November 9, 2014


The GOP got way better at campaigning -- and Democrats should be very afraid : The Republican Party got a lot right in the 2014 midterms, lessons that might come handy in 2016 (Michael Brendan Dougherty, November 6, 2014, The Week)

[R]epublicans have not been given credit where it is due. And they have plenty to learn from their victories. 

The first is candidate selection. The calming of the Tea Party populist squall may have played a role in attracting a better kind of candidate in 2014. But "recruit stars" is easy advice to give and hard to follow. In Cory Gardner, who defeated Mark Udall in a very purple Colorado, the GOP seems to have found such a star. Although he has a very conservative record by national standards, his handling of Udall's culture-war fear-mongering was deft. He easily turned questions about social issues into answers about economic issues or Obama's record.

Some commentators are crowing that demographics still doom the GOP. But this year Republicans were determined to expand their support beyond the base, and they were rewarded for their efforts. Look no further than Gregg Abbott, the gubernatorial candidate in Texas, who reversed the GOP's decline among Latino voters in the Lone Star State. He made many campaign stops in the Rio Grande, and he didn't shy away from using identity politics, noting that his own family looked a bit like Texas: a mix of Latino and Anglo. "My multicultural family has played a role in our ability to connect with the Rio Grande Valley," he told the local press in the run-up to Election day.

Overall, Republicans did much better among minority voters. Two years ago, Republicans got 6 percent of the black vote, 27 percent of the Latino vote, and 25 percent of the Asian vote. In 2014 they carried 10 percent of black vote, 36 percent of the Latino vote, and 50 percent of the Asian vote.

In the long run, no, the Republicans cannot "make it up in volume" as the share of minority voters grows. But the rehabilitation of the party's image with minority voters may happen sooner than expected. The GOP did better in 2014 than in 2010, and this year's electorate was less white and less ideologically conservative than the one four years earlier.

Finally, the party at an intuitive level seems to have learned that tantrums are not enough to defeat Democrats. It is typical for parties to grow hungrier for power, and more willing to reach out to the center when their opponent has won two White House terms. Recall the way George W. Bush crafted the non-Gingrichian identity of a "compassionate conservative" in 2000. With some notable exceptions, Republicans showed signs of doing that in this election.

You can run as if you want to govern well for your fellow citizens or as if you want to massage your own psychic wounds.  One works.

In the past the GOP has suffered because it has ignored "unwinnable races" where waves carried in virtual lunatics.  This time, the party got out front and nominated folks as if we expected them to win.  It means the new majority doesn't just have the spotlight but won't meltdown in it.

All they have to do now is actually govern well.

Posted by at November 9, 2014 7:18 AM

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