Ed Kilgore provided a good rundown of, The 2012 Campaign Books. I am knee deep in this stuff. I’m trying to get my hands on all of the campaign books from 1976 onward for a book that I am working on. But I was around for the 2012 campaign and I think I have a very good take on what happened.
Now, I understand that there are lots of other people who paid just as much attention as I did. And they’ve come to different conclusions. Fine. But most of them are totally wrong and this is well on display in the books. Three of the books are the usual insider nonsense: The Center Holds, Double Down, and Collision 2012. But The Gamble is right in line with what I think—not just about 2012 but about pretty much all elections.
This is due to the fact that The Gamble is written by two political scientists: John Sides and Lynn Vavreck. I’ve written about both of them various times here because I am what people call as “fundamentals guy”: I believe that broad demographic trends determine elections, not clever campaign tricks. In fact, I probably take it too far because I don’t much care about anything else.
Apparently, they argue that the Republicans don’t need to make any fundamental changes for 2016. This goes along with what I’ve been saying. If the Republicans nominate a reasonable candidate and the economy tanks, the Republicans will win in 2016. In fact, even an unreasonable candidate would probably win. People don’t like to think this kind of thing. Neither do I! But what are you going to do? We didn’t elect Reagan because the country was suddenly conservative; we got him because the economy was bad. We could get Ted Cruz for the same reason.
Looking back, people want to think that there was lots of back and forth between Romney and Obama. It’s a myth. Obama led throughout the general election. What’s more, things like Romney’s surge after the first debate don’t mean what people think they mean. All that happened (and I wrote about this at the time) is that people who were going to vote for Romney but who had claimed to be undecided simply decided. People in the same position about Obama simply waited until later. As a result, it looked like had surged, but it had no actually effect on the election.
What Republicans need to worry about in 2016 is that the demographics will be so bad for them that even a bad economy and a good candidate won’t save them. And I wonder more and more if the Republicans aren’t smart to not change. Are blacks and Latinos and the young really going to get behind the Republican Party just because they start talking nice? A change is going to have to come from the base of the party. They are going to have to see California Republicans start to make sense. As it is, regardless what anyone says, Darrell Issa is still an extremist asshole who seems interested only in trumping up scandals. Who is going to look at that and say, “The Republican Party has changed!” So they might as well focus on the base.
Another thing: is someone like Chris Christie the savior of the Republican Party? I don’t think so. In a general election, his extremism would come front and center. He could certainly become president, but I don’t see his chances as any better than those of Ted Cruz. So there are two questions for 2016: How is the economy? And what is the demographic advantage of the Democrats? It may simply be hopeless for the Republicans in 2016. And no amount of Willie Horton ads are going to change that.