1. Obama’s popular vote total ended up tracking his RCP job approval average very closely. That’s why I always thought it would be tough for Romney to win as long as Obama’s job approval was between 49%-50%.
2. I blew the call on Scott Brown. The Obama tide in Massachusetts was just too much. This was one election where no Republican ever born could win statewide office in this state.
3. My counterintuitive suggestion is that the Republicans would have been better off if the center-right and launched a sustained and vivid attack on Obama’s abortion extremism (especially on partial birth abortion.) Ceding the social issues field to Obama let him get away with his own extremism and let him be aggressive on this issue. Whose idea was it to think that going to bat on the contraception mandate as a policy focus was more important than partial birth abortion? The focus on late term abortion not only would have (subtly) changed many people’s views of Obama, it might have made some converts to the pro-life cause. This burden probably shouldn’t have been taken up by the Romney campaign. I’m think some 90 second to two minute ads run by one of the outside groups focusing on the humanity of the late term fetus and Obama’s record. It would have done more good than the tens of millions spent on redundant ads reminding the electorate of what they knew about the lousy economy. The election is over, but it still isn’t too late to start making the case.
4. I often focus on the need for longer ads to get center-right messages across. There is a reason for that. There is no exaggerating how little the center-right communicates to the vast majority of people under age thirty. The media transmission belt for conservative ideas is broken when it comes to the majority of the country and especially the young. They literally hear very little of what we have to say and much of what they do hear sounds like total nonsense. A thirty second as is just too short to make an argument to someone who isn’t already plugged into your narratives. All you are likely to get across is get a bunch of slogans and atmospherics that don’t even mean much to your intended audience. There need to arguments pitched to people who don’t already agree with the prevailing conservative narratives.
Bridging this communications gap is too much to ask from elected politicians and definitely too much to ask from politicians in an election year. The messaging burden will need to be handled (IF it is ever handled) by outside groups and maybe some organizing work from the Republican National Committee. Most of the work will need to be done in nonelection years. Persuasion is going to be slow (though the results might be stochastic.) Nobody should expect millions of conversions in a week or a month or a year. Just figuring out a common political language will take time. Even if conservatives get everything right (don’t bet on it) integrating the center-right message into the narratives of nonconservatives will take time. People who took their kids with them so the kids could see them voting for Obama, or who only know conservatives through the Daily Show won’t change their minds all at once. But people do change their minds. Part of it will involve nonconservatives (who aren’t necessarily ideological liberals) hearing something real, intelligible and relevant from conservatives. Perceptions do shift and people become open to new alternatives without even knowing it is happening. Then conservatives will have to take advantage of circumstances as they come up. Only then is there a reasonable hope of changing a substantial number of minds. The problem is that the work of putting people in mind to give conservative candidates a shot in election years is going to be expensive, time consuming and thankless for years to come. There are a lot of emotional incentives to avoid this work.