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Where Do Republicans Go From Here?

If the Republicans couldn't beat 7.9 percent unemployment, rising taxes and debt, a lackluster housing market and a recent terrorist attack overseas, columnist Lisa Bigelow believes it's time for them to rethink their message to the electorate

You could see defeat in their faces on Fox News as the returns began rolling in.

Pennsylvania? “Fool’s gold.” Michigan? “That was a long shot, anyway.” Virginia? “It all depends on Fairfax County.” Florida? “It’s the voters in the I-4 corridor.”

And, of course, Ohio.

Indeed, only the brilliant, but reviled Republican strategist Karl Rove looked optimistic after 9 p.m.

At 10:30, my husband and I turned off the television, a persistent, sinking feeling in our collective gut. I woke at 1 a.m. and couldn’t resist grabbing my phone and loading Drudge.

Headline: “The Divided States of America.”

Sigh. So close. So close.

Naturally, sleep proved elusive as I pondered the meaning of the results. Although exit poll voters gave the edge on the economy to Romney, Obama still won. Women and minorities supported the president roundly, while white men, upper income voters, the religious right and other traditional conservative stalwarts supported Romney.

Of course, defeating an incumbent president is nearly impossible. But the fact that Republicans didn’t win in a landslide last Tuesday indicates the party of Lincoln has an elephant-sized case of head-in-the-sanditis.

Republican strategists will no doubt spend a lot more time analyzing this past election than I will. While I’m sure we’ll all hear tons about how GOP candidates need to do a better job getting their message out to Hispanics and middle-income moms, the problem isn’t the breadth of communication; it’s the communication itself.

I think Washington has a habit of underestimating the man (or woman) in the street. Voters get what the Republicans are saying. They just don’t like it.

That doesn’t mean they embrace the liberal agenda, either, as evidenced by the halfhearted endorsement of the Obama mandate. It just means that they found the reality of another Obama administration more tolerable than the idea of a Romney administration.

The long-held assumption that America is a center-right country is false. We’re center-center. We want compromise. And nobody, from the single mom waitress in Cuyahoga County to the hedge fund manager in New Canaan, wants to see the government waste taxpayer money.

Let’s not forget, the fact of the matter is George W. Bush spent money like a drunken sailor and left Obama with a big fat mess. It’s not as if the economy was plugging along nicely and Obama wrecked it. The ugly truth is the country has still not recovered from the Bush years. Voters recognized it. Republican leadership should, too.

But the common thread between all of the reasons voters chose Obama is the Republicans’ insistence on not accepting the reality of the shifting priorities of the American electorate.

When Romney shifted to the right on immigration that was a big mistake. Why? Although rounding up illegal immigrants and shipping them back home sounds great on paper, it is not a practical solution to our border problem. Developing a sensible amnesty program is and Hispanic voters noticed.

Maintaining a pro-life platform was an even bigger mistake and the right wing needs to accept America is never going to outlaw abortion. Women noticed and they're tired of it. Yes, I know no one even talked about overturning Roe v. Wade. If you don’t want an abortion, don’t get an abortion—but let others make their own choices. Voters believe that is the American way.

Romney also would have been better off taking credit for the truth of being the ideological father of Obamacare (and also for being pro-choice while leading Massachusetts). Standing up to the noisy far right, with whom northeastern and west coast voters do not identify, would have demonstrated courageous leadership. And though it would have made the GOP faithful red-faced in anger, it would have garnered the respect of voters. 

Finally, how refreshing would it have been to hear Romney say, “I think we should keep the Bush tax cuts. But healing a divided nation and making real progress will only be achieved through bipartisan legislation. That’s why I cannot release specific details now.

“I need the American people to give me a chance to sit down with our Democratic friends and work out a compromise that every party can be proud of. It may include entitlement cuts and higher revenues. But we won’t know how great our nation could be unless you elect me to prove it.”

Alas, it was not to be.

