Karl Rove breaks down the lessons from the 2012 election defeat. In short, don’t believe the hype:
The media’s postelection narrative is that Democrats won because of a demographic shift. There is some truth to that, but a more accurate description is that Democrats won in a smaller turnout by getting out more of their vote. Turnout dropped by 7.9 million voters, falling to 123.6 million this year from 131.5 million in 2008. This is the first decline in a presidential election in 16 years. Only 51.3% of the voting-age population went to the polls. While the Democratic “ground game” was effective, President Barack Obama received 90.1% of his 2008 total while Gov. Mitt Romney received 98.6% of Sen. John McCain’s vote. Neither party generated a higher turnout nationally.
Who didn’t show up:
According to exit polls, turnout dropped among white and black Americans (by 8.3 million and 1 million, respectively) but rose among Hispanics. They added 850,000 votes to Mr. Obama’s total compared with 2008. Millennials (those aged 18-29) were a larger share of the turnout than in 2008, but 176,000 fewer in number. They cast 1.5 million fewer votes for Mr. Obama than last time and 1.1 million more votes for Mr. Romney than they did for Mr. McCain. To win, the GOP must do better—much better—with Hispanics and millennials, and also with women voters.
How to fix it:
Tactically, Republicans must rigorously re-examine their “72-hour” ground game and reverse-engineer the Democratic get-out-the-vote effort in order to copy what works. For example, a postelection survey shows that the Democratic campaign ground game was more effective in communicating negative information. It would be good to know why—and how to counter such tactics in the future. Republicans should also emulate the Democratic “50-state” strategy by strengthening the ground game everywhere, not just in swing states. It will be important for the GOP to erase the data advantage Democrats may have in their targeting of potential supporters for their candidates. And local GOP organizations must persistently focus on adding to the voter rolls the millions of people likely to vote Republicans if they were registered. Strategically, Republicans will need to frame economic issues to better resonate with middle-class families. Mr. Romney had solid views on jobs, spending, deficits, health care and energy. But even among the 59% of voters for whom the economy was their top concern, he prevailed by only four points (51% to 47%).