Main Street PAC’s 2012 Election Review

The Republican Main Street Partnership Political Action Committee had mixed results in the 2012 elections.  We were pleased at the re-election of the vast majority of our House incumbents and the election of several new House Members.  But we suffered the loss of a few current Members and the overall Democratic trend of this election prevented some of our new candidates from winning.

President Barrack Obama’s victory appeared to hurt many down ballot Republican candidates.  This seemed particularly evident in the non battleground states, where President Obama won large majorities.  RMSP-PAC candidates were particularly hard hit in states such as Massachusetts, Illinois and California.

In Ohio, RMSP backed Reps. Steve Chabot, Mike Turner, Pat Tiberi, Steve Stivers, and Jim Renacci, all won reelection.  In the 14th District race to succeed retiring Rep. Steve LaTourette, Republican David Joyce easily defeated three other candidates.

Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown lost a hard fought race against Elizabeth Warren and in the 6th District Richard Tisei came within 1% of defeating incumbent Rep. Jim Tierney.  New Hampshire, thought of as a swing state in the Presidential race, wound up going for President Obama by nearly six percentage points.  Rep. Charlie Bass ran ahead of Mitt Romney is his 2nd District, but still wound up losing.

In Illinois, Reps. Judy Biggert, Robert Dold, and Bobby Schilling lost – not able to overcome the strong Democratic edge in the State.  California Reps. Mary Bono-Mack and Brian Bilbray both lost by narrow margins, again hurt by a strong victory by President Obama.

Post Election Commentary

In recent media interviews, Retiring Rep. Steve LaTourette made several comments on the future of the Republican Party.  He indicated, “The Republican Party cannot be a national party if we give up the entire East Coast of the United States and say we don’t have any Republicans in New England, we don’t have any Republicans in the Mid-Atlantic States.” LaTourette added that the GOP would cease to be a national party unless they “get out of people’s lives, get out of people’s bedrooms.”

Rep. LaTourette also bemoaned the inability of Democrats and Republicans to come together, even on legislation that ordinarily would be easily passed.  “The small things that we used to be able to do in a bipartisan way, we can’t get done and that’d be the farm bill, the transportation bill.  For crying out loud, we couldn’t even agree to leave town for the election … And that lack of willingness to find common ground on the no-brainer issues really is what put me over the edge,” LaTourette said.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called on Republicans to “stop being the stupid party” and make a concerted effort to reach a broader swath of voters with an inclusive economic message that pre-empts efforts to caricature the GOP as the party of the rich.  Gov. Jindal urged Republicans to, “both reject anti-intellectualism and embrace a populist-tinged reform approach that he said would mitigate what exit polls show was one of President Barack Obama’s most effective lines of attack against Mitt Romney.”

Alaskan Moria Sullivan, in an op-ed for the Anchorage Compass, said, “The Republican Party has, at this moment, a historic golden opportunity.  It has the chance to do for America what Lisa Murkowski did for Alaska two years ago: Cast its extreme right-wing members into a third party, and carve out a new centrist coalition to lead the next generation.”

“As the 2010 Senate election in Alaska showed, even in an extremely right-leaning state, voters are reluctant to select candidates that espouse a social agenda that many Americans, especially those under the age of 40, find abhorrent.  That slice of the population will become a larger share of the electorate in the coming years. The younger generation, while somewhat evenly split on economic philosophy, is almost universally opposed to restrictions on gay marriage, legal abortion, and other forms of religious moralizing that have come to define the modern Republican party.  The key to winning younger voters is to abandon these issues, and the ‘conservative social agenda,’ entirely.”

“By tacking towards the center, the Republican Party could successfully adopt the winning moderate strategy of Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 — forcing the opposition to distinguish itself by becoming more extreme.  Republicans can make a strong case for center-right action on the environment and foreign policy that will force Democrats leftward, attract economic moderates, and make the loss of the Tea Party irrelevant.”

Writing in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman offers several suggestions for reshaping the Republican Party.  “The GOP has lost two presidential elections in a row because it forced its candidate to run so far to the loony right to get through the primaries, dominated by its ultraconservative base, that he could not get close enough back to the center to carry the national election.  It is not enough for Republicans to tell their Democratic colleagues in private — as some do — “I wish I could help you, but our base is crazy.”  They need to have their own reformation.  The center-right has got to have it out with the far-right, or it is going to be a minority party for a long time.”

