Thursday, March 21, 2013

‘Ugly’ GOP leaves votes on the table

(Republican National Committee)
(Republican National Committee)
The first 12 pages of the “Growth and Opportunity Project” (a.k.a. the Republican Party’s autopsy of its 2012 bid for the White House) are a brutally honest assessment of the GOP. The problem for the party was summed up in two quotations from two rock-ribbed Republicans. “No one cares what you know until they know you care,” the report cites the late Jack Kemp as once saying. And then there’s this from Tea Party menace Dick Armey: “You can’t call someone ugly and expect them to go to the prom with you.”
That “the GOP is no party for blacks, Latinos and gays” should come as a surprise to no one. The Republican Party has spent many an election cycle saying and doing things that make it inhospitable to anyone who isn’t older, white, straight and male. And as a result, it is leaving votes on the table.
“We are not a policy committee,” the writers of the Growth and Opportunity Project report said, before suggesting that the party “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.” As I reported in November, an ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions 2012 Latino Election Eve Poll that surveyed Hispanic voters in 11 states showed the imperative of this question.
When asked whether they would be “more likely” or “less likely” to vote GOP “if the Republican Party took a leadership role in supporting comprehensive immigration reform, with an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants,” 31 percent said “more likely.” That would have made Republicans competitive with Democrats for the Hispanic vote. Instead, Romney mustered 27 percent of that vote, down 17 points from President George W. Bush’s record-high tally in his 2004 reelection.
The GOP autopsy even acknowledged the “generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays.” The Post-ABC News poll bears out the generational divide among Americans in general. But a policy shift on gay rights that diminishes the gulf between the Republican Party and Democrats would be incredibly beneficial to the GOP.
As I reported last summer, a Harris Interactive-Logo TV poll of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans released in August showed that Romney was leaving LGBT votes on the table. When asked if Romney “held the same positions on issues related to gay rights” as Obama, 22 percent said they would be “more likely to vote for Romney.” Considering that 67 percent expressed support for Obama, a shift in support that big toward Romney would have tied the two for the LGBT vote.
And then there are African Americans. Look, Romney’s chances of loosening Obama’s grip on the black vote were slim to none. But according to the NAACP Battleground Poll conducted in the days leading up to the November election, there was a way for the Republican Party to make inroads among African Americans.
The NAACP asked black voters in Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Virginia whether they would be more likely to vote Republican if the “GOP took a stand for civil rights/equality.” The four-state total was 14 percent. In Florida, the percentage went up to 15 percent. The president won the Sunshine State by just 74,000 votes.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
“We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too,” the GOP report notes. “We must recruit more candidates who come from minority communities. But it is not just tone that counts. Policy always matters.” Exactly. But Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus didn’t do the cause of party renewal any favors when he said, “I think our policies are sound.” Dana Milbank correctly called this the “Grand Old Punt.”
It’s one thing to diagnose the problem. It’s another to do something about it. And right now, after what we saw at the Conservative Political Action Conference and what we will continue to see from the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz and others on Capitol Hill, I’m not convinced the Republican Party will be ready any time soon to go after the votes it left on the table in 2012.

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