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Where Do Republicans Go From Here?

If the Republicans couldn't beat 7.9 percent unemployment, rising taxes and debt, a lackluster housing market and a recent terrorist attack overseas, columnist Lisa Bigelow believes it's time for them to rethink their message to the electorate

You could see defeat in their faces on Fox News as the returns began rolling in.

Pennsylvania? “Fool’s gold.” Michigan? “That was a long shot, anyway.” Virginia? “It all depends on Fairfax County.” Florida? “It’s the voters in the I-4 corridor.”

And, of course, Ohio.

Indeed, only the brilliant, but reviled Republican strategist Karl Rove looked optimistic after 9 p.m.

At 10:30, my husband and I turned off the television, a persistent, sinking feeling in our collective gut. I woke at 1 a.m. and couldn’t resist grabbing my phone and loading Drudge.

Headline: “The Divided States of America.”

Sigh. So close. So close.

Naturally, sleep proved elusive as I pondered the meaning of the results. Although exit poll voters gave the edge on the economy to Romney, Obama still won. Women and minorities supported the president roundly, while white men, upper income voters, the religious right and other traditional conservative stalwarts supported Romney.

Of course, defeating an incumbent president is nearly impossible. But the fact that Republicans didn’t win in a landslide last Tuesday indicates the party of Lincoln has an elephant-sized case of head-in-the-sanditis.

Republican strategists will no doubt spend a lot more time analyzing this past election than I will. While I’m sure we’ll all hear tons about how GOP candidates need to do a better job getting their message out to Hispanics and middle-income moms, the problem isn’t the breadth of communication; it’s the communication itself.

I think Washington has a habit of underestimating the man (or woman) in the street. Voters get what the Republicans are saying. They just don’t like it.

That doesn’t mean they embrace the liberal agenda, either, as evidenced by the halfhearted endorsement of the Obama mandate. It just means that they found the reality of another Obama administration more tolerable than the idea of a Romney administration.

The long-held assumption that America is a center-right country is false. We’re center-center. We want compromise. And nobody, from the single mom waitress in Cuyahoga County to the hedge fund manager in New Canaan, wants to see the government waste taxpayer money.

Let’s not forget, the fact of the matter is George W. Bush spent money like a drunken sailor and left Obama with a big fat mess. It’s not as if the economy was plugging along nicely and Obama wrecked it. The ugly truth is the country has still not recovered from the Bush years. Voters recognized it. Republican leadership should, too.

But the common thread between all of the reasons voters chose Obama is the Republicans’ insistence on not accepting the reality of the shifting priorities of the American electorate.

When Romney shifted to the right on immigration that was a big mistake. Why? Although rounding up illegal immigrants and shipping them back home sounds great on paper, it is not a practical solution to our border problem. Developing a sensible amnesty program is and Hispanic voters noticed.

Maintaining a pro-life platform was an even bigger mistake and the right wing needs to accept America is never going to outlaw abortion. Women noticed and they're tired of it. Yes, I know no one even talked about overturning Roe v. Wade. If you don’t want an abortion, don’t get an abortion—but let others make their own choices. Voters believe that is the American way.

Romney also would have been better off taking credit for the truth of being the ideological father of Obamacare (and also for being pro-choice while leading Massachusetts). Standing up to the noisy far right, with whom northeastern and west coast voters do not identify, would have demonstrated courageous leadership. And though it would have made the GOP faithful red-faced in anger, it would have garnered the respect of voters. 

Finally, how refreshing would it have been to hear Romney say, “I think we should keep the Bush tax cuts. But healing a divided nation and making real progress will only be achieved through bipartisan legislation. That’s why I cannot release specific details now.

“I need the American people to give me a chance to sit down with our Democratic friends and work out a compromise that every party can be proud of. It may include entitlement cuts and higher revenues. But we won’t know how great our nation could be unless you elect me to prove it.”

Alas, it was not to be.

Tucker November 12, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Sandra-Enough with your paranoia. It's exhausting. Patraeus (dirtbag, cheater, etc.) will testify. Congress holds subpoena power. Are you really going to spend the next 4 years discrediting the man who was just re-elected to the office of PRESIDENT? I don't agree with everything the man does but I will not condemn every idea he has. I feel like that's your only path. Please reconsider. I know you blame the media ... focus on that. You need to realize that you believe every story (BS or not) that paints him in an un-flatering light and you should look past that. Not everything is a conspiracy.
Sandra November 12, 2012 at 10:36 PM
The Buck stops at the media. Got it
Joeseph Biff November 13, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Even with Sean Ha-nutty,El Rushbo,Mark Levin,The Donald,Fox News .etc bashing Obama 24/7 ,he still got re-elected.Let's all move on and away from the noise of the media and try to be positive about our country's future.I'm not crazy about Romney or Obama.Crazy Uncle Joe Biden was out of control during his debate with Ryan.Ryan showed a lot of class,which Biden lacked.I think if Romney had picked a different running mate though,he may have won.Remember Palin?She killed McCain's chance.The Republicans should let their Pres. candidate pick their VP,not the stupid advisors.They both told lies,as do ALL politicians.So it's all a big mess,but these are the cards we have been dealt. God bless our country! It's still the best place on the planet to live.Love it,or leave it.
Frederick Klein November 13, 2012 at 03:34 PM
I'll tell you what, Sandra: I won't call you "Sandy" if you don't call me "Freddie". I've noticed that rightwingers always add "ie" to my name when they want to be cute or condescending. I agree that the word "folks" should not be used to describe murderers and terrorists. It used to drive me crazy when George W. Bush did that, and he did it all the time.
Frederick Klein November 13, 2012 at 03:35 PM
That is the first time I've heard Petraeus -- a man respected on both sides of the political spectrum -- as a puppet.

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