Why Romney Lost & How Dems Keep Winning: Part 2

Why Romney Lost & How Dems Keep Winning: Part 2 November 8, 2012

Democrats should feel encourage and validated by the election. President Obama’s campaign did a very effective strategic job with their turnout effort, and voters clearly responded to our values and priorities. The fact that Democrats will enter next Congress with a net gain in the Senate (considering the number of seats Democrats were defending and where they were doing so!) is the icing on the cake that should remove any doubts about whether this was a fluke perhaps merely a draw.

But now we need to turn to governing and to building for the future. And we need to make sure we learn the right lessons from this election to ensure we do both.  Much has been written on the lessons from this campaign, so I’ll focus this piece on a few that have not gotten quite so much attention but are vitally important:

Values not Identity Politics. There is a temptation (and we can hear it already in some circles) to say the President won because minorities and young people supported him. It’s tempting because in one sense, it’s true. But it is dangerous to stop there, or as some are arguing, to go a step farther and say Democrats need not worry about white men or that we can win by just focusing on certain demographic groups in the future. Setting aside the fact that a plurality of Obama’s votes came from “white” voters, he didn’t win because of the way voters looked.  The President won because his values and vision better resonated with the American people.

Democrats especially should understand that people are defined by much more than just the color of their skin or their age. And even more importantly, there is no reason at all (and even less benefit) to framing this win as one racial, age, or demographic group beating another. All Americans won with Obama’s victory, and he was supported by all types of Americans. Framing the victory and path forward for Democrats in terms of shared values and ideas is both more accurate and more politically effective moving forward.

Don’t Forget the Working Poor. For all the lip-service paid to the “middle class,” and the embarrassing definition Democrats have been using of saying that group includes people making $250K a year (or five times the average American income), it was the working poor who played the biggest role in thrusting Obama into a second term.  IN fact, they voted for him in even higher numbers than “middle class” voters. 

I don’t want to go too far down this road, especially given my last point.  Obama received strong support from all income levels and people vote on more than the size of their paycheck.  But there is a growing myth in Democratic circles that we can only talk about the “Middle Class” and can’t mention the poor. That is a mistaken assumption. Recent polling has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that (when framed correctly) we are actually MUCH more effective when we talk about the working poor and the middle class together.  Politicians who do so are more trusted, and the best arguments to defeat Republican efforts to cut vital government programs are those that focus on the impacts those programs have on the working poor. 

Faith Matters. There was much less attention paid to faith in this election than in the past. But that doesn’t mean faith wasn’t important. While the Obama campaign did not have a nation-wide faith field program, it did have a number of faith staff doing outreach in Ohio. Even more significantly, that was where the progressive faith community focused its efforts, and the faith organizing infrastructure that had been set up in a number of states in ’06 & ’08 was still going strong in OH (whereas it had become much less robust in other swing states). These outside progressive groups not only had boots on the ground.  The progressive faith community has the capacity for significant communication outreach and was able to engaged directly with lists of hundreds of thousands of evangelical and Catholic voters using lists built over the last few cycles. “Nuns on the Bus” also made a special tour of OH, which helped reframe the debate for both Catholics and evangelicals.

The top line from exit polls is that Obama lost the white faith vote nationally and in OH. But if one compares Obama’s white evangelical performance in OH vs his national performance, there was a +12 point swing of support among white evangelicals in OH. In the other swing states (VA, FL, CO), Obama performed the same or worse than his national number. Had Obama performed the same with white evangelicals in OH as he did nationally (or in other swing states), he would have lost Ohio by 87,000 votes.  And that is despite Ralph Reed focusing his efforts on OH with promises to deliver the state for the GOP!

