Me making predictions about presidential elections is as about as worthless as “handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.”1 However, it is fun to look at factors that indicate a certain pattern, or a future pattern. I may not be smart, but I do like connecting some dots.
There are numerous events affecting the 2012 race for the White House. I am not going to focus on what appears to be a rebounding economy, a national security environment that includes both the death of Osama bin Laden and Iranian bellicose saber-rattling,2 and a growing pool of Democratic Party money. Instead I would like to look at three factors that are a direct result of Republican voter action and the actions of some of the GOP presidential nomination candidates. If President Obama is reelected, a loud voice will cry up about Dem political shenanigans, but in the end the GOP voters will have no one to blame but themselves. (Fortunately for me, numerous news stories being published on the same day allowed me to identify a possible correlation.)
Reason 1: Low GOP voter turnout
Felicia Sonmez writes3 in the Washington Post today that recent GOP caucus and primary voter turnout has been low and may be a result of low enthusiasm among GOP voters. Here are the stats she provides:
Colorado 2008 GOP caucus: 70,000 voters; 2012 caucus: 65,000
Minnesota 2008 GOP caucus: 62,000 voters; 2012 caucus: 48,000
Nevada 2008 GOP caucus: 44,000 voters; 2012 caucus: 33,000
Florida 2008 GOP primary: 1.9 million voters; 2012 primary: 1.7 million
Ms. Sonmez does point out that GOP voter turnout in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina was larger in 2012 than in 2008. However, this caucus and two primaries were very early in the race and the field did not begin to narrow until South Carolina. Fatigue and voter burn-out is dangerous. It is especially dangerous when the GOP (and its voters) are having an internal dispute between fiscal and social conservatism. Low voter turnout now may result in low GOP voter turnout in November.
Reason 2: Social values and issues gaining attention
“One consequence of the improving economy: The culture wars are back.”4 This is why Rick Santorum got to celebrate a bit this past Tuesday. The sputtering economy had given candidates like Mitt Romney a platform to launch attacks against President Obama. Recent economic news5 now may be rendering these attacks moot.
Now the word on the street is “contraception, abortion and gay marriage.” Candidates like Santorum are good at wooing religious and social conservative voters with these words. Santorum is the social conservative candidate. Unfortunately, social conservatives are only loud. They are not the majority of GOP voters, and the majority of American voters do not categorize themselves as socially conservative in a manner that would reflect in a real social conservative winning in November. According to a religious/social conservative media source, evangelicals comprise only 28% of all voters.6 Even if this 28% is an accurate percentage, 28 is not a majority of 100. It is hard to argue that social conservatism will garner votes when the majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.7
Reason 3: Mitt Romney seems a lot like President Obama
Don’t take my word for it. Go here, here, and here. I mean, if Santorum, Rush, and Newt say he is like President Obama… then it must be true. Actually, the unfortunate thing about a bloody nominating process is that the early attack ads and unfavorable comparisons stick around. When there are candidates, with a significant (but a minority) number of supporters, attacking one candidate then there may be a lot of voter angst come November. This might even loop back to Reason 1, and result in an even lower GOP voter turnout. Voters may not want to put Romney in if they view the President as strong on defense (which they do) and getting the economy on track (which may be happening). Change for change’s sake doesn’t get one elected. If GOP voters think Romney and President Obama are essentially the same, then why would they care enough to vote (see Reason 1).
I have no crystal ball and I have no fact hidden in pocket that lets me know who will be the next President. But if you look at the indicators and couple them together, you can get an idea of how hard it will be for the GOP to get the keys back to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW. Low voter turnout, resurgance of social conservatism, and mean-spirited campaigning may result in a presidential reelection. Finally, if you want another, but similar, opinion on why it is gonna suck to be a GOP voter in November, go here and see what FOXNews is opining.
1. To continue my obsession with Apocalypse Now and its insider baseball language, I use this quote from CAPT Williard commenting on how the US Army intended to charge COL Kurtz with murder, which is “Shit… charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500.”
2. One makes President Obama look like a bad muthafucka who did what former President Bush was incapable of, and the other makes voters scared. When voters are scared, they don’t vote for change.
3. The Washington Post, “Election 2012: Low voter turnout may signal a slump in GOP enthusiasm,” Feb. 9, 2012, A6.
4. The Washington Post, “Election 2012: Social issues return to the fore,” Feb. 9, 2012, A6.
5. Here is the data.
6. One has to assume that all 28% of these evangelicals would vote for a GOP candidate. This article also states that 78% did, in fact, vote for GOP candidates. However, this data is dated and based on polls/surveys following the 2010 mid-term elections. See “Reason 1” and the flagging interest GOP voters may have in the upcoming presidential election. Finally, as much as I hate to admit it, seems Andrew Breitbart and I are talking about the same thing.
7. This big-ass poll is a fun read, but for the purposes of this post. In August 2010, 52% respondents responded with yes to “Should the Federal Government give legal recognition to marriages between couples of the same sex, or not?” Other, more recent, polls show this percentage has increased.