James November 11, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Hope all of the disgruntled Republicans go to Canada. But the Canadians probably do not want them
Brian November 12, 2012 at 11:41 AM
We need them here. We also need their leaders to learn a new tune. I hope all the "disgruntled" expect that from the leadership.
Bob MacGuffie November 12, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Lisa - after reading your column I can't possibly fathom why you claim you were disappointed that Obama won.......
Gideon Tomlinson November 12, 2012 at 02:55 PM
"Of course, defeating an incumbent president is nearly impossible." Really? Please tell that to Presidents George H. W. Bush and Carter. The head of the Ford Presidential Library might also be interested.
Sandra November 12, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Gideon -George H Bush was held accountable for not keeping his promise "No New Taxes" and Carter blamed us for his failings and was condescending. He still bashes America. Obama is the Media's creation and baby and have not honestly covered this president. Fast & Furious? Benghazi? They cheered him for a week for Hurricane Sandy 10 minutes into the storm but where is FEMA now for those devastated Americans. Andrea Mitchell actually ridiculed Romney for trying to collect donations of food and clothing for the Red Cross.
Sandra November 12, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Chris Matthews was "glad" we had Sandy because it helped Obama win according to exit polls. Candy Crowley helped Obama in the debate by siding with Obama's false statement on calling benghazi a terrorist attack and worse CBS had a taped interview showing Obama lied but chose not to release it until hours before the election. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Now General Petraeus scandal at a most convenient time.
Frederick Klein November 12, 2012 at 04:02 PM
I'll leave the other things alone, but I can't figure out how the Petraeus scandal is at a "most convenient" time. This scandal would not have been "convenient" at any time for anyone. Petraeus was admired by both Democrats and Republicans, and has served in both Democratic and Republican administrations.
Perry November 12, 2012 at 04:42 PM
The election is over! I say let Republicans figure out what went wrong. Was it the message, the messenger, the party platform, the Tea Party, Fox, or talk radio? Or other factors?
Sandra November 12, 2012 at 05:28 PM
We lost two honorable generals under this administration. General McChrystal for badmouthing Obama/Biden and now Petraeus for being a team player spreading the administration's made up story of a you tube video causing the deaths of Americans. FBI investigating him for an affair? They could have handled this quietly don't you think? The timing has to o with the fact that he resigned after the election and before next week's Congressional hearings on Benghazi. DUH
Frederick Klein November 12, 2012 at 05:33 PM
The reason it's not being handled quietly is that, in the course of discovery the affair, the investigators found possible security breaches. The woman with whom he was having the affair made reference to things she should not have known in a speech at her alma mater. Does this put it in a different light for you, Sandra? As for McChrystal, it is not appropriate for military leaders to "badmouth" the civilian leadership to the media (in this case, "Rolling Stone"). Do you dispute that?
Sandra November 12, 2012 at 05:57 PM
I don't think Bush would have had McChrystal resign. Obama is thin skinned. What is appropriate anymore coming out of this White House? Lying to us about the death of Americans? Mistress knew the truth and now she should testify. "Possible security breaches" nice try. Her information proves there are so many unanswered questions to this video cover up. The affair is a distraction.
Frederick Klein November 12, 2012 at 06:58 PM
The two things are unrelated, Sandra. "Nice try" by you trying to link them to frame the resignation as part of a cover-up. Petraeus is still going to have to testify; everyone knows that. You are wrong about Bush. Bush did not have a thick skin. And when someone criticized him, his administration exposed the guy's wife's status as a secret agent (in violation of federal law).
R. Ludlowe November 12, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Frederick 1 - Sandra 0
Frederick Klein November 12, 2012 at 08:24 PM
R. Ludlow - Can I get another point if I point out that Obama's first reaction when he was offered the resignation was to reject it? But after the subject was pressed, he said he'd think about it, and subsequently accepted it. Not the response you'd expect from someone who wanted Petraeus out of the way because of the upcoming Benghazi hearings.
Sandra November 12, 2012 at 09:20 PM
R. Ludlowe your score card sounds as childish as Chris Matthews being happy about Sandy admitting politics trumps human lives. Yes your guy won but that doesn't mean we should shut up and go away as I am told to do on this very tolerant site. This tragedy could have been prevented yes or no? There was a prior attack and security was sent home- not increased. The British were smart and left. Stories are out that there were Libyan prisoners being held in a secret CIA prison. You guys can squabble with me about the small stuff but in the end 4 men lost their lives AFTER asking for help and the White House tried to deceive the public with a lame story literally standing by the coffins of the murdered. At least they punished the video guy to one year in jail for "other" reasons. we should be proud of that.
Sandra November 12, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Fredrick - Obama probably didn't rush to accept resignation because he could still control Petraeus like a puppet. Petraeus was not forthcoming when interviewed by Congressional leaders. Now he is free to unload.
Sandra November 12, 2012 at 09:41 PM
And another thing Freddie, I find it revealing when Obama said, "we will be working with the Libyan gov to bring these "folks" to justice. Mr. eloquence should not be using a friendly term for murderer, terrorist, enemy or killer. just sayin' call it like you see it sheriff.
Tucker November 12, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Sandra-Enough with your paranoia. It's exhausting. Patraeus (dirtbag, cheater, etc.) will testify. Congress holds subpoena power. Are you really going to spend the next 4 years discrediting the man who was just re-elected to the office of PRESIDENT? I don't agree with everything the man does but I will not condemn every idea he has. I feel like that's your only path. Please reconsider. I know you blame the media ... focus on that. You need to realize that you believe every story (BS or not) that paints him in an un-flatering light and you should look past that. Not everything is a conspiracy.
Sandra November 12, 2012 at 10:36 PM
The Buck stops at the media. Got it
Joeseph Biff November 13, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Even with Sean Ha-nutty,El Rushbo,Mark Levin,The Donald,Fox News .etc bashing Obama 24/7 ,he still got re-elected.Let's all move on and away from the noise of the media and try to be positive about our country's future.I'm not crazy about Romney or Obama.Crazy Uncle Joe Biden was out of control during his debate with Ryan.Ryan showed a lot of class,which Biden lacked.I think if Romney had picked a different running mate though,he may have won.Remember Palin?She killed McCain's chance.The Republicans should let their Pres. candidate pick their VP,not the stupid advisors.They both told lies,as do ALL politicians.So it's all a big mess,but these are the cards we have been dealt. God bless our country! It's still the best place on the planet to live.Love it,or leave it.
Frederick Klein November 13, 2012 at 03:34 PM
I'll tell you what, Sandra: I won't call you "Sandy" if you don't call me "Freddie". I've noticed that rightwingers always add "ie" to my name when they want to be cute or condescending. I agree that the word "folks" should not be used to describe murderers and terrorists. It used to drive me crazy when George W. Bush did that, and he did it all the time.
Frederick Klein November 13, 2012 at 03:35 PM
That is the first time I've heard Petraeus -- a man respected on both sides of the political spectrum -- as a puppet.

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