich buddies" and while it worked to define Romney, I don't think it is entirely true.  Of course, the 47% video went along way to reinforce this idea that Romney was a three dimensional Montgomery Burns.

"The Donald"

The right continually derided the President as being un-American.  Vicious and simply ridiculous statements about his past, his beliefs, his plans were run non-stop by the talking buffoonery on the right like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Brent Bozell, etc. etc. Since President Obama was elected, the right categorized this man as something other than a legitimate President.  Well, guess what?  He's not.  He's a real American citizen, who is about as normal as anyone else.   The biggest example of the stupidity on the Right Wing regarding this campaign can be summed up by this picture of the biggest clown involved in the campaign, one Mr. Donald Trump.  Yes, The Donald was an erstwhile President Candidate for about 5 minutes.  Yes, he's a loud-mouth attention seeking celebrity. Yes, he had "the goods" on the President's birth certificate.  He, Joe Arpaio and all the rest of the lunatics on the right turned off this electorate in general.  Mr. Trump's utter foolishness might have excited the hard right base of the party, but hey Donald (The hard right base of the party is shrinking rapidly and you can't win with them).

No, none of the extremism on either party worked. What ultimately came across is that this country has a center-right view on some things and a center-left view on others. This was exemplified by Romney's 180 degree turn in the first debate back to "Moderate Mitt", which resulted in the race getting much tighter than it was.   No, what the country demands is a leader and Congress that will work together to get something done.  The GOP's hopes in the Senate were crushed.  They actually lost more popular votes in the House races than the Democrats even though they retained a majority.  A clear signal was sent that the country is fatigued with the in-fighting and stupidity that was displayed during the campaign and wants the folks we send to Washington to get off their keisters and accomplish something.  The absolutist perspective of the Tea Party and the evangelical Right Wing was repudiated on Tuesday.  More than that, the election exposed the weak under-belly of the general message of the idea that we should all be acolytes of Grover Norquist and Pat Robertson.  Time will tell, if this sticks or we go back to our respective corners and become ideologues again.  The first big test on whether or not Washington will actually do something positive is coming up regarding the fiscal cliff.  We shall see.

4.  Big, secret money didn't work.  Romney's war chest and Obama's war chest was about equal in terms of traditional campaign financing. Collectively the campaigns spent about 1 Billion dollars on the election which is absurd and somewhat obscene. One wonders why it has gotten to this point, but it is what it is.  The non-affiliated money pouring into this race from the Super-PACs or other methods is uncounted but estimated to be almost another half a billion dollars.  The Koch Brothers (The real Snidely Whiplashes of the race, see the note above), Sheldon Adelson and others poured hundreds of millions of dollars into machines designed to obliterate the President.  I wonder how Karl Rove is explaining the ROI of the race to those guys right now?   It's apparent that while money is important, it is not the be-all end-all of campaigns.  Ask Linda McMahon, who over the last two senate races in Connecticut spent about $100 Million of her own money just to lose.  Ask Meg Whitman, who spend $30M of her own money in 2010 against Jerry Brown for the governorship in California only to lose. No, while money is important, there has to be something else there. There has to be a coherent, and encompassing message that the electorate at large agrees with.  The GOP doesn't have that message right now, and if they keep doing what they are doing, we can soon begin to refer to them as the Whig Party.  Given the visual of those people on the East Coast devastated by Hurricane Sandy who were pleading for assistance and compare that with the visual of private jets, $25,000 a plate fund-raisers and you can easily see who will win and who will lose in the messaging contest.

5. Math matters.  All hail Nate Silver!  For those of you who don't know Nate Silver, he runs a blog site called Five Thirty Eight.  which conducts polling aggregation, or in other words, gathers data from all the polling services like Gallup, Pew Research and others and models outcomes based on the polls.  Guess what?  Silver hit the outcome on the nose.  He was derided by the Right because his blog is associated with the New York Times, a well know liberal commie rag. But, regardless of association, math works.  Statistics work.  One positive outcome of this election i hope is that enrollment in statistics and math classes will jump as a result.  Silver is the proto-typical geek, dark framed eyeglasses and all, and boy, was he right on the mark with his election predictions.  Look for future campaigns to be very focused on polling in the manner of Sliver and his colleagues going forward. 

6. Finally, it boils down to what the voter thinks as they walk into that precinct to cast their vote.  I think the general population casting their votes simply thought the President was doing a credible job and deserved another term.  I also think people trust this President and were somewhat scared off by Romney's lack of candor and detail on what he intended to do.  It comes down to who you trust more.  In the end,  They trusted this guy more than the other one. 

Tell me what you think.




  1. Anonymous3:07 PM

    It's amazing Obama secured the turnout he did in Ohio and Florida, given the voter suppression and curtailing of early voting days. I wonder if it's possible to tease out how many more people voted for Obama because they were enraged and motivated by these tactics.

  2. Great bloggin' Dennis. Keep it up. The 538 blog and Nate Silver commentary is especially accurate whether Fox News chooses to see that or not. Looking forward to meeting you at the conference!