Furthermore, much of the attention on Obama’s performance with white Catholics and evangelicals has focused on absolute numbers and ignored the relative trends in white voters (where we all know he saw some drop-off this election compared to last). If one looks at Obama’s performance with white Catholics in ’08 and ’12 relative to his performance with white voters overall, he saw a +6 swing in the white Catholic vote in OH.  Again, when looking at a group that makes up 1-in-5 voters, even relatively small changes can make a very big difference. The lesson from all of this is that values-based communication and outreach to faith voters remains a vital part of any Democratic winning strategy…and it will become even more important as we seek to win back the House and expand majorities in the Senate.

Foreign Policy Matters Too. There is no question that voters were making decisions this election on something other than foreign policy. But for the first time in generations, those who did say it was their top issue broke HEAVILY for the Democrat.  And the way voters viewed the President’s leadership on foreign policy and national security shaped their overall view of his character and trust in his ability to guide us into a better future.  Bush’s disastrous wars and Obama’s leadership in confronting terrorists (in case you hadn’t heard, GM is Alive and bin Laden’s dead) and effectiveness in weathering multiple international crises (kudos Sec. Clinton too) have put Democrats in a position we have not enjoyed since the FDR years. The top priority is our economy, but we need to make sure we keep highlighting foreign policy successes and building a more secure world for the future. And as Democrats, we also need to be wary of some of the new weapons and tools at our disposal and begin developing rules for the use of drones and for dealing with prinsoners of war in a war without a clear beginning or end. 

Keep Communicating. In the first term, we saw a huge switch from candidate Obama who talked about common values to President Obama who spent his time reciting numbers and talking policy. The details matter immensely to fixing our problems.  But we need to remember that we were elected based on our values and vision. These are hard times, and some of the solutions to America’s problems will not be easy. The President was elected because America trusted him to get us out of the economic mess Bush created, and he needs to make sure he remains clear about where we are headed and why we are making the decisions we are making.

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  • Frank

    The truth is half the country voted against Obama. He has no mandate from the country. The Dem would be wise to remember that. I predict the GOP will get almost exactly what they want.

    • Matti

      Bush wins with 286 in 2004 = totally a mandate
      Obama wins with 332 in 2012 = basically a tie, no mandate, GOP gets to run the show?

      • Frank

        All I am saying is that half the country voted against what Obama and the Dems want to do. So the GOP will do their job and represent their constituency and I predict that the GOP will be able to mostly get what their constituency wants. In in the end it probably makes no difference that Obama won and Romney lost.

        • Claude

          “To have a voice at the bargaining table, John Boehner has to be strong,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, one of the speaker’s lieutenants. “Most members were just taught a lesson that you’re not going to get everything that you want. It was that kind of election.”

          NYT, 11/11

    • Clare Hannon

      The truth is more than half the country voted for Obama – that is a mandate, a responsibility and a victory. Get over yourself and start doing something to make this a better country.

  • Claude

    I predict the GOP will get almost exactly what they want.

    OK, let me get this straight. When the Republicans win, they get (almost exactly) everything they want. When the Democrats win, the Republicans get (almost exactly) everything they want.

    Somehow I think the guy who ordered the hit on Osama bin Laden is not going to see things that way.

    • ToronadoBlue

      I agree with Claude,
      Obama is going to get what he wants.
      More debt, more taxes, a larger government, more government regulations, higher food prices, more government dependency, and more infringements on my religious liberties. Unfortunately he’ll also get the opportunity to appoint more pro-death judges to the Supreme Court to keep legal the ungodly termination of unborn children’s lives.

      I hope this is not an omen for things to come, but Boeing announced layoffs the day after the election.

      • Claude

        Let’s unpack this.

