Mitt Romney is bitterly complaining about why he thinks he lost the election, essentially confirming everything he said in his “47 percent” comments last spring. Romney recently told donors that President Barack Obama won by offering “gifts” to African-Americans, Hispanics, and young voters. Not something he should have said, but frankly, I’m glad he did.
I’m glad because it tees up the argument many of us have been waiting to have. I’ve heard the same analysis from other Republicans since the election: that Obama’s win was the triumph of the takers over the creators, that it was hard to compete with Santa Claus giving out “free stuff.” Baloney. Republicans lost because we failed to articulate why every American benefits from free markets and limited government, or as Jack Kemp would put it, why a rising tide lifts all boats. Rather than building a bigger government with more debt, we should have convinced Americans that we need to grow a bigger economy with less government spending. Contrary to what the Democrats will tell you, less government means more jobs and faster economic growth. More opportunity means fewer people on government assistance because they’ve got a job—which leads to safer neighborhoods, higher tax revenues, more money donated to charities, and better schools. There’s a great case to be made for populist conservatism. Paul Ryan tried to make that case—but Mitt Romney, not so much.
Romney couldn’t have timed his remarks more perfectly. His out-of-touch analysis coincided with GOP governors arriving at the annual Republican Governors Association meeting, along with a waiting press corps. Here’s how Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal responded: “It’s certainly not helpful to tell voters that you think their votes were bought. That’s certainly not a way to show them you respect them, you like them.” Jindal added, “As a Republican Party, we need to fight for 100 percent of the electorate. Not 53 percent, not 52 percent, but 100 percent. We’ve got to stop trying to divide people into different groups by race, by gender, by class. Instead, we’ve got to show them that our conservative principles will help them pursue the American dream. We don’t win elections by insulting voters.” (U.S. News & World Reports)