What went wrong for Mitt Romney? Jewish conservatives are offering an array of answers to that question.
Was President Obama just too strong a candidate? Or was Mitt Romney’s campaign too big a dud? Did Romney’s stances on immigration and same-sex marriage hurt him? Was the loss caused by a failure to confidently articulate free-market ideas? Or is the Republican Party selling far-right economic policies that nobody wants to buy? Was the president’s victory a pyrrhic one won by going negative?
Each of these views has its exponents among Jewish conservatives.
* John Podhoretz, writing in the New York Post, concludes that “one must stand in awe of Barack Obama, who really pulled a rabbit out of the hat.” He argues that Obama was “a more persuasive advocate” than Romney and that the president’s campaign displayed “great competence.”
Podhoretz also notes the challenges Republicans have in light of the country’s changing demographics, saying that 2004 “was the last one Republicans will ever win with the overwhelmingly white and male coalition they have now.”
They will have to find a way to shuffle the demographic deck to get themselves back in the game — and that will be a challenge, because the set of issues that speaks most directly to the party’s core are self-evidently unattractive to the new voters they need to attract.
Americans were rightly pleased with themselves for electing an African-American and a clear majority was not prepared to make him a one-term president, in spite of his shortcomings. No possible Democratic successor will have the same hold on the public’s goodwill. Nor, despite the liberal tilt of the mainstream media, will any of them, including Hillary Clinton, be able to count on the kind of supportive press coverage that Obama got. Nor will they be able to run against the legacy of George W. Bush, the way only Obama could. At some point, even that well will run dry for the Democrats.
* The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, a Romney fan, thinks that the GOP nominee’s campaign was weak: “In a presidential race lost by a percentage point in several swing states it is hard to figure out precisely why a candidate lost. But there is a strong case to be made that Mitt Romney was better than his campaign. The irony is that the genius CEO did not effectively oversee his campaign.” By contrast, she argued, “the Democrats had a much better campaign than candidate.”
She also thinks Republicans “have to find a way to appeal to the non-married, nonwhite, non-religious parts of the electorate.” And opposition to same-sex marriage – that’s a losing issue for Republicans, she says.
* Ira Stoll, on his Future of Capitalism blog, suggests that Romney tried to make the election a referendum on Obama rather than articulating a positive economic vision grounded in free-market principles. (He cites tax reform and debt reduction as areas where Romney failed to sell his policies.) Stoll adds that Romney alienated Hispanics with his stance on illegal immigration.
* David Frum — one of the conservatism movement’s most outspoken internal critics — argues that just softening the Republican party’s stance on immigration isn’t going to cut it:
It’s necessary of course to refrain from insulting Latinos, or, for that matter, anybody. But the crying need in the GOP is for a more middle-class orientation to politics, one that addresses concerns like healthcare as well as debts and deficits. But the ideas that dominated the past four years won’t become more attractive if all conservatives do is translate them into Spanish.
On Twitter, Frum was unsparing in his criticism of the party’s direction: "First step toward Republican recovery in 2016: insult fewer people. (The 47%, women who use birth control, etc. etc. etc.)"
And in a radio appearance, he apparently said: "This whole Ayn Rand fantasy has to end" (That’s a clear dig at Paul Ryan, who some see as the party’s future.)
* The Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer said that the Obama win was “not a mandate” and that the president will have “nowhere to go” given Republican control of the House. “He won by going very small, very negative," he said.