Some conservatives have claimed last Tuesday’s election results show the GOP is on track for a historic victory next year. The returns from states like Virginia, where Democrats lost control of the Senate and ebbed further into the minority in the House, were an ominous sign for President Obama and his party.
One observer labeled Virginia, “Obama’s defeat.”
While those types of proclamations are a tonic for many in the GOP, that optimism should be checked. In fact, the 2011 elections served as a political X-ray machine exposing weaknesses in the Republican Party previously unseen. Political organizations routinely win elections by connecting the strategic brains of experienced leaders with the brawn of its body of supporters, but that wasn’t the case for the GOP in 2011.
In reality, last week’s results showed the inability of the Republican Party’s brains to link up with its brawn. Before it’s too late, the GOP urgently needs to expand beyond its existing cadre of professionals, institute independent feedback, bring innovation to its campaign plans and reconnect with the conservative grassroots.
All over the country, the GOP actually fell short of expectations. Republican victories writ large failed to materialize in Ohio, a crucial presidential battleground, as well as in the Republican-led states of Maine and Mississippi. Obama for America highlighted the political disparities in a strategic memo to supporters last week, which went unanswered by Republicans.
Call it a classic brain versus brawn problem. The strategic approaches pursued by well-paid Republican consultants, a narrow base of donors and the slim-to-absent field operations failed to forge a connection between voter intensity, incumbent antipathy and the GOP’s electoral goals.
GOP strategists failed to engineer creative campaigns or to produce targeted messages convincing to Independents, many of who are eager to support Republicans, according to recent polls. But without a message offering a better alternative than the status quo, why vote GOP?
In Ohio, supporters of Gov. John Kasich (R) failed to organize sufficient support to push back against organized labor. Kasich supporters waited until August to start raising funds in support of Issue 2, the ballot question on whether to support a law that rolled back some collective bargaining rights for public employees. Ultimately, Kasich’s supporters collected $9 million to oppose union expenditures in excess of $30 million.