        More debt: Ever since Obama was elected in 2008 the GOP has successfully demagogued the issue of deficits as if the national debt was the most urgent matter confronting the republic. Well, it isn’t. The most urgent matter is fostering a solid recovery from the worst economic downturn since the Depression. The government can currently borrow money at negative rates. Yes, deficit reduction and paying down the debt is an important long-term goal, but it is not the imminent crisis the GOP has made it out to be.

        a larger government: The size of government shrank under President Obama:


        more government dependency: Could you be more specific? Because otherwise one might take this for shorthand that you are referring to poor welfare recipients. I am presuming that you are not actually referring to the fantastically rich welfare recipients that ordinary taxpayers had to bail out for their feckless greed.

        more infringements on my religious religious liberties: “more” than “none”? What would those be?

        pro-death: An inflammatory, obscene term for pro-choice, to be sure. If you mean that the fundamentalist and RCC crusade to overturn Roe v. Wade has been lost, then you are correct. Even so, perhaps we could all agree to explore ways to draw down the abortion rate in a world where Roe v. Wade is here to stay. You could start by not accusing your detractors of being “pro-death.”

        • ToronadoBlue

          Claude says: “The government can currently borrow money at negative rates. Yes, deficit reduction and paying down the debt is an important long-term goal, but it is not the imminent crisis the GOP has made it out to be.”

          — I think you bring up a fair point in which job growth is more important for short term reasons. However the growth of the debt from ~10 trillion to above ~16 trillion in 4 years is going to create other problems, possibly inflation. It is definitely an issue that will affect us in our lifetimes.

          Claude says: ” The size of government shrank under President Obama: ”

          — The size of the federal government increased under Obama. (State and local are not under his control)

          “But looking only at the federal work force under Mr. Obama’s direct control, then government employment has actually gone up. He inherited a federal work force of 2,061,700, and it rose slightly through June 2009 to 2,109,700; by May of this year, it had grown further to 2,204,100, a 7 percent increase.”

          To be fair to Obama, according to Labor statistics (bls.gov) a decline in Federal employees (seasonally adjusted) has been occurring for a while, but appears to have leveled off and is projected to rise again (especially now). Those numbers however don’t include government contractors which I assure you is VERY lucrative employment.

          Claude says: “Because otherwise one might take this [government dependency] for shorthand that you are referring to poor welfare recipients. I am presuming that you are not actually referring to the fantastically rich welfare recipients that ordinary taxpayers had to bail out for their feckless greed.”

          — I’m referring to various economic levels including too big to fail companies.

          I’m also referring to the rich who cozy up to politicians to receive favor for their businesses.

          I’m also referring to large businesses who successfully lobby to implement regulations that prevent the growth of smaller competing businesses.

          I’m also referring to federal government workers of which I would include myself. I’m an overpaid – underworked contractor for the government. The government pays $250/hr ($10k/week) to my employer for me to sit on my butt at home in my PJs to do a little work every now and then. I actually only work 8-10 hours a week. I earn well over 6 figures and I have excellent benefits. AND, I’m not the only one, there are numerous others just like me and we are also hiring more. This demographic is highly Democratic which explains Virginia being won by Obama. The wealth we get as government workers explains why the Virginia and Maryland suburbs of DC are some of the richest counties in the nation.

          I’m also referring to people who develop a dependency for government to take care of them. I do work with various charities with the poor and I know first hand how prevalent the attitude of helplessness is. In my experience, the one’s who see themselves as only temporarily down and out do more to improve their situations.

          I am in no way denigrating those who need help- It is my Christian duty to be concerned for them. I am though worried about the growth in attitudes that the government should provide more free goodies in order for them to maintain a current standard of living.

          Claude says: “more infringements on my religious religious liberties: “more” than “none”? What would those be?”

          — The following link is to a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of religious freedoms. Their site has information about various court cases concerning religious liberties.

          With the growth of secularism and atheism, I am concerned about future attacks against my religious freedoms.

          Claude says: “pro-death: An inflammatory, obscene term for pro-choice, to be sure. If you mean that the fundamentalist and RCC crusade to overturn Roe v. Wade has been lost, then you are correct”

          — I used the term because it is accurate. For now the issue is lost, but hopefully a growth of pro-life beliefs will keep the issue to the forefront and maybe one day a victory.

