Election’s over: What do we do now?

Tom Pennington GETTY IMAGES A voter completes her ballot on Nov. 6, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. The election is … Continued

Tom Pennington


A voter completes her ballot on Nov. 6, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The election is over and Americans voted to keep Republicans in command of the House of Representatives, the Democrat majority in the Senate and President Obama in the White House. While we don’t know anyone who would have voted to keep the exact same balance of power in Washington, it’s what America got out of the 2012 election.

As longtime supporters of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, going back to the early days of the 2008 GOP primary, we believed he would have been a great president. The election doesn’t change that. Our nation missed an opportunity to have a president who knew what needed to be done to get our economy back on track and excited for an opportunity to work across the aisle to turn policy into action.

Seconds after President Obama was declared the winner, the finger-pointing and blame game began. The Republican establishment blamed the right. The right blamed the Republican establishment. It’s a natural part of the process, and it will continue for some time.

Because we find ourselves somewhere in the middle of these two groups, early Romney supporters inside the social conservative movement, we thought it was important to first, analyze early election data on various demographics, and second, provide a few ideas that we believe will help conservatives remain relevant in future elections.


President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks at the election night party on Nov. 7, 2012, in Chicago.

According to exit polls, evangelicals, who made up 26 percent of the electorate, broke for Romney by four percentage points more than they voted for McCain four years ago. Romney also matched the percentage of the evangelical vote of George W. Bush in 2004, winning 78 percent of evangelicals. However, Romney was able to get more evangelicals to the polls than Bush. The electorate was 3 percent more evangelical today than it was in 2004 (23 percent of all voters in 2004 and 26 percent in 2012).

On the other hand, President Obama won Catholics, which accounted for 25 percent of the vote, but he only won them by two percentage points (48-50 percent) considerably down from his 9-point advantage four years ago. Reuters reported that, “Hispanic Catholics were far more likely to favor Obama – by 76 percent to 23 percent – than white Catholics, who favored Romney by 56 percent to 43 percent.”

Evangelicals showed up to the polls. They weren’t the reason Romney was unable to find enough votes in the key swing states. Instead, what’s becoming clearer from the data is that there may not have been enough votes out there for Republicans to turn out. While it doesn’t mean that conservatives need to abandon our core beliefs, there are some changes that can be made to increase the number of likely GOP voters.

For instance, we agree with Charles Krauthammer and Sean Hannity on immigration reform. In this election, Latinos, which comprised 10 percent of the electorate, voted for Obama by a 71 percent to 27 percent margin. Even more revealing, 77 percent of Hispanic voters said that undocumented workers should be given a path to establish legal residency in the United States instead of being deported. Republicans and conservative activists must embrace a plan for the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Yet, there’s no need to rush and support what will be called “amnesty” without border security. Hannity described how to “get rid” of the issue:

If the left is serious about resolving the issue, they must first be willing to pass legislation that actually secures the border. We don’t see any reason for Democrats to balk at a two-step process. “Secure the border with guaranteed legalization to follow on the day the four border-state governors affirm that illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle,” writes Krauthammer. If they refuse, it confirms the idea that the issue is a valuable political talking point for the left and nothing more.

Conservatives, let’s take the lead on this. America is the land of opportunity and conservatives, regardless of how we have been demonized, do not oppose immigration or immigrants. It’s clear that we have lost the messaging battle on this front and one way to fix that is to embrace true, comprehensive immigration reform.

The HHS mandate debate, another issue that became a communications mess, was turned into a so-called “Republican War on Women.” Instead of driving home the point that this was an attack on religious liberty, not about the legality or morality of contraception, Republicans let Democrats take an issue that should have been damaging to the left and turn it into one that became politically beneficial. Charles Krauthammer writes,

We couldn’t agree more. Social conservatives cannot, and will not, abandon the pro-life cause, but we must be more aware of how an issue we win on can be used against us. Take, for instance, our final topic – the definition of marriage.

