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General election

Even in defeat, presidential runner-up Mitt Romney doesn't recognize how out of touch he is with the American electorate.

On Wednesday, the GOP candidate blamed his second-place finish on the "gifts" President Barack Obama gave to black people, Hispanics and young voters -- all voting blocs that overwhelming rejected Romney.

What were the "gifts?" The best we can decipher, Romney refers to social programs such as working on behalf of getting college degrees, insurance coverage, contraception coverage and equality for gay people. While large majorities of white Midwesterners don't appear to be concerned with such trivia, overall Americans do.

"The president's campaign, if you will, focused on giving targeted groups a big gift," Romney said.

We would offer that Romney's campaign took the same approach, just with different groups. He promised large capacity magazines for automatic weapons, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, placing more restrictions on abortions, spending increases for the military, cuts in corporate tax rates, more penalties for illegal immigrants, less restrictions on the coal industry and less regulations in general. The underlying flaw in this approach was that in almost every instance, rich white men were the targeted group.

Granted, that is the base of the Republican Party. It just doesn't happen to be the dominant bloc from a national perspective. Party leaders already are working on ways to appeal to a more diverse demographic.

"We need to have a brutal, brutally honest assessment of everything we did," said former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. "We need to take everything apart ... and determine what we did that worked and what we did that didn't work."

To help in that assessment, we would suggest not running candidates who disparage the working poor so openly. Or who want government out of people's lives except when it comes to their deeply held religious beliefs. Or those who continue to insist trickle-down economics is a tried and true theory. Or candidates who adhere to the "do as I say, not as I do" approach on everything from personal moral decisions to pork-barrel largesse.

Most of all, the notion of an effective Etch-a-Sketch nominee should be shaken from the national conscience. While many a yard in this area still have Romney-Ryan signs swaying in the breeze, the general public nationally could not believe a former corporate raider would be good for the economy. Or that a former governor who created the model for what would become Obamacare would really be against it. Or that a candidate could be so solidly pro-choice in one context, then adamantly pro-life in the next.

When such gifts appear as pandering for the sake of winning an election, the American public reject them.

We are confident the GOP will be better positioned in 2016 for a serious run at the White House. The party needs to be released from the shackles of the conservative wing, however. Republicans need to favor party stars such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie rather than Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. Moderates working on behalf of all, not just the favored few, is the only way Republicans -- or Democrats for that matter -- will secure the Oval Office in the future.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net