Finding the right candidate
In the wake of Mitt Romney's loss, many Republicans say the GOP must make far-reaching changes to be competitive in future elections. White voters are a smaller and smaller part of the electorate, they point out, while Latinos and other minorities are growing as a percentage of the voting public.
Unless the Republican Party reinvents itself to appeal to those voters, the argument goes, the GOP can get used to being out of power.
But the more fundamental answer to the GOP's problems could be much simpler than that. To win the next time, Republicans need to find a really good candidate. Just listen to the masterminds of Barack Obama's victories in 2008 and 2012.
Two days after the election, the Obama campaign held its last conference call for reporters. Toward the end of the call, the three top officials in Obama's re-election effort - David Axelrod, Jim Messina and David Plouffe - were asked what will happen to the mighty Obama campaign now. What's next for the enormous campaign infrastructure, with its massive databases and voter profiles? Will it go to a new candidate?
"You can't just transfer this," said senior adviser Plouffe. "People are not going to spend hours away from their families, and their jobs, contributing financially when it's hard for them to do it, unless they believe in the candidate."
"All of this, the door knocks ... the contributions made, the phone calls made, were because these people believed in Barack Obama," Plouffe continued. "And so for candidates who want to try and build a grassroots campaign, it's not going to happen because there's a list or because you have the best technology. That's not how this works. They have to build up that kind of emotional appeal so that people are willing to go out and spend the time and their resources and provide their talents because they believe in someone. ... The reason those people got involved was because they believed in Barack Obama. It was a relationship between them and our candidate."
Plouffe is right. He and Axelrod and Messina could have created the most awesome campaign machinery in the world, and it would have failed had the candidate not been able to forge an emotional connection with enough voters to win. Obama could do that, especially with blacks and Latinos and young people, but also with a significant portion of white voters.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, appears not to have excited any big group. Yes, he won the support of 59 percent of white voters, but there are indications that whites actually stayed away from the polls in large numbers. Overall, Romney won fewer votes than John McCain's doomed 2008 campaign.
It's fair to say Romney's problems stemmed as much from his failure to appeal to white voters as his failure to appeal to any other voters.
That's where finding a great candidate comes in. Romney is an able, accomplished, intelligent and hardworking man, but Republicans knew from the start he was an imperfect candidate.
Now, because of Romney's loss, some are urging that the Republican Party completely remake itself. Some argue that GOP lawmakers must support comprehensive immigration reform and change positions on other issues. The answer, they say, is broad, across-the-board change.
But listen to the Obama team. Voters want to believe in a candidate. If Republicans find that candidate, they will win.
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Chryst named football coach at Wisconsin
- Pederson ousted as Pitt athletic director
- NFL notebook: Bears bench QB Cutler, turn to Clausen
- Carnegie man involved in police chase sues Pittsburgh and Homestead
- Steelers notebook: Brown leads WRs in Pro Bowl voting, Bell 2nd at RB
- NHL notebook: Predators’ Neal fined $2,000 for embellishment
- Pitt uses 2 2nd-half flurries to hold off Manhattan, 65-56
- Parent finds body in parking lot of Stanton Heights elementary school, prompting lockdown
- Stock market jumps as Fed pledges patience in rate hikes
- Son charged in dismemberment death of Penn Hills couple
- Penguins notebook: Kunitz tests foot by skating during practice