Why Obama Won — and What Conservatives Must Do

There are no ways to get around the facts. For Republicans and conservatives and independents who wanted a new direction for our country, the victory of President Obama is sad -- and for many of us, unexpected. Those conservatives who assured us with statistics, theories, and arguments about Romney winning the White House, even in a landslide, should be eating their hats.

In the past week, conservatives who usually disagree with each other about many things, including Fred Barnes, Peggy Noonan, Dick Morris, my PJM colleague Roger Kimball, George F. Will,  Karl Rove, and Michael Barone, among others, provided analysis and arguments, all of which led to predictions of an inevitable Romney victory. Instead of the outcome they all looked forward to and assumed would be inevitable given Obama’s failures and the state of the economy, they found that their theories collapsed as the returns poured in. Instead of a long night, by 11:30 p.m. even Fox News had called the election for the president. Yes, Karl Rove thought their statistics desk called it too early, but 15 minutes later he too agreed that Ohio had gone for the president.

So what happened? I had been trying to warn my optimistic friends in recent days that I thought Obama would win, and was regularly greeted with a slew of polls meant to prove I was wrong. So here are some of my thoughts and reactions, written before I can be influenced by the pundits who will be writing in tomorrow morning’s newspapers and appearing on TV talk shows.

First, the Obama campaign’s decision to frighten women worked. Republicans did not wage a campaign on social issues, but the Obama team ran commercials in all the major swing states emphasizing how Romney would try to outlaw contraception and prohibit their right to choose abortion if they felt there was no alternative, and that half the population would be threatened were a Republican elected.

Republicans lost the Senate with the two candidates who made outrageous statements that Romney simply dealt with by saying he did not agree; he refused to take away his endorsements, which would have indicated he meant business. No one expected the unpopular Claire McCaskill to win, but Todd Akin’s ridiculous statements led even her to win, and Richard Murdock’s outrageous views on rape as something God intended resulted in victory for his Democratic opponent. Without the Republican Party sticking to support for both these candidates, the Republicans might have been able to gain the Senate. With friends like these, conservatives became their own worst enemies, providing the ammunition for the Democratic charge that Republicans were waging a war on women.

Second, there is the hurricane factor. The nation saw Obama in his bomber jacket, accompanied by Republican keynoter Gov. Chris Christie as he visited the devastated areas of New Jersey hit by Hurricane Sandy. For the Democrats, it became the perfect storm that allowed the nation to believe what it wanted desperately to think -- that Barack Obama had become a leader whom even the conservative governor of New Jersey worked with and praised for his leadership. The news coverage of Obama and Christie, and the governor’s effusive over-the-top praise of the president, hurt Romney in a significant fashion. Christie’s stance even led Bruce Springsteen to talk on the phone with the governor on Election Day, and to praise him for his working relationship with the president. Christie finally got the call from his hero that he had been yearning for. Gone, I think, are his chances to run for the White House as the Republican candidate four years from now.

Third: the Latino vote. The percentage of Latinos voting increased significantly, and although many are Catholic and socially conservative, the tough stance on immigration reform taken by Romney in the primary campaign hurt his chances of gaining enough of their votes. Republicans like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, both of Florida, were serious about conservatives developing a position more flexible and less dogmatic than the anti-immigration position of many conservatives. Their views, supported by the Wall Street Journal and most of the business community, were not that of most conservatives. When the voting statistics are tallied, I think we will find that with more Latinos voting for Republicans, Romney might have been able to do much better, if not win. As it is, he will have won far less than George W. Bush, who tried to develop a different policy but lost his fight to gain conservative support on the issue.