Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Contrast: Romney and McCrory

A couple of thoughts about the presidential election and, from the Republicans' point of view, what went wrong? Republican candidates were up against a president whose popularity had waned significantly while long-term unemployment remains painfully high and jobs are scarce. President Obama should have been vulnerable, but he ended up with more than 300 electoral votes.

Contrast Mitt Romney's performance with Pat McCrory's. Both Republicans had been running for the offices they failed to win in 2008 for the past four years. Both were up against unpopular incumbents, although N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue was far more unpopular than Obama, so unpopular that she decided not to embarrass herself by running for re-election and stuck Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton with the task of slowing down McCrory's drive for governor, the office he lost to Perdue in '08.

McCrory won Tuesday by about 10 percentage points in a state that Obama closely contested, losing by a couple of percentage points. The distinct difference was that McCrory ran as an optimist, pragmatic fix-it man who promised to make government work better while Romney had trouble finding his message. The Republican primaries forced Romney to move to the right and to say things that would haunt him in the general election, when he could be his more moderate self. But fear of alienating the right wing base of the party kept Romney strait-jacketed into a persona he didn't quite fit.

Second thought: What if all the millions of dollars Republican financiers spent on television advertising had been invested instead in grassroots political organizing? Looking at the electoral maps and exit polls, it's clear that Obama owes his win in large measure to an effective ground game. The Democrats got their voters to the polls! Just look at the turnout of young, African-American and women voters — all keys to the Democrats' success.

Some Republican advisers have become convinced that television ads can sway voters, but most ads just turn off voters. Electronic media have not replaced basic door-to-door, block-by-block politics. Those millions of television dollars spent in more effective ways might have saved the election for Romney.

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