There’s an old saying, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” That’s not to say that either President Obama or his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, are demons, though a few people with a tenuous grasp on reality have opined that Obama might be the Antichrist. But it might be one reason why the president is now preparing to serve a second term in office and Romney, presumably, is preparing to return to the business world.
Voters on Tuesday were given a clear choice between the incumbent and the man who hoped to unseat him, and it’s reasonable to believe that many of those who were on the fence ultimately looked at Obama and saw someone who had, despite some missteps and the continuing doldrums of the economy, provided steady, thoughtful and largely competent leadership for the nation.
At the same time, there was unease about exactly where Romney and running mate Paul Ryan might take the country over the next four years. Would they end Medicare as we know it? Would they substantially alter Social Security? Would they cut taxes on the wealthy while eliminating tax deducations for the middle class? All of those were legitimate concerns, and the Romney team did not do much to clear up the questions.
But there were other factors, and some of them must give Republicans who are not wedded to an unyieldingly theocratic mindset some pause about how they can change and adapt in order to elect a GOP candidate in 2016.
Once again, President Obama received strong support from women and Hispanic voters. To expand their base, which now consists primarily of the Deep South and a large swath of the West, Republicans cannot continue to tailor their political approach to the demands of older white voters and evangelicals.
To win a presidential election, a Republican candidate must do better among women than did Romney and the 2008 candidate, Sen. John McCain. That’s extremely difficult to do when one must put out repeated fires started by Republican congressional candidates who start discussions about “legitimate rape” and whether the female body can “shut down” its baby-making capacities during a sexual assault.
GOP candidates for the presidency also must make some inroads with moderate “swing voters” who tend to be more liberal on social issues, and having people like Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock and Rick Santorum representing your brand doesn’t help.
There used to be such a thing in this country as “Rockefeller Republicans,” members of the GOP political class who were strong on conservative economics and national defense but liberal, or at least moderate, on social issues. Those folks have been pretty much eradicated from Congress, and the ones who remain are denigrated as RINOs (Republicans In Name Only).
But it’s just that type of candidate who should be able to appeal to a large segment of current Republican voters while also drawing in women, minority voters and willing-to-listen independents.
If they are wise, the leaders of the Republican Party will recognize that in a country with the shifting demographics of the United States, a tea party-type approach might enable candidates to score victories here and there in races for state offices and seats in Congress, but it will be increasingly difficult for a presidential candidate to prevail in that manner.
The Mitt Romney we saw in the closing months of the presidential race had tacked toward the center, but too many voters apparently remembered the “other Mitt Romney” they had seen in the Republican primaries and stuck with the safety of a known entity in Barack Obama.