Do Republicans Need a Re-boot?

That is the subject of my latest post at Wonkblog.  It focuses on three claims that will be familiar to Monkey Cage readers:

  • Romney was supposed to lose the 2012, based on the underlying economic and political fundamentals.
  • Romney was actually perceived as ideologically closer to the average voter than was Obama.
  • Since Obama took office, public opinion has become more conservative, not more liberal.

The point of the piece isn’t to suggest that the Republican Party can change absolutely nothing and be guaranteed of winning the White House in 2016.  The point is simply to complicate many of the storylines I’ve seen about what the GOP needs to do—most of which revolve around policy or ideology, and few of which acknowledge the role the fundamentals played in 2012 (in Obama’s favor) and could play in 2016 (in the GOP’s favor).

5 Responses to Do Republicans Need a Re-boot?

  1. Hume's Bastard March 31, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

    What about the study popularized on MSNBC’s Up w’ Chris Hayes concerning how clueless conservative pols are about voters?

  2. Nameless March 31, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    After a brief inspection of the models supposedly predicting Romney’s loss, I see one common thread. They all look at relative short-term economic performance, either as a change over the period of 1 year or a change since the beginning of the current presidential term.

    I’m not surprised that a model based on this definition of economic performance would give good odds for Obama’s win. But it would entirely miss commentators’ point – that the economy was still weak and that the unemployment rate was still high.
    There were 4 occasions since 1950 when the unemployment rate was above 7% at the time of the election. In 3 out of 4 cases (1976, 1980, 1992), the incumbent lost. In the fourth case (1984) the incumbent won reelection, but it happened when unemployment, though high in absolute numbers, was improving rapidly (it fell 3 percentage points in 18 months).
    It is possible that absolute unemployment does not matter and we would get a better model by ignoring it completely and by focusing on changes in unemployment. But that’s something that needs to be proven. It don’t see that kind of analysis in any of the studies.

    • Nadia Hassan March 31, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

      Tom Holbrook and Lynn Vavreck have shown this. There’s no relationship between unemployment levels and election results. The 538 blog has those analyses and bears out the significance of (a) trends and (b) recent performance.

  3. Nameless March 31, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    “Romney was actually perceived as ideologically closer to the average voter than was Obama.”

    To make sense of this puzzling claim, we need to look closer at the data. Here’s the data for one of the polls in question:

    On the scale from -2 to 2, where -2 is “very liberal” and 2 is “very conservative”, self-identified moderates give Obama -0.71 and Romney 0.80. In other words, moderates see Obama as slightly closer to them than Romney.

    Both Obama and Romney are seen as fairly moderate by their own sides. Self-identified liberals give Obama -0.59 and self-identified conservatives give Romney 0.57, with percentages seeing their candidate as “moderate” 28% and 31% respectively.

    The real difference is in cross-ideology views. Liberals give Romney 1.32: they see him as fairly conservative but it’s pretty evident for anyone that he does not hold a candle to some of the more colorful right-wingers, including the ones he defeated in the primaries (Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum, Sarah “I can see Russia” Palin, etc., not to mention Hannity and Rush).

    On the other hand, conservatives give Obama -1.58: most conservatives would probably have a hard time naming a single person who’s visibly more liberal than Obama.

    This does not necessarily mean that Obama is further removed ideologically from conservatives than Romney is removed from liberals. It just means that the scale is not linear towards its ends, and its endpoints are defined by the depth of wingnut craziness currently observable on each side. If there were highly visible democrats arguing e.g. for 50% top marginal income tax, public option in Obamacare and taxpayer-subsidized daycare for all from birth to 5 years, Obama would get a 1.3 from conservatives.

    • Nadia Hassan April 3, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

      Moderates tend to vote for Democrats, though.

      1988 +2 D
      1992 +17 D
      1996 +22 D
      2000 +8 D
      2004 +9 D
      2008 +21 D
      2012 +12 D

      Obama won moderates by 15 points, well above and beyond what would be expected on the basis of a slim ideological advantage.