I am still working on tying everything together from the 2012 election into a singular theme, but for now, I just want to make some brief observations:
1) That demographic revolution Democrats have been talking about? It’s here. Non-white voters made up approximately 28 percent of the electorate. The Romney team and right-leaning pollsters like Rasmussen and Gallup were modeling for 25-26 percent, and that’s why they were stunned when Obama won. Increasing percentages of non-white voters is the new normal. The Republican Party must adapt, or die.
2) The state-by-state polls showing Obama ahead in virtually every battleground state? Yeah, they were pretty much right on target. (Except, of course, for Rasmussen. Rasmussen still skews to the right and will continue to have credibility issues as long as it’s wrong, which is quite often. But most credible polling turned out to be right on the money or pretty close to it.) So all of you poll deniers out there: Are you convinced yet? Or are you going to continue denying things like, oh, math and science?
3) Gallup is no longer the gold standard in polling. Honestly, it hasn’t been for quite some time, but this election should prove the deathblow to its credibility. In perhaps the most embarrassingly bad performance since, well, Gallup in the 1948 Truman-Dewey miscall, the supposed leading pollster in America went into the final week showing a significant Romney lead, and still had him winning at the end despite a sudden, dramatic tightening after suspending polling due to Hurricane Sandy. Even Rasmussen, always notoriously right-leaning, never showed a seven-point national lead for Romney as Gallup did. Gallup’s numbers on the race were reflective of nothing resembling reality, and this organization either needs to right the ship or—pardon the pun—Gallup off to the glue factory.
4) The pundits, particularly on the right? Completely disgraced. George Will and Peggy Noonan, formerly voices of reason, blew every shred of credibility they had in predicting a near-landslide for Romney. And then there was Dick Morris, but the good news for him was that he didn’t have any credibility to lose. But even some pundits who are usually relatively even-handed were sucked in to the fallacy that this was a dead-even race, and that’s in part due to all the smoke the Obama team blew for months and months, lulling Team Romney and the press into a completely false narrative.
5) Women actually do make up their own minds about what’s important to them. We saw a lot of female Republican politicians and Ann Romney go on television to say that reproductive choice issues really weren’t all that important to women. Well, it turns out that a lot of women actually do care when politicians attempt to tell them what kind of reproductive decisions they can and can’t make. And guess what, folks—quite a few women who would never choose to have an abortion themselves still don’t like the idea that politicians might want to make that decision on their behalf. Oh, and contraception? Stay away from that one, OK? This is 2012. That issue was settled for most people a long time ago. Even among Catholics, an estimated 90-plus percent use contraception at some point in their lives, and if you don’t believe that, ask yourself a question: When was the last time you saw a family with eight kids at Mass?
6) Stay away from rape. The next politician who mentions rape in any context (other than it is a horrible crime and must be severely punished) is not just a bad choice on women’s issues, but also too stupid to hold office. Just about any candidate who brought up this topic got beat. If the lesson here isn’t obvious, I don’t know what is.
7) Irrational hatred is not a viable electoral strategy. Much of the wacky wing of the GOP has spent most of the last four-plus years demonizing President Obama. What did it get them? Well, it got them somewhere in the ball park of 48 percent of the vote. Many on the right were so convinced that the country was dead-set on firing Obama that they neglected the need for a strong candidate or any raison d’etre beyond firing Obama. They just figured any Republican would beat him. Well, a lot of people hated George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon and Franklin Roosevelt. What did they all have in common? They all got reelected, three of them in landslides. Learn this lesson and learn it well: A president vilified by his opponents almost always gets reelected. It’s the presidents who people feel sorry for who get beat.
8) Failure to acknowledge reality does not change reality. Many Republicans were stunned when Romney lost (including, by various accounts, Romney himself and his entire team). But all the scientific polling pointed to an Obama victory all along. The signs were clear for anybody who was willing to see them. There was never a single day, during the entire election cycle, when the state-level polling showed Romney anywhere near the lead in the electoral-vote count. Many leading Republican politicians pooh-poohed the notion of a “gender gap,” but it was there all along, and it was there on election day; 55 percent of women voted for Obama. Many on the right (including the Romney team and, by its own admission, Rasmussen) believed young voters and non-white voters would not show up in anywhere near the numbers they showed up in 2008, but they formed a larger share of the electorate in 2012 than they did in any previous election. As Robert J. Ringer noted in his landmark book Winning Through Intimidation, failure to acknowledge reality and use it to your advantage ensures that reality will work against you. That is exactly what happened to the Republicans in 2012.