In the wake of President Obama’s decisive re-election victory on Tuesday, the more intellectually serious members of the conservative commentariat are in post-mortem mode. They are asking what went wrong and how they can avoid a third consecutive loss in 2016. Unfortunately for them, they display only a limited understanding of the Republican Party’s problem, and virtually no understanding of its underlying cause or its solution.
On Fox News Tuesday night former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, showed that he understands why they lost. “I think Republicans have done a pathetic job of reaching out to people of color, something we’ve gotta work on.” But, as is the case with all his co-partisans, Huckabee assumes it’s purely question of outreach, rather than those voters making a perfectly well-informed decision based on the GOP’s platform. “It’s a group of people that frankly should be with us based on the real policy of conservativism [sic]. But Republicans have acted as if they can’t get the vote, so they don’t try. And the result is they don’t get the vote.”
The primary impulse among conservative pundits seems to be blaming the poor quality of their candidates. For those who are on the insurgent right, such as Red State’s Erick Erickson, that means complaining about Mitt Romney but not the extremist ideologues who lost winnable Senate races, such as Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana. For Beltway insiders, such as The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes and the Daily Caller’s Tucker Carlson, that means complaining about Senate candidates and Romney’s clownish opponents in the Republican primaries.
“What’s [Republicans’] problem?” asks Barnes. “In Senate races, it’s bad candidates: old hacks (Wisconsin), young hacks (Florida), youngsters (Ohio), Tea Party types who can’t talk about abortion sensibly (Missouri, Indiana), retreads (Virginia), lousy campaigners (North Dakota) and Washington veterans (Michigan). Losers all.”
Erickson is similarly hard on Romney, writing: “If Republicans are honest, they’ll have to concede that the Romney campaign ran a bad campaign and only almost won because the President had a bad debate.”
Carlson and Neil Patel issue a similar complaint, but admit that their alternatives were even worse:
Romney’s caution and ever-shifting policy positions made him seem fearful, which is to say weak. His biography hurt him. During a cycle when voters remained angry at Wall Street, Romney bore the weight of a finance background. And because of his own history in Massachusetts, he could never effectively go after President Obama on Obamacare, the president’s biggest political weakness.