Moments before he got on his campaign bus to continue his final day of touring the state in his uphill battle against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, GOP Senate candidate Connie Mack in Tampa told CL what he thought of polls showing he would lose.
“When you oversample Democrats by six points, it makes it difficult for us to win,” he responded. “But Democrats are not going to be six points higher on Election Day than Republicans,” he said, adding that his internal polls showed him tied or leading Nelson.
He then looked over at a group of reporters and said they would all be writing stories on Wednesday about how “the turnout models were all wrong in the polls.”
On the contrary, it was the conservative commentariat who got it wrong: pundits and commentators from Glenn Beck to Dick Morris to Michael Barone to Peggy Noonan, George Will and others who all predicted a big win for Mitt Romney in the presidential election.
As we now know, Obama took home 303 electoral votes to Mitt Romney’s 206 (Florida was still out as CL went to press. Yes, this huge battleground state ultimately proved irrelevant to the final results.)
And the pollsters who were ridiculed by conservatives for oversampling Democrats? They were right. Exit polls showed that Democrats made up 38 percent of the electorate nationally, Republicans 32 percent, and Independents 30 percent.
You could say that what happened nationally and in Florida on Tuesday was a victory for common sense, as the GOP blew at least two certain Senate wins by nominating Tea Party-backed candidates in Missouri and Indiana who self-immolated with their controversial comments about rape and abortion.
It’s also a serious time for reflection inside the GOP, particularly in light of the fact that the party did the worst in a presidential election with Latinos since 1996. The difference between now and 1996, of course, is that there is a much larger pool of those voters now.
How many more? From 2000-2010, the Latino community grew by 43 percent in the U.S., the white population by just 5.7 percent.
Why does the GOP have such a lackluster record with Latinos? Try the party’s unrelentingly negative and at times ugly rhetoric regarding illegal immigration, like Herman Cain’s promise to build a 20-foot barbed-wire electrified fence (with alligators and a moat) to stop undocumented Mexicans from crawling over the border. Or take the ridicule heaped onto Texas Governor Rick for giving in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants in the Lone Star state, and of course Mitt Romney talking (at a debate at USF in January) about undocumented immigrants “self-deporting.”
This is toxic stuff, though maybe not a big deal when the U.S. is majority white. But the country is slowly moving away from those demographics, and the GOP candidates catered not toward the mainstream but to the resentment and xenophobia that seems to dominate GOP primary politics.
And that’s something that Team Obama is aware of. Sure, the president disappointed Latinos by not trying to cobble together a comprehensive immigration reform in his first term (something he vows to pick up in his new term). But he did sign an executive order that allowed those who entered the country illegally as children to remain and work without fear of deportation for at least two years.
It shouldn’t be so hard for the Republicans to lower the rhetorical heat. It’s something that George W. Bush and Karl Rove always understood, which is one reason why Bush was able to narrowly get a second term against John Kerry in 2004, when he took 44 percent of the Latino vote.
What happens next? Well, how are things going to get better in Washington? The Republicans still control the House, Democrats still control the Senate. Commentators bemoaned that Washington will become even more dysfunctional. Well, maybe.
Or maybe it’s time to work together?
Donna Brazile, the campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000, told the National Journal, “The only mandate that will be clear as daylight,” she said, “is to break the gridlock of Washington.”
But somebody who’ll also have influence is Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate, who won re-election to his congressional seat in Wisconsin. Ryan returns as the House Budget Chairman, and automatically becomes a leading contender for the GOP nomination in 2016. How much will he want to work with the president?
As we mentioned above, in the last week of the general election there was growing sentiment among some “leading” conservative thinkers that the polls were skewed too heavily for Democrats.
Just for posterity, allow us to share some of those comments.
Fox News’ Dick Morris predicted Romney would win by 4-8 points and get 325 electoral votes. Seriously, how does this guy still get work? His unrelenting negativity extended even to Obama’s sartorial choices: “Even his dress was wrong,” Morris wrote. “Instead of appearing in a dark suit, he dressed in an open-neck white shirt, trying to be everyman but succeeding only in not looking like a president.”
American Spectator’s Emmett Tyrell wrote, “Next week President Obama will go into retirement — I hope he chooses Hawaii.”
That ain’t gonna happen.
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