For only the second time, a pro-traditional marriage amendment has lost when put to a statewide popular vote. And for the first time, three states have voted to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. Gone are the days of blaming courts for usurping the will of the people. The fight over same-sex marriage is coming to a close in some states and the final showdown may occur at the Supreme Court in the near future as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) makes its way through the federal courts. Again, it appears that messaging has become a failure. Young evangelicals and many conservatives are now uneasy with the politics of opposing same-sex marriage. We must focus on preserving the free speech rights of religious leaders to speak openly on the issue while guaranteeing the absolute right of churches to decide whether to perform or recognize same-sex marriages.

This election loss wasn’t Mitt Romney’s fault. It wasn’t the Republican Party’s fault. It wasn’t because Romney was too moderate or, conversely, too conservative. And, it certainly wasn’t because of a lack of resources. We lost the presidential election because we weren’t as quick to capitalize on issues and opportunities as our opponents.

Jordan Sekulow is executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). Matthew Clark is an attorney at the ACLJ.

More On Faith and 2012:

David Gibson: What’s next for religious conservatives?

Lisa Miller: After huge Hispanic vote, plenty of reason to compromise on immigration reform

Figuring Faith: Faith in 2012 by the numbers

Otterson: What lies ahead for Mormons?

Thistlethwaite: Compassion in chief: Why Obama won

Patel:Hopeful for explicit discussion from White House on religious diversity

  • thegrendel

    And now there’s a bipartisan proposal for immigration reform,
    but with the right seeing a silver lining — opening up more H1-B
    visas, so the corporations can depress the wages of highly-skilled
    tech workers.

    Conservatives are like water. They’ll always find their own level.

  • nolngeraseasontixhder

    Whether evangelicals turned out enough to vote for Romney or not; the issue is the disconnect between the Republican ideology of small government (people like me, fiscal conservative – one issue voter – low taxes and small government) and the perceived Republican obsession on telling other people how to live (gay marriages, abortion, etc. contradicting that “government shouldn’t be in our lives”). I know too many single women who are in the 1% and will have to pay a lot more taxes (and don’t want to), campaign passionately for Obama because of pro-choice and that “we are sick of white men telling us what we can do with our body”. When people are more upset about being told what to do than being upset about parting with their hard earned money; maybe the rhetoric is a little too strong? Despite of your stats on evangelical turnout, I know numerous “faithful Christians” that openly stated that “we will never vote for a Mormon”, and since they can’t stand Obama either; they did not vote – that really helps…

    It’s the same story; in order to get through the primaries, the Republicans have to appeal to the so called “base”. The Base is so obnoxious that it turns off the massive middle in the general election. I’m a registered Republican, I’m part of the massive middle that can’t stand either extreme of both parties. Republicans needs to figure out whether this so called “base” that cares more about being “right” than winning is a baggage or an asset. I do know one thing, in 2008, in order to “appeal to the base”, we almost put Sarah Pallin one skin cancer away from the Presidency. Her only qualification? She’s folksy and she represents the ordinary people in a country of ordinary people that should be run by ordinary people. I’m sure she does real well if she has to go one-on-one with Putin.

    Democracy as we have it right now is fatally flawed; not as flawed as socialism, but it’s flawed. There might be solutions, but given the rancor on both sides, no solution

  • The_Rat

    Conservatives have allowed themselves to be defined by Bachman, Akins, Santorum, West and Perry. A large number of Americans today think of these extremes when someone says “conservative” or Republican. They don’t think of fiscal conservatism, small government, or “personal responsibility”, they think of hatred of minority groups, inflexible religious dogma, and “angry white men”. Until the Republicans fix their party, such that they can nominate someone who does not have to survive a severely right-wing circular firing squad primary process, they will not be able to win a national election. They may have lost FL and VA because of the Hispanic vote, but IA and WI were a different matter. It was not the candidate, it was the message. Hate and fear do not sell!

  • R49Thomas

    You know there is precious little bipartisanship in this great land.

    Yet, you attack a cornerstone of domestic policy and one on which both our two parties agree in a spirit of bipartisanship.

    It has long been a national tradition in this great land that the little guy make sacrifices –sometimes quite large – so that Uncle Sam would have the resources to lend a helping hand to our most vulnerable and valuable citizens – the rich and big corporations.

