By Mark Green
Three post-election predicates: a poll of polls six months ago had it Obama 50.5 percent and Romney 48.5 percent, nearly identical to final result, so something more fundamental than conventions, debates, ads, gotchas, hurricanes was going on; 44 is the only Dem this past century -- other than FDR -- to have won twice with a majority of the vote; Democrats have won five of the last six presidential elections based on the popular vote.
What did Obama do right? What did Romney and GOP do wrong? What's Obama's mandate? Will the GOP modernize or be like Japanese soldiers wandering around in caves in Iwo Jima refusing to believe the war's over?
On what Obama did right. Mary and Ron agree that the Obama campaign's GOTV operation -- a combination of "algorithms and door to door," in her phrase -- was a vital component. Mary adds that it was unappetizing, high-risk but smart for the Obama campaign to define Romney in attack ads late Spring before he could define himself. Ron adds that "people see Obama as a very likable guy who's a straight-shooter and understand that he inherited the fiscal situation."
Asks the Host: that's all process -- what about policy and philosophy? What did he do well over four years to put him in a winning position -- like displaying his confidence in picking Hillary at State (which earned him Bill in the stretch), rescuing GM and Chrysler (which probably won him the Midwest), getting Bin Laden (which showed him to be a tough JFK Dem) -- and shifting from job losses to job gains? And since the Wall Street Journal and fellow-travelers said that this election would and should be about the scale and role of government, has Obama won that argument?
Ron agrees, citing Hurricane Sandy. While he doesn't think that was decisive in the final result, "it did allow him to appear as an effective executive" and on the right side of the government-let's-do-it-together argument. Mary counters that Sandy may well have slammed both NJ and Mitt and scoffs that the Republicans lost any debate over government.
On what Romney or Republicans did wrong. Since the GOP saw this race as a winnable or even easy one against an empty suit and empty chair, in their version, how did "the anointed one" get 332 electoral votes?
Mary lauds Romney as a quality candidate who "earned my enthusiastic support." She then goes back to a tactical analysis: viz., millions in the conservative base didn't show up and he failed to adequately defend his record against unfair attacks. She doesn't bite when asked about the possible roles played by the 47 percent video, Ryan as VP, gender gap and choice, primaries pulling the governor to the far Right, Latinos being angry over immigration, the GOP being too old hat. Mary blames Majority Leader Harry Reid for the failure of immigration reform and notes that "Matt Dowd's simply wrong when he compares the parties to Modern Family and Mad Men. Look at people like Rubio."
Ron, however, does see the final slogans of "Real Change" vs. "Forward" as meaningful. "People vote based more on their gut than particular policies. The choice was between the 21st century and the 19th, which was why younger people, minorities, Latinos voted for Obama."
On Obama's Mandate. After his 2004 reelection victory, President Bush famously said, "I earned capital, political capital, and I now intend to spend it." How should Obama spend his? Is there an opportunity now on tax rate increases, comprehensive immigration reform, an energy-climate change deal?
Mary urges caution since the issues he ran on have little public support, she says, like raising taxes on the wealthy and his version of Medicare reform. She scorned any approach that would be tantamount to "giving away free birth control... there's still the laws of supply and demand and the market."
Ron disagrees. There is significant public support for raising rates slightly on the richest Americans. "If the Republicans obstruct again [on these issues], it'll be to their detriment. We live in a different country than they thought. So yes there's broad support for raising the rates a little on the top earners."
On the GOP reckoning. Host: we play a clip from Rachel Maddow's instant-classic rant on MSNBC listing all the ways that the GOP denied reality (biased polls, biased BLS data, Benghazi-gate, 44's birth, etc. etc), concluding that if the GOP doesn't get out of their bubble, they'll get shellacked again.
Ron agrees that the GOP must change course, citing the now much-discussed GOP "demographics problem," which appears to be a euphemism for appearing unwelcoming to minorities. Since 82 percent of the electorate in 1980 was white but only 72 percent in 2012 -- and since the Republican Latino vote went from 44 percent to 31 percent to 27 percent in the last three presidential election cycles -- the GOP has a Latino problem.
Mary discounts Maddow's thrust as something merely for "political junkies, the chattering class." Again she refers to the inability of the party to get its base out... but Ron interrupts: "The problem is that if Romney had done more to get out his white base, it could have turned off more independent voters. People like Akin and Mourdock are insane!" Now Mary interrupts. "But they don't represent anybody! I agreed they should get the hell out." Ron: "But they do represent a sizable chunk of the party!"
Quick Takes: Senate Dems. Senate Women. 2016! Mary blames nominees like Akin and Mourdock for screwing things up for the GOP... Ron agrees with that analysis (which makes five winnable Senate seats that Tea Partiers lost) as well as some coat-tails from Obama. There's consensus that it's a huge deal and will probably change the body that the U.S. Senate has gone from one woman 40 years ago to three in 1996 to 20 in 2013. "Women are more practical," says Mary, without dissent.
Since some 15 men/women woke up November 7 taking steps to be in position to run for president in 2016, we tried, with mixed success, to clue in listeners. After putting Hillary Clinton aside in a special category, Mary cautions against getting out so fast that "you get a target on your back," noting however that Senator Rubio is doing just that by speaking in Iowa imminently. Ron in Seattle speculates about Bloomberg and Cuomo, proving that distance makes the heart grow fond. O'Malley, Klobuchar, Schweitzer, Scarborough, Huckabee? Nobody bites.
Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.
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