Yes, Republicans are in treatment after their catastrophic loss last November. We kept our majority in the House due to gerrymandering, and we lost two seats in the Senate. Romney’s loss was bad, but our inability to gain seats in the Senate was ignominious. Democrats were tasked with defending twenty-three senate seats, and twelve of those races had eminently beatable incumbents. However, due to some of our party members’ obsession with rape and pregnancy, we’re short two seats when the next congress convenes.
What’s becoming increasingly clear is that the conservative movement is on defense. For the past quarter century, it’s been the opposite. I dare say that progressives have gotten inside the conservative psyche with ruthless efficiency. Furthermore, we have an operational deficit. Democrats are eons ahead of Republicans concerning targeting future voters. The era of Karl Rove is over, and an heir apparent is absent. President Obama outspent Mitt Romney ten to one on social media in his re-election effort. The other side gets it – and they look cool doing it. Obama’s team is the best out there. It’s the meanest, toughest, and most vicious collection of political minds we’ve ever faced – and we lost. There’s not way Eric Fehrnstrom, or anyone on Romney’s team, would’ve been able to counter their skills. So, where do we go from here?
Abby Livingston at Roll Call wrote on December 10 that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus announced a new initiative to tackle the issues where Republicans are lacking. It’s called the Growth and Opportunity Project.
There will be five chairmen of the effort. They are:
- Henry Barbour, a national committeeman from Mississippi
- Sally Bradshaw, a veteran senior strategist in Florida and national politics
- Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary
- Zori Fonalledas, a national committeewoman from Puerto Rico
- Glenn McCall, a national committeeman from South Carolina
The objective of the group, according to a release, is “reviewing past practices and also making critical recommendations for the future” in eight areas:
- campaign mechanics and ground game
- demographic partners and allies
- third-party groups
- campaign finance issues
- presidential primaries
- lessons learned from Democratic campaign tactics
Politico first reported the news and also noted that a similar self-examination is occurring with the Republican super PAC American Crossroads. And last week, CQ Roll Call reported that a similar postmortem occurred with regards to Republican digital efforts in 2012.
Yes, we all should remember the infamous Project ORCA, which was an unmitigated disaster. For example, GOTV operations were virtually paralyzed in Colorado. The price for centralizing a decentralized campaign tactic was leaving 30,000 Romney volunteers unable to conduct strike listing, make phone calls to remind Republican voters, and turn them out in general. Never. Again.
However, even conservative grassroots organizations, like Americans for Prosperity, have to lick their wounds. They spent close to $120 million on this election cycle, which ended with conservative influence decreased in Washington. Concerning the loss, I asked Stephanie Fontenot, AFP’s New Media Manager, if the organization had any plans to release more ads to put pressure on Republicans to not raise taxes during the volatile fiscal cliff negotiations. She said “as for ads – we’re doing a lot of our reach organically, really concentrating on getting our followers and activists to push this out and put on the pressure online. Twitter gives us a unique way to get our message out in a more direct way to each member and his/her staff.”
One area that Republicans – and conservatives – desperately need to improve on is Hispanic outreach. We cannot continue to lose the Latino vote by a margin of 75%-23% again. Additionally, Romney lost the Cuban vote in Florida, which paints an even bleaker picture when a once reliable bloc of voters switches sides. To put things into perspective, Bush won 44% of Hispanics in 2004.
Fontenot said that “our [the conservative] message of economic freedom affects all Americans and we seek to reach Americans as a whole. We do recognize the need to craft that message so that everyone is able to receive it. We are currently working on op-ed’s that will be published in English and in Spanish. Our AFP-Florida state chapter sends most of their press releases in more than one language.” I couldn’t agree more. However, the next step is actually putting some boots on the ground to touch voters in those communities. Hispanics have a lot that is malleable with the Republican Party. It’s time we capitalize on that with a renewed fervor.
While AFP is looking to target Latinos and use social media to articulate conservatism to the masses, it all falls on how the establishment will take this new era. Will they continue their efforts to moderate the party? Will they finally decide that growing a backbone is essential in this fights? I’m not sure. The Republican Party’s sixty minutes aren’t up yet.