          Even though it is the law of the land now, history does change. Persecuted christians thought the Roman Empire would be around forever, but in the end Caesar lost -> and Christ won. The abortion war is not going to be won overnight. The devil will have its allies, but Christ demands that I march on.

          Claude says: “perhaps we could all agree to explore ways to draw down the abortion rate in a world where Roe v. Wade is here to stay”

          — I’ll keep fighting to overturn Roe v Wade. In the meantime I believe birth control should be cheaply available in drug stores everywhere. And if desired, a sexually active person can obtain more effective remedies from their doctor. I believe people need education on sex, and with the internet at our fingertips, we can provide that to them cheaply. Furthermore, I encourage Christians everywhere to consider adoption especially of older children. In the US, newborns are adopted nearly every single time, however older children generally have to wait for loving forever families.

          Thank you for your comments.

          • Claude

            Mercy. I can’t respond at any length just now. But meanwhile:

            How can I become an overpaid government contractor?!

          • ToronadoBlue


            There are many companies working with the feds. The best way to get a cush job like I’ve got is knowing someone. Think of the government as the mob. To get a job or promotion, sometimes it’s who you know, sometimes what you know, and sometimes it’s just your skillset.

            If you have none of those, try USAJOBS-dot-com. You can search to see what is in your area. Ignore the jobs that are over the $60K range because those are generally already taken (unofficially) but they do have to go thru the motions of allowing other applicants. Get any job that you can, even if it is just answering phones. That was my first job and it paid ~$57K years ago for the midnight shift. Most of the time I was just watching tv.

            Once you get in start working on getting a clearance which are actually not difficult to get (even with my bad boy background). The clearance will get you even more money and more opportunities will open up. Then try to set yourself apart by being indispensable, such as getting qualified to run a certain software program, or a piece of machinery.

            Then keep networking with people to build up your ‘who you know’ database. Sooner or later a position will open up down the hall or in another building and someone will remember you for it. You’re ‘who you know’ database will gradually expand and help you get better and better positions.


            Here is a short description of how the government really works: Imagine walking down the street and then you see a guy with a handful of children. The man asks you “Please, I need money to feed these children”. Since you care about children and you don’t want them to go hungry, you go “Ok, here take this $10 and go buy some bread, milk and 3 cans of tuna. That will help you feed the kids”.

            The man then takes your 10 spot, runs to McDonalds, buys the supersized mcRib sandwich, large fries and coke. Then he asks for an apple pie. The total comes out to around $12. He uses the $10 you gave him, whips out the MasterCard, and puts the rest on credit which has no limit. Then he starts chugging everything down. He’s shoving everything into his face, some of it even being wasted on the floor. To the children he tosses them a small handful of fries that they start fighting over.

            That man is the government, he skims what you give him to feed himself and tosses the rest to the children. The first rule of government is — the government has to touch the money. The second rule of government is– the government has to TOUCH the money. How else are they going to skim.

            I know it’s a bad analogy. If I was to make it more accurate, some of the children are pointing at you going ‘Pay your fair share’ and the man is holding you down and picking your wallet over and over again.

            I love my country, but the government is extremely wasteful and I wish people could actually see how much it wastes. I should one day sit down and write a book on government waste, but there are already over 7000 for sale at Amazon.


            Let me tell you how I got to where I am as a cushy contractor. Keep in mind I have to keep the details basic otherwise I might get into trouble.

            Several years ago a man approached the government with a proposal to create a database that would hold certain information that would be useful to various agencies. Not to get into specifics, it could be tangentially related to 9/11 and terrorist attacks. Since the government never says no to a new bureaucratic program because it means more money in the budget, it says ‘Sure -lets see your proposal and bid on it’.

            So the guy creates a company and registers it as a disadvantaged minority owned company. He partners with other companies to make the bid, but since it was his idea and he has the inside scoop on what the government is wanting, he is the top dog on the contract proposal.

            The contract is then awarded in which the government pays as much as ~$250 an hour per person (depending on the skill necessary for the task). The guy then turns around an sub-contracts this out to another company who actually has workers to do the job.

