Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell admitted Wednesday that Republicans got "clobbered" by President Barack Obama's closing argument in the campaign that drew undecided, younger, women, and minority voters to his side.
"You got to hand it to the president. He did a great job getting out these voters and his closing argument had the many undecided . . . go his way," McDonnell told Fox News' Bret Baier.
The governor also acknowledged that Republicans failed to recognize that "tone," as he put it, matters in a campaign, and that while the party may have been right on many of the issues it was simply unable to connect with the voters beyond its traditional base.
"I thought the message was good on jobs and the economy, deficit reduction, energy independence, protecting the military. I think we have the right issue mix," McDonnell said.
"But winning is more than that," he added, noting that what was missing from the message was "the right tone to make sure you bring as many people onto your team as possible."
"The outreach to these newer voters, the younger voters, the minority voters . . . We got pretty well clobbered across the board there," he continued. "And we've got to do better, because I believe our conservative ideas are better for all of those groups, all of those people."
McDonnell said, however, that all the election news Tuesday wasn't bad for Republicans. He noted, for instance, that they managed to connect better at the local level, citing the fact that 30 states now have Republican governors, the largest number for any party in 12 years.
"That's a good sign," he said.
Now that the election is over, McDonnell said he hopes Republicans and Democrats can come together to solve the debt crisis and avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff."
"The broader point is the election is over. We are disappointed very much with the results . . . But we've got to find a way to keep us off the cliff," he said.
Asked what he thought would make the difference in negotiations between the president and Republican leaders this time around, McDonnell replied, "Deadlines."
McDonnell said Congress and the president no longer have the deficit reduction supercommittee to blame as an excuse for not acting.
"You know, before, they had the deadline that was averted with sequestration in August, and the supercommittee was supposed to fix it, but they really didn't have their back to the wall. Now, it's to the wall because all of these cliff issues," he said, noting that automatic spending cuts will begin in January and the Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of this year.
"It's embarrassing that the greatest country on earth continued to get driven to the end, to the brink of default and international crisis. It's time for people to find a way to stand up," McDonnell added.
He said the president "has got to lead." But McDonnell continued to insist that entitlement reform and spending constraint should be the first priority in negotiations.
"It's what governors are doing. That's why we've got a surplus in Virginia," he said. "That's the path we've taken. And I hope we watch what governors have done and borrow a page from that."
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