Some Lessons from 2010
by Tom Donelson on November 16, 2010 at 1:24 PM
The election of 2010 is over and the election of 2012 has begun. Put away the champagne bottles, the celebration for 2010 should be officially over. Despite the overwhelming victory for Republicans, there are gathering storms over the horizon that needs to be dealt with when it comes to 2012.
Based on reviewing the data, there are red flags that can’t be ignored. The first is minority turnout for the Democrats. The good news is that Republicans saw a small up tick among minority voters and overall turnout among minority voters were less when compared to 2008; but issues remain. I will take two states as example of what to do and what not to do.
A successful independent minority program was run in Wisconsin with the following results. Both Senator-elect Johnson and Governor-elect Walker received 14% of African-American voters and on top of that, African-American turnout was 20% less than what was seen in both 2006 and 2008. The lesson learned is a lesson that has been researched and found to be true. If you take the fear out of voting Republican, you will not only see an increase in Republican votes but you will also see that many minorities will simply choose not to vote. Fear is a primary reason for many to vote and eliminate the fear; you eliminate a reason for voting.
In Nevada, it was mixed bag. Among African-Americans, similar program ran in the state similar to Wisconsin and Angle actually showed some up tick from 2008. Angle share of African-American voters was 11% with nearly 11% split between no answer and none of the above. This represented a doubling of 2008 and was nearly 20% higher than national average. In Nevada, there was a none of the above category and while it is unclear how many of the remaining 11% went for none of the above, these were votes that did not go for Harry Reid. African-American voter turnout dropped 40% from 2008 turnout and back to 2006 levels.
Hispanics on the other hand was a mixed bag. Angle received 30%, which represented a 30% increase over what McCain-Palin received in 2008. The bad news is that Angle ran approximately 10% below the Republican national average and the new governor Brian Sandoval plus Hispanics turnout was equal to high marks of 2008 and 25% higher than 2006. So what happened?
This state saw numerous independent campaigns among Hispanics plus Angle's own clumsy handling of the immigration issue played a significant role. One independent effort ran a radio campaign effort similar to the methods instituted by the late Richard Nadler and this campaign may have at least helped Angle reach 30%. (This same group also ran the African-American program in both Nevada and Wisconsin. It should be noted that Ms. Angle outperformed Harry Reid last opponent in 2004 among both Hispanics and African-Americans)
The second independent effort was a televised effort that openly encouraged liberal Hispanics voters not to vote for Obama since “he betrayed them.” This effort was not only counterproductive but reinforced in the mind of many Hispanics that Republicans not only don’t care for their vote but want to suppress their vote. Ms. Angle did not help herself out as many of ads using pictures of dark skinned immigrants essentially gave Hispanic the impression that many illegal are nothing but hardened criminals. Ms. Angle obviously was advised to do a hard edge anti-immigration approach but all she did was to encourage Hispanics to come out in larger force to negate what small up tick she garnered from 2008 levels. Interesting enough, she ran behind on white votes when compared to Brian Sandoval and national averages, so the anti-immigration approach did not help her even with White voters compared to more nuanced approach by Sandoval.
One important lesson to be learned is that minority voters will vote for Republicans as Marco Rubio showed in Florida. Texas Governor Rick Perry collected nearly 40% of Hispanic votes on his way to re-election. Neither Perry nor Rubio came out for comprehensive immigration reform nor declared war on immigrants. Both candidates questioned the wisdom Arizona bill 1070 and they handled the immigration issue with subtlety not seen in the Angle campaign.
For Republicans, 2010 was a breakthrough year among White non-Hispanics voters where they obtained 60% nationwide, which represent a high water mark for the past decade. George Bush in his 2004 winning campaign only obtained 55% of White non-Hispanic voters so can the Republicans win based on a strategy that they will obtained another 60% of White voters in 2012? (It should be pointed out that McCain received similar numbers in 2008 among White voters than Bush did in 2004.)
The problem with the strategy is two fold. The first is that many voters voted against the policies of Barack Obama but they did not vote for the Republican Party. Even among Republican voters, there is a complete distrust for the leaders of their own Party and the Tea Party label is a more popular label than being Republicans among Republicans and conservative voters. The Republicas have not even convinced their own base that they deserved to lead! So any serious mishap among Republican leadership could find the Party fractured in 2012. Independents are not ideology minded as grass roots Republicans but they too rejected Democratic policies and they want to see results from Republicans. This support is tepid and temporary, depending upon successful policies being promoted.
The second problem is the obvious, minority voters are becoming higher percentage of the voting population and much of this growth comes from the Hispanic voters. Hispanic as a average are less likely to vote when compared to Whites or African-American voters but they are voting in greater numbers. The Democratic strategy for a permanent majority is based in no small part on this demographic change. They feel that if they continue to get 90 plus percentage of African-American and keep Republicans to 30% of Hispanics while keeping their base along the West coast and Northeast, they can become the dominate Political Party. With minority voters as important base of support, they can sweep the Southwest, add Texas and Florida in the future and maintain the upper edge in the Midwest. They pulled this off in 2008 (with the exception of capturing Texas)
What do Republicans need to do? A simple look at 2004 Ohio campaign would be a good beginning. An independent minority campaign ran by the late Richard Nadler increase minority voter total for the Bush ticket and provided most of his margin of victory that year. Another example of a successful strategy was the Republican Party 2010 statewide campaign in Wisconsin. Republicans ran a solid conservative campaign with a theme of fiscal responsibility as the central theme nor did it hurt that they ran solid candidates for congress, Senate and governor.
An independent campaign among minority based on the theory of the late Richard Nadler and instituted by many of his people was successful in increasing minority support for the Republican ticket. Other independent groups like Americans for Prosperity ran smart sophisticated campaign and combined along with a Party apparatus that understood the voters need, Republicans swept federal and state races. Despite Wisconsin being a Blue state, Republicans did not shy away from a campaign based on conservative ideas. (Please note, I am not stating that independent groups cooperated with the Party, they did not. What I am saying is that there were solid political pros with experience in Wisconsin politics and that counted for the success that conservatives and Republican saw in what was solid blue state.)
A smart and focus strategy among minorities can supplement a conservative victory in 2012 but ignoring minority voters will lead to the re-election of Barack Obama. Republicans can’t count on receiving 60% of White voters in 2012 and a reduction of those levels mean they have to make up the vote totals among minority voters.