So Near But Yet So Far
It's been a week since President Obama was re-elected. After mulling the results for seven days, here are my thoughts:
First, congratulations to the President. He won - and winners get to write history.
At the same time, Obama became the first President since at least 1896 to be re-elected by a smaller margin than he was originally elected. As a matter of fact, the margin was dramatically smaller. For people who see this election as an overwhelming mandate for the policies Obama pushed in the first term, the numbers simply don't support that claim.
Second, the Romney/Ryan ticket - while falling short of victory - has nothing to be ashamed of. As I've repeatedly pointed out, it's extremely difficult to defeat a sitting President. While Romney failed to carry the crucial swing States of Virginia, Ohio and Florida, he came very close. I acknowledge that close doesn't count. The point though is that this was not an electoral blowout.
Similarly, despite having Obama at the top of the ticket, Democrats were unable to come even close to retaking the House of Representatives (including 5 GOP seats in Wisconsin). Similarly, the fact that Republicans lost two seats in the Senate seems to be more of a troubling extension of the GOP's tendency to nominate the weakest candidate possible ("Legitimate rape"?) as opposed to an ideological failing.
On the State level, Republicans still control 30 Governorships. In Wisconsin, the State Senate and the State Assembly are again both solidly Republican (despite having Obama at the top of the ticket).
The point of all this is that there's no reason for the GOP to unilaterally abandon its core principles in search of votes. Frankly, I think the Presidential results are as much a tribute to President Obama's strength as a campaigner as they are an endorsement of his policies.
This isn't to say that the Republican Party shouldn't be doing some soul-searching.
Obviously, the Latino vote will be important moving forward - especially in key States like Florida, Arizona and Texas. To appeal to this group (which should be supportive of the pro-growth message of the Republican Party), I think it's clear the GOP needs to help develop and embrace a path to legal residency for productive immigrants who have been in the country for years.
Additionally, while I believe Mitt Romney would have made an outstanding President, there's no question that some voters had trouble relating to him. I don't think it's fair to demonize or reject success. Still, the back stories of candidates matter - and Republicans would do well to remember that.
The point of all this is that I certainly don't interpret the 2012 election as a declaration that conservatism is dead. Frankly, things were a lot worse after the 2006 and 2008 elections.
The challenge is where does the GOP go from here? Despite some naysayers, I think the best days are still ahead.
Is it 2016 yet?