Rove: ‘The myth of the stay-at-home Republicans’

Voter registrationBy Lynn R. Mitchell

There’s a hypothesis circulating among Republicans that Mitt Romney lost in 2012 because a large number of previously reliable conservatives who turned out in past elections stayed home. Here’s the problem: It’s not accurate.

Earlier this year Karl Rove makes the case that Republican losses are not due to Republicans who don’t show up but rather to those in the middle who choose not to vote in the GOP camp (see The myth of the stay-at-home Republicans):

… while Mr. Romney carried 59% of white Catholics who voted in 2012, those who didn’t turn out appear to be middle-class and often blue-collar voters, like those in GOP-leaning counties in northwestern Ohio, who would never vote to re-elect Mr. Obama but apparently felt Mr. Romney did not care about people like them.

These missing moderate, white Catholic and women voters who didn’t vote in 2012 can be motivated to vote for a Republican candidate in 2016—if they think that candidate cares about people like them. Still, getting back some voters in these three groups, while also generating higher turnout among conservatives who generally don’t vote, is probably not enough. To win, the GOP must also do a good deal better among Hispanic, Asian-American and African-American voters than they have since 2004.

The three Republicans who won the presidency in the past 40 years offered clear, consistent conservative messages and themes from the day they entered the race. They understood the impressions they created in the primaries largely determined the general election’s outcome—and that building a broad, winning, center-right coalition was too difficult and too important a task to leave until after the convention and the campaign’s final four months. It’s a lesson worth remembering in 2016.

In 2013, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball had a guest column from Alan I. Abramowitz and Ruy Teixeira that also explored this issue (see ‘Missing Voters’ in the 2012 election: Not so white, not so Republican). With 2016 looming, it will be interested to see which Republican candidate can attract the most diverse supporters because chances are that will be the winning combination. Time will tell….

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