The Search

WaPo’s Peter Wallsten tells us the GOP is really getting out the torches and bloodhounds to figure out why the irresistible march to victory that began two years ago broke up in disarray on Tuesday.

Top Republican officials, stunned by the extent of their election losses Tuesday night, have begun an exhaustive review to figure out what went so wrong and how to fix it.

Party leaders said they already had planned to poll voters in battleground states starting Tuesday night in anticipation of a Mitt Romney victory — to immediately begin laying the groundwork for midterm congressional elections and a Romney 2016 reelection bid.

But as they watched one state after another go to President Obama and Senate seats fall away, party leaders quickly expanded and retooled their efforts. Officials told The Washington Post that they’re planning a series of voter-based polls and focus groups, meetings with constituency group leaders, and in-depth discussions with their volunteers, donors and staff members to find ways to broaden their appeal.

The review is a recognition that party leaders were confounded by the electorate that showed up on Tuesday. Republican officials said that they met all of their turnout goals but that they underestimated who would turn out for the other side.

But there’s one catch:

Party officials said the review is aimed at studying their tactics and message, not at changing the philosophical underpinnings of the party.

So they’ll look high and low for the problem, but not there, no no no.

And guess what? They’ll find it somewhere else, in mechanics or messaging or candidate quality or even insufficient fidelity to the philosophical underpinnings of the party. Or maybe a combo platter of these alternatives to being wrong about important things.

Believe me, an alternative explanation will be built and will quickly become CW, certainly among Republicans but possibly in the MSM as well. I encourage all conservative-watchers to give a quick read to a Byron York article that seized on Sean Trende’s tentative finding (which I mentioned in yesterday’s last post) that Romney’s problem in Ohio was a dropoff in turnout by white voters, not anything positive that Obama did. Ah, could it be that Mitt just didn’t fire up these nice white people sufficiently? York’s tentative conclusion:

[I]t’s fair to say Romney’s problems stemmed as much from his failure to appeal to white voters as his failure to appeal to any other voters. He lost because he did not connect to large swaths of the voting population.

That’s where finding a great candidate comes in. Romney is an able, accomplished, intelligent and hard-working man, but Republicans knew from the start he was an imperfect candidate. During the primaries, GOP voters tried every alternative possible before finally settling on Romney. He remained a flawed candidate in the general election.

Now, because of Romney’s loss, some are urging that the Republican Party completely remake itself. Some argue that GOP lawmakers must support comprehensive immigration reform and change positions on other issues. The answer, they say, is broad, across-the-board change….

There is a less complicated lesson to this election. Voters want to believe in a candidate. If Republicans find that candidate, they will win.

So why go wandering off into those sketchy neighborhoods full of dangerous people looking for votes, O Party of the Great White Fathers? You just need candidates that get all of the good people of this country fired up, just like Obama’s fired up The Others. When you’ve got 100% turnout in the exurbs, then, and only then, will it maybe be time to look elsewhere, and horror or horrors, look at the party’s “philosophical underpinnings” to see if perhaps there’s some rot.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.