Perhaps it is only natural that when a contest ends 'closely' analysts focus their attention on 'the little things' that could have altered the outcome. A football fan may focus his ire on a singular 'bad call' during the final drive of a game, court watchers will apply considerable scrutiny to how one justice's vote might have been swayed in a 5-4 decision. It is not unsurprising that political observers of the 2012 election have expended substantial effort on the issues and tactics that might have moved the polls by a 'point-or-two', and then only in 'key battleground states'. While such analysis is not without merit, it does a disservice to the GOP to focus too much attention on 'the little things' when there are (at least) three major failings in the prevailing Republican strategy that could have made a seismic difference in the outcome. First, Romney left too many important issues 'on the table' in favor of a one-dimensional attack. Second, the GOP has continued to fumble the immigration issue. Finally, the Republican party has allowed President Obama and the Democrats to re-write the history of recent GOP Presidents without serious challenge.
With an emerging scandal in Benghazi tee'd up for him, Mitt Romney played the role of Lucy to the GOP's Charlie Brown. In the second debate the Governor did not just eschewed his opportunity to challenge the Presidents handling of Libya, but he (Romney) did so in a way that made it very difficult for others to carry the issue. Of the various crises over the past four years Benghazi, more than any other, demonstrated just how unfit Barack Obama is for the office. In Libya it was self-evident, from day one, that security at a U.S. consulate had been sacrificed. Further, we quickly learned (without the need for a protracted 'investigation' or 'hearings') that security had been downgraded against the advice of those to whom the president and Ms. Clinton should have been listening. In the face of overwhelming evidence that more security was needed, not less. It was no great leap of inductive reasoning to understand that the president sacrificed security in order to project the desired administration narrative. a U.S. ambassador and three others were murdered (Ambassador Stevens was even raped in the process). This was the greatest violation of American sovereignty since 9/11. It was obvious from the very beginning that it was the result of bad policy emanating from the White House. These events should have been a coup for the GOP, discrediting not only Obama himself but Hillary Clinton and their shared 'world view'. How 'big of a difference' could this have made? This week Gallup posted some interesting results: Republicans [92%], Independents [87%] and Democrats [86%] overwhelmingly agree that "Preventing future acts of international terrorism" is a 'very important' goal of national security. So what happens if the Romney/Ryan campaign indicts the president's performance by pointing out that President Obama's strategy to reduce terrorism is to merely redefine it? Imagine if, during the second debate, Mitt Romney had said, "We have a president whose chief strategy to reduce terrorism is to pretend it isn't terrorism." Of course a comment like this would have required aggressive prosecution, but it was there to be had. It is predictable that this alone could have swayed more than just a few points in the polls.
For too many years GOP has allowed the Democrats and 'the media' to control the narrative on immigration-politics. It is high time that Republicans should step back from the politics of the alues," but rather that those principles should be reapplied to immigration policy. Specifically, the ideals of individual freedom, free markets and 'the rule of law' demand that a different tack should be pursued. Ever the stalwarts of the rule of law, the GOP has been cornered into defending laws which most Republicans did not support at passage. Imagine what would happen if the Republicans were to advocate the repeal of current immigration law rather than the 'enforcement first' approach which the GOP has been defending. The present 'law' is a hodge-podge of legislation, regulation, and interpretation which has lead to quotas and conditions designed by the elitists on the left to allow in those who have special degrees, skills, and qualifications and exclude those who 'do not'. The reality is such that the want-to-be immigrant, whose best qualification for admission is his willingness to do hard labor, is both systematically excluded from a legal path to entry and at the same time drawn here by the very real demand for that labor. If conservatives are to embrace the ideals of freedom then a policy of Big Fence-Big Gate should become the mantra for GOP 'immigration reform'. The best way to keep out the 'undesirable' elements illegal border crossings (smugglers, terrorists and the like) is to make it easy for the 'desirables' to come through that "Big Gate". If the Republican Party were to advance such an open and welcoming policy, the Hispanic population would, naturally, line up behind the party that matches their views on social and economic issues. The artificial economy of quotas and the 'stigma' that pushes these 'illegals' into the margins of society ought be removed in the name of all that conservatives hold dear, not merely for 'political expediency'. For all of their bemoaning the plight of illegals, granting them everything from driver's licenses and health care to in-state tuition and Pell Grants, the one thing liberals don't want to do, is to just make it legal for them to come here in the first place. Perhaps it is the pinnacle of political irony that Obamanomics have proven that the free market will regulate immigration better than government ever could. Republicans should be shouting that it is the Democrats who have created and perpetuated a system which relegates 'illegals' to second-class status. Were the Hispanic community to realign with the GOP, the liberals would quickly find themselves scrambling to maintain even the most traditional Democrats strongholds; put simply, "California would be in play".
Before the Republicans can fully capitalize on these opportunities, first they must "stop the bleeding." Perhaps the greatest flaw in the overall campaign strategy was the failure to understand Carvillism. Armed with James Carville's 1992 oversimplified quip, "It's the economy, stupid," Republicans, led by Mitt Romney, hit the airwaves with quotes like "No president has ever won re-election with [unemployment/growth/inflation] like it is now. President Obama and his merry band of spinners successfully countered with "It's all Bush's fault" as the GOP stood by flat-footed. Conservatives were confident that the American people would not continue to put up with the blame game, the right was wrong. It was not that liberals successfully 'outmaneuvered' conservatives on this front, the GOP didn't even show up. The Republicans effectively ceded the issue, and with it the "Bush majority". If the American electorate had (correctly) placed blame for the economy on President Obama he would have been run out of town in a landslide that would have made Carter proud. The White House, the Democrats, liberals, and the media, whether in sympathy or outright collaboration, have spent the last 5 years berating the Bush years, President Bush's record, and slandering the man himself. Rather than marginalizing George W. Bush (and too, George H.W. Bush) the 2012 convention ought to have celebrated a period of record economic expansion, low unemployment, low interest rates, and low inflation that were 'the Bush years'. Similarly, the GOP should have been blaming the entire current economic condition (properly) on Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and, yes, Barrack Hussein Obama. If there is one thing Republicans must do in order to regain the national mantle it is to rehabilitate the image and record of W in the 'hearts and minds' of the American People. Indeed, even the legacy of Ronald Reagan has begun to be assailed from the left in an attempt to marginalize his contributions to America. Had John McCain not allowed himself to be held captive to the animosity between he and President Bush the 're-election' of Barrack Obama would have been a non-issue.
Whether it was a coordinated effort or simply a response to the polls, once Mitt Romney lost the 2008 primary, the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints set out on a national crusade to let the American people know that Mormons really are 'mainstream Americans'. No matter how much the media then tried to make an issue of Governor Romney's faith, the American people had been inoculated and it never 'really mattered' in 2012. Similarly, the left today still tries to (wrongly) paint the right with the brush of 'elitism', it is time that the GOP find the advertising company that ran the "...and I'm a Mormon" campaign and put them to work educating the American people about what it is that the Republican party and conservatives really stand for. The forces arrayed to defend the president effectively misled the public about any number of things, but that is 'what scorpions do' and Republicans have no one to blame but themselves each and every time they get stung. The fact is, 2012 should never have been close. If the Republicans will learn to leave no issues on the table, capture and frame immigration policy in conservative terms, and protect the historical legacies of past GOP presidents it will be the Democrats who will find themselves sitting on the outside, looking in.