    How very sad indeed!

  • jax75420

    I can shorten your little coulmn down for you;

    You lost because you were wrong on the facts and on the spirit of almost all issues. The only major political principle conservatives are correct on is wanting to secure the border and enforce existing immigration laws on all illegal immigrants, both those trying to enter, and those who are already here. It sounds like, in a desperate bid to garner Latino votes, the GOP is preparing to surrender on the issue of mass deportation of the illegal immigrants already here. While it should go without saying that any of them who commit any kind of crime should immediately be deported, it seems like the right is looking for a way to “elegantly cave” to the desire of Latinos to give their countrymen a welcome mat that goes around the line everyone else must wait in to gain permanent residency of this country. The one thing you should stick to your priciples on, you’re going to give up. (Well, to your credit, it sounds like you’re also willign to see the writing ont he wall regarding gay marriage, even if you won’t acknowledge that it ought to be a civil right.)

    As for abortion, contraception, and tax policy, there’s no logical way to support the current Republican political positions. They are based not on facts or logic, but on fear, religious dogma, and mental inertia. The sooner the right recognizes that there need to be two paries in this country, a center-right fiscally responsible one and a truly left-wing liberal party (instead of the fakey Dems of the last three decades) we will have a more proper and fair balance that recognizes facts and reality, not outdated dogmas and fear.

  • jax75420

    The evangelical fear and hatred of Mormons is truly puzzling to us godless liberals. As far as we’re concerned, Mormons and Evangelical Christians are almost identical. Both are “door-to-door salesmen” for the Lord, both seem to go out of their way to be completely out of step with modern mores and lifestyles, and both are overwhelmingly white.

  • jax75420

    As for your point about Republicans shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to “electibility,” I would tend to agree. Folks like Clinton and Obama are not really left wing enough for me or most people I know, but because the Democrats have become so willing to betray several (though not all) of their principles, and bend on a lot of the others, they have been able to win elections. Bush won (or came close to winning, until he was “selected”) the first time because he was so willing to soften the Republican rhetoric. He also did a lot to appeal to Latinos, including compromising on border security and immigration enforcement. Hell, even Obama has deported more people in his first term than Bush did! Now don’t get me worng, I am NOT asking for the Repubs to put forward another mealy-mouthed pseudo-centrist fool like Bush. What I WOULD like to see is someone center-right who is willing to get tough on cutting bloat without destorying the social safety net or penalizing the middle class. It can be done. Dems don’t have the discipline to say “no” to either extortionist contractors or the poor, and the Repubs are willing to say “no” only to the latter. We need someone who will cut what needs to be cut and keep what needs to be kept. I would love to see a Democrat do that, but I just don’t see it happening. The infrastructure spending, the healthcare costs, the social services, we can meet or exceed the levels of success we have in all of those areas AND save money with someone who both knows hwo to balance a checkbook and who cars more about the poor and middle class than he or she does about their wealthy donors or big industires and banks.

  • rukidding2

    It’s time for Republicans to start digging shallow graves and crawlin in…

    Extinction lies ahead folks. E-X-T-I-N-C-T-I-O-N-!-!-!

  • Mapratz

    A revolution is already underway and you are on the receiving end. Narrow thinking that we can return to the return to the past ie. white power days are done. Wake up and join the reality of today, we aren’t going back. Be part of the solution, or hole up with your fears and myopic world views.

  • KeenJean

    Another four years – are we deluded?! With as many people as I knew who were voting for Romney, what is the actual breakdown? I guess Hispanics, etc. voted for Obama. Do they want another four years of unemployment and a myriad of other problems? I don’t think they really knew who they were voting for, for if they had, he wouldn’t have won. Well everybody, four more years to go downhill. And, maybe many more questionable surprises.

  • persiflage

    good summation jax……….

  • cricket44

    Oh, please, there was no attack on religious liberty. You keep crusading against women being recognized as people…and keep wondering why you are losing (Thank God.)

  • WmarkW

    “The country doesn’t need two liberal parties.”

