Christopher Ruddy's Perspective: The dust may still be settling on the 2012 election, but there is good reason for conservatives to find optimism for the future.
Recently, I found such hope reviewing the full exit poll data from our recent election.
The bottom line on the presidential race was this: Mitt Romney lost the election because voters liked him less than Barack Obama.
Despite claims otherwise, the election was not a referendum on Obama’s record or even red state values versus blue state values.
Obama and the Democrats have claimed a “mandate,” but the data shows voters actually oppose President Obama’s programs like Obamacare and reject his statist approach to governing.
Instead, the polling indicates America remains firmly a red state nation, with conservative values.
The exit polls do note that Hispanic and black voters cast their ballots in large numbers for Obama, with the president pulling 71 and 93 percent of their votes, respectively.
Had Romney pulled the same amount of Hispanic votes as George W. Bush did in 2004, the election this year would have been nearly tied.
Also, Obama, the first black president, had an unusually enthusiastic African-American vote. In 2012, 13 percent of the electorate were African American, up from 11 percent in 2004.
What this means is that an energized black vote gave Barack Obama an additional 2.5 million votes.
Next time, if Republicans woo some Hispanic voters and black voting patterns normalize, 2016 could see Republicans increasing their vote share by some 4 to 5 million voters in a similar, highly contested race.
In my view, 2012 was winnable for the GOP. They simply fielded a weak candidate.
For example, when voters were asked to choose one of four qualities that they used as a basis for their vote, some 21 percent said a candidate who “cares about people like me.”
Of those voters who used this criteria, 81 percent voted for Obama!
In a similar exit poll question, participants were asked, “Who is more in touch with people like you?”
Once again, Obama won with a narrower but still lopsided number of 53 to Romney’s 43 percent.
But when the exit poll drilled down to find the views of Americans, we find a deep-rooted conservatism.
Here are some of the gems from the 2012 exit poll:
Obamacare. Only 44 percent of Americans said they believe the program should be expanded or left as it is. Almost a full majority — 49 percent — said they wanted the program fully repealed or partially repealed.
Income tax rates. Only 13 percent of Americans said they favored raising income tax rates for all citizens. And the suggestion that those earning over $250,000 a year — the benchmark the president uses to describe the so-called “rich” — should be taxed more received the support of 47 percent of the electorate. With all the media spin, one would think that view would have enjoyed majority support. It didn’t.
When asked if “taxes should be raised to help cut the budget deficit,” only 33 percent of the voters agreed, with a strong majority of 63 percent saying no more taxes.
The role of government. Asked the all-important question of whether government should do more or less in people’s lives, American voters strongly favored less government.
When respondents were asked if “government should do more to solve problems,” only 43 percent of voters agreed.
But 51 percent of voters agreed with the statement that “government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.” Nothing better demonstrates that America rejects Obama’s statist policies and that the country remains a center-right nation.
And when asked to describe their ideological views, 41 percent of Americans said they were moderate, 35 percent said they were conservative, and only 25 percent described themselves as liberal.
The Tea Party. Despite a blizzard of negative press and media spin against the tea party, exit polls show they didn’t fare too badly among all the electorate. A total of 63 percent of voters say that they either support the tea party or are “neutral” toward it.
Still, the polling data offers some caveats for Republicans.
First, the nation is becoming more liberal on social issues.
Some 55 percent of the nation say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. And this year, 49 percent of the electorate backed legalization of gay marriage. Just four years ago fully 60 percent of the nation opposed gay marriage.
And there is some worrisome news for the Republican Party itself. When asked to identify their party, 38 percent of voters opted for the Democrats, 32 percent for the Republicans and independents/something else came in a strong third with 29 percent.
The data suggests the GOP could become a third party in the eyes of most voters, when this amorphous “independent” label is thrown into the mix.
So, the establishment media spin suggests the GOP lost because of conservative values.
The exit poll data shows they are wrong.
The lesson of the exit poll is that if the Republicans want to remain a vibrant political party and win the presidency in 2016, they need to stick with their core principles, ones the American people agree with.
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