“Many in the next generation of America know climate change is real, and they want to see something done to mitigate it.  Many in the next generation of America will be of Hispanic origin and insist on humane immigration reform that gives a practical legal pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  The next generation is going to need immigration of high-IQ risk-takers from India, China and Latin America if the U.S. is going to remain at the cutting edge of the information technology revolution and be able to afford the government we want.  The GOP today is at war with too many in the next generation of America on all of these issues.”

“All that said, my prediction is that the biggest domestic issue in the next four years will be how we respond to changes in technology, globalization and markets that have, in a very short space of time, made the decent-wage, middle-skilled job — the backbone of the middle class — increasingly obsolete.  The only decent-wage jobs will be high-skilled ones.”

“The answer to that challenge will require a new level of political imagination — a combination of educational reforms and unprecedented collaboration between business, universities and government to change how workers are trained and empowered to keep learning.  It will require tax reforms and immigration reforms.  America today desperately needs a center-right GOP that is offering merit-based, market-based approaches to all these issues — and a willingness to meet the other side halfway.  The country is starved for practical, bipartisan cooperation, and it will reward politicians who deliver it and punish those who don’t.”

Former Reagan and Bush Administration official Alan Charles Raul, in a Washington Post op-ed, writes, “For the Republican Party faithful, turning things around will require exorcising our tendency over the past several years to divide the electorate and narrow party membership.  Remember when there were Reagan Republicans and Reagan Democrats?  Perhaps we could try out a new tag line: The new Republican Party — putting the best of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan to work for America.

“Republican reformers will earn crossover appeal by developing ideas for fiscal discipline, right-sized government, entitlement reform and business friendliness.  They should also show support for such values as personal accountability, meritocracy, equality of opportunity and national pride.  Social policies will remain relevant, but party leaders must avoid prioritizing highly divisive issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception.  Instead, Republicans should stress more mainstream policies that promote and preserve intact families, in-wedlock births and school choice.  These are conservative sentiments, to be sure, but ones with rock-solid support across different demographic groups.”

Craig Shirley, author of two books on President Ronal Reagan, and President of a public affairs and communications firm, offered a “revival guide for the Republican Party” in a recent Washington Post Opinion section article.  He offered several suggestions, saying, “What used to be a contest of ideas has disintegrated into the equivalent of a schoolyard name-calling contest.  Conservatives, if they think their ideas are better, should not fear articulating them while also respecting the ideas of liberals.  At the end of the day, everyone wants the same thing: a better, more prosperous and freer country for ourselves and our children.  The only question is the best way to get there.”

“Today, the GOP does not know what it wants to be.  It has a true identity crisis.  The party never had that important conversation with itself after John McCain’s defeat in 2008, instead telling itself that opposition to the Democrats was enough — and not offering a competing philosophy.  Hence the tea party, frustrated with the GOP’s ruling elites, stepped into the vacuum with its own movement.”

“What is really needed?  The first step has to be a recognition that the world and the nation have changed.  This does not mean that Republicans should alter their principles but rather that they should reengage with a philosophy of freedom, individual rights and individual privacy.”

“After Tuesday’s defeat, much has been written about the country’s shifting demographics and how the GOP cannot hope to win with a shrinking white male majority.  But the Republicans cannot become a mini-Democratic Party.  Freedom and individual empowerment have long been attractive — Republicans need to get back to them.  Demographics may be destined to change, but a consistent message of individuality and privacy is appealing to all people from all walks of life.”

Sarah Westwood, a college student at George Washington University, recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “Most kids my age bristle at the word ‘conservative,’ and I don’t blame them.  The right has done nothing to welcome young people.  If Republicans hope to win in 2016 and beyond, they need to change everything about the way they sell themselves.  They’re viewed by the 18-24 set as the ‘party of the rich’ and as social bigots.  That harsh, flawed opinion could be rectified if Republicans started presenting their positions in a different way.”

“Frame the Republican fundamentals—tax less, spend less—as a fresh populist approach instead of Grandpa’s adage, and the party is back in business.  The GOP won’t survive if it doesn’t start courting young voters.  Simple math dictates that the Republican Party can wrest power away from the left only if it builds an army of fresh young members into its base.  Democrats are the ones doing that now.”

USA Today recently editorialized that the 2012 election sent “a warning to (the) GOP,” noting that Republicans failed to “focus on fiscal responsibility, stop being so angry about everything, and find ways to expand the party’s appeal to people of color and young voters.”