    But there are so many political issues today, that you can’t expect a party to agree with you on all of them — taxes, health care, guns, environmentalism, school funding, immigration, labor unions… You can hardly expect abortion to be a leading issue among a population worried about a fiscal cliff.

    I’ll repeat what many have been saying for as long as the religious right has existed — if you want to stop abortion, do so by accepting modern sexual morals. You can’t expect a society with the median marriage age over 25 to practice non-marital celibacy. Educated people rarely create unintended pregnancies. They result from a disconnect between sexual practices and birth control use, and religion is one of the many causes of it.

    There’s nothng parents of teens fear more than dealing with a Levi Johnston/Bristol Palin scenario. Find a way to prevent those, that doesn’t involve accepting superstitions as a form of knowlege greater than facts.

  • presto668

    “We must focus on preserving the free speech rights of religious leaders to speak openly on the issue while guaranteeing the absolute right of churches to decide whether to perform or recognize same-sex marriages.”

    There was never any threat to this. None.

    And whether your church “recognizes” same-sex marriages is irrelevant. It’s whether the government recognizes them.

  • amelia45

    this is so blatently gameplaying. The illegal immigrants did not mean anything to the Republicans except an opportunity to use them to make others think they were a problem. They certainly were not interested in justice or treating illegal immigrants who have been here for years with any kind of compassion. And that goes for the evangelical so-called Christians.

    Here is a surprise for you. Exit interviews with Hispanic voters conducted by ABC show that a majority of Hispanic voters also believe in gay marriage and want to keep abortion legal.

    Now that you need them they suddenly have value.

  • WmarkW

    Unfortunately for the anti-abortion cause, a lot of people think of it as part and parcel of other forms of religiously-motivated ignorance. Few things turn off educated people more than faith-based answers to evidentiary questions, like Creationism.

    “Family” bookstore and the CBN television network, present a view of American history that makes a knowledgeable voter blush. Like that the Constitution was written by men who believed in the Bible, and it has to be interpreted that way. Or that we should forge a belligerant foreign policy in the middle east, to hasten the Second Coming.

    As long as the pro-life position appears to come from such a narrow philosophical basis, it will go absolutely nowhere, on merit.

  • amelia45

    quoting Krauthammer, Seculow and Clark pointout: “In fact, more women are pro-life than are pro-choice.”

    And while that is true, when it comes down to the nitty gritty, more people supported keeping abortion legal by the end of this campaign that when it started. More than that, few women at all are pro-abortion. But, they don’t want the government making the decision about when an abortion is okay. Certainly, not a Republican led government that cannot get a consistent message about when it would be allowed. Women cannot trust Republicans on this issue.

    Conservatives don’t have to “abandon the pro-life cause” but they might work more willingly toward reducing unwanted pregnancies. But that would mean supporting contraceptives in health insurance and organizations like Planned Parenthood. If you really want to make a difference in the pro-life cause, work to reduce unwanted pregnancies.

    And, get off it about gay marriage. No one that I know of has any notion of forcing a church, synagog, or any faith group to perform a religious ceremony to bless a wedding. But, if we keep our hands off of you, you need to keep your hands off the rest of the world that is perfectly happy to have gay people married civilly and married in those faith groups that believe in gay marriage.

    Gay marriage does mean that it will become illegal to discriminate against gays in the public arena. And that includes the local florist, wedding hall renter, and bed and breakfast inn. If you sell to the public, you sell to all of the public.

  • DavidJ9

    The majority of American voters voted for Democrats for the House of Representatives. The Republicans still have a majority in the House because of the corruption of gerrymandering. The Republicans have been the ones doing all they can to keep people from voting and from letting votes count. There is nothing moral about such behavior.

    There is nothing moral about telling people that they cannot marry who they want to marry.

    There is no reason to think that those who want the United States to have an inquest for every single miscarriage are supporting morality.

  • DavidJ9

    The ACLJ thinks that radical reactionary evangelicals have the right to inflict their religious ideas on all of the United States. They hate the First Amendment and repeatedly fight against it.

  • nkri401

    How about if you Mr. Sekulow ST*U?

    Well, it’s still free country no thanks to you so go on spouting your hate…