            So lets recap, the government awards a contract to a minority business – which makes good headlines for politicians. The First business gets a cut, then the businesses he’s hired then gets a cut, then underneath that are schleps like me who collect a small pot of gold. Everybody is happy.

            After the contract is awarded, here is what actually happened. I’m brought in to actually take data from point A, copy and paste it into point B. A second guy is brought in to create and manage the database. A third guy is brought in to ensure that we do not break government regulations. Another guy is brought in to be a team manager. Since we are all telecommuting, another guy is brought in to be our Representative in the DC area. Then First business hires a representative who travels around between various team members to make sure everyone is doing their job. The last time he was here (which is once a year) we took off and went to a gun show in another state (Team building time). The subcontracting businesses hires someone to be a representative between us and the top company. Then the government hires someone who watches over the whole program. He doesn’t like gunshows as much as taking off after lunch to hit a matinee movie.

            So, after all that money and those jobs, how useful is the program. Not at all. I’ve put in the data (when I get it – which is not often), but nobody in the government has ever asked for any of that data. As a matter of fact, 90% of what I put into the database is already freely available on the World Wide Web. But, everything looks soo good on paper and we are employed.

            The government is a wasteful sieve. But wait — it gets worse. The government hires another Fed to come watch over our program as a consultant and provide insight. He comes in and says that we need to buy this software program from “XYZ” company.

            We don’t care because we are not paying for it, and besides he told us we needed it. The cost of the software was 1.2 million, because it is a ‘specialized’ software. The government balked at the cost (because of the worry of budget cuts since the GOP just took the house), and then it was reduced in price to $800K. Wow… WHAT A DEAL!!! So of course we buy it and an “XYZ” rep came out and installed it on a couple of systems. But, it turned out not to be useful at all and we don’t even use it.

            But wait, it gets worse… the government fed who talked us into buying it, leaves his position to ‘pursue other opportunities’. He gets another ‘consulting’ fed gig somewhere else and yep… he is advising them to buy this highly specialized software from XYZ. As you may have guessed, this guy may be getting a kickback from the company because he has done this several times.

            This is what I see in the government. Not just in one area, but in many of the areas I’ve worked at – bouncing around my way up the ladder. I have more stories to tell, but this is already long enough. I make way too much money barely doing a job. I’d do this job for less than half of what I make. Furthermore, i get raises without asking for them (it’s actually kind of assumed on a yearly basis). My last bonus was $4k (for not quitting)… This is why I don’t like the government much and I try to ‘pay back’ by volunteering and helping others.

            This is why we should be worried about big government and big debt. Sorry for the long article- I’m just bored at work.

  • Claude

    By the way, well done Eric Sapp. I concur.

    • Eric

      Thanks! And well put above.

  • Claude


    Holy smokes! Thank you for that wonderful read. But are you for real? No matter. Whether fact or fiction, I enjoyed it. Actually, if it’s fact, I’m going to switch parties.

    By the way, a response to you of mine is awaiting moderation. Not sure why. I’m still only halfway through your first post. You are prolific!

    • ToronadoBlue

      Unfortunately the stuff I wrote is true. Government does waste a lot. I’m not saying that good work isn’t done, it’s just that the type of environment that government is, it is far easier to get bigger than it is to be efficient. Wished I could tell you more. This is why the suburbs around the DC area are very affluent. It is a completely different world when I go up there.

      By the way, comments tend to get moderated because of links. The mod has to verify that ‘porn’ or virus links are not used.
      Looking forward to those responses- I enjoy a good discussion.

      • Claude

        Should get lively, since I’ve been reading your comments on other threads and disagree with you about just about everything. At least when Obama raises your taxes the government will get back some of what it’s squandered on you!

  • ToronadoBlue

    Well I do pay taxes, that’s for sure. This year though we may be getting money back due to adoption tax credits program since my wife and I adopted recently. 🙂

  • Should get lively