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The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute
President Obama won reelection this past Tuesday. Congratulations to him! Let us hope that his second term will be marked by freedom and prosperity, not freeness of prophylactics. How did he pull off a victory in spite of high unemployment and stagnant growth? His GOTV operation has been described as masterful, but two other factors are likely to have had an impact large enough to sway the 60,000 voters who made the difference in states like Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania: Candy and Sandy.
Of course, there will be infighting and recrimination and reorientation and lots of talk of Hispanics within the Republican Party and the conservative movements for weeks if not months to come, but it’s important to remember that it is highly probable that without Candy and Sandy, Governor Romney would now be president-elect Romney, and President Obama would have commenced work on his fourth autobiography. (Yes, I’m counting that glossy brochure full of pictures of the president that came out two weeks before the election).
Candy, of course, is Candy Crowley. Her outrageous intervention during the foreign policy debate, when she shamelessly provided cover for the president’s lies about YouTube videos motivating Bin Laden to start Al-Qaeda or whatever it was he and his UN ambassador and his secretary of state spent weeks talking about, was quite the shockingly representative moment in an electoral cycle dominated by journalists shilling for Obama in the most aggressive manners imaginable.
The Republican Party needs to find a way around the legacy media, because getting its message out through them has become about as hard as getting its mail delivered by those USPS employees with xylophagia. Benghazi? Nothing to see here. Big Bird? Binders? Birth control? Weeks of headlines.
Sandy, of course, is the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, and brought horrific devastation to the East Coast, particularly New York and New Jersey. It also stopped the momentum of Governor Romney’s campaign right when things were finally looking up for him.
On top of that, President Obama responded heroically, by watching the news in the situation room and hugging New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He received overwhelmingly positive reactions to this response from both the press and politicians such as New York City Mayor Bloomberg, who endorsed the president for reelection and stated: “Although we’re expecting a large surge of water, it is not expected to be a tropical storm or hurricane-type surge. With this storm, we’ll likely see a slow pileup of water rather than a sudden surge, which is what you would expect with a hurricane, and which we saw with Irene 14 months ago. So it will be less dangerous.” These implications of the storm all helped the president and his campaign; as Chris Matthews put it: “I’m so glad we had that storm last week because I think the storm was one of those things [that helped Obama win].”
Two obvious, straightforward lessons then, before we turn to issues of ideology or outreach: Sometimes you’re just unlucky, and, as Matthew Sheffield tweeted the day after the election: “Last night was not a “realignment,” it was Democrats finally getting a decent ground game. Will GOP wise up and get a decent media game?”
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