David Frum

02.25.13

GOP Revival Requires More than Hashtags

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I'm about to defend Stuart Stevens, the spearhead of Mitt Romney's disastrous campaign, so please bear with me. Stevens, the author of boneheaded post-election op-eds like this piece of fine art, has a piece in today's Washington Post debating the impact of social media on November's GOP debacle.

The Stuart Stevens of the campaign and these op-eds seems basically insufferable, and I blame him for many of the Romney's campaign failures. But he's right to assert the GOP's problem is deeper than ORCA and social media. Voter enthusiasm is driven by ideas, and it's quite clear which campaign had that edge in November. Stevens:

Like most things in life, the answer is a bit of both. I don’t think it’s very controversial to suggest that a candidate who favors gay marriage and free contraception might have more appeal to a younger demographic. Does anyone want to argue that free contraception is seen as a more pressing issue to your average 21-year-old than to a 55-year-old voter, or that there are more gay rights organizations on college campuses than in VFW halls?

Likewise, why did Mitt Romney win older voters? They are more concerned with the economy than with same-sex marriage, and they are more skeptical of or opposed to Obamacare. Why did 100,000-plus more African Americans in Ohio vote for President Obama than turned out four years ago?

It’s not irrelevant that Obamacare is most popular with African Americans. And what demographic group is the second-most favorable to Obamacare? Hispanics. Much more Obama advertising attacked Romney for opposing Obamacare than criticized him over immigration.

In the wake of the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, Romney had precious little to say on employment, household debt, higher education, helping the working poor, health care costs (and access!) and making it easier for young families to afford the cost of children.

Mitt Romney could have ran for President as someone who had been a moderate Republican Governor of a solid blue state, but he veered hard right to win the primary. That decision came with consequences.

Romney was doomed by actions like turning his back on RomneyCare, failing to realize that many voters didn't give a rat's behind about top marginal tax rates, and neglecting concerns of young voters such as student debt.

One part of the Obama campaign that drove conservatives - myself included - crazy was "Julia," a timeline of what a young woman could expect from the government over the course of her lifetime.

It was maddening seeing the Obama campaign basically saying: "Hey, government's got this."

But what was far more maddening was the utter lack of a concrete response from the Romney campaign. Making fun of "Julia" is one thing. Saying how Republican policies better help women than policies offered by Democrats is quite another.

That's where Romney failed, and it's why no social media overhaul can compensate for policies that fail to address the basic needs and desires of the American electorate.

It's still not 1980 anymore.