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Why GOP lost the impossible-to-lose election

By Barbara Alby

The 2012 election continues in the spin zone as the political class run for the tall grass and the volunteer underclass draw their knives to eviscerate those who arrogantly gambled so much and lost.

My GOP brethren appear to be in a World of Poker Tournament as they offer their pitiful compromises to guarantee that Obama voters will like us next go round. One player says, I’ll bet traditional marriage and raise you late-term abortions. Then, not to be outdone, the next genius kicks in border security and limited government. All as they croon to the masses, “How do you like me now?”

Do these people have any credibility at all with the public? Keep them in charge and we will lose more than an election.

Mitt Romney is a very nice man who as a husband and father possesses a spotless moral character. Among his political peers, that fact alone makes him a rare and unimpeachable gentleman. However, Mitt’s public-policy record and achievements – if you can call them that – are nothing short of a bold and committed liberal and by his own declaration some time ago “to the left of Ted Kennedy.”

His campaign for the White House from its inception was going to be a herculean effort to keep the Republican base willing to cast their votes for this nominee.

Yet despite that mountain to climb – Mitt and his family were willing to be that “Man in the Arena,” and the election was ours to lose because of Barack Obama’s failed presidency.

So much was at stake – our way of life and perhaps even freedom itself. Now we have lost, and it’s a bad one. Why did it happen? Despite the chorus of voices urging us give up on our outdated core beliefs, those values are not the cause of the vote tally.

This tragedy occurred because of the continued incompetence of some at the RNC, their cadre of consultants and most state and county GOP organizations across the nation. The Democrats literally ran us over because they spent years building a “real” grass-roots structures across America.

So stop the excuse making and cowardly whining. Instead cure our own “in house” systemic disease.

Many in the RNC leadership and most state organizations have lost all knowledge of how to build and implement a ground game. Even though so many try to do all they can, the institutional knowledge has evaporated. This did not happen overnight. It was innocuous at first. Years ago everyone was excited about new technologies and bright new “experts” with new talents to sell.

During the Bush 43 administration, a concerted effort was made by the Bush team to completely take over state GOPs. The state organizations, with some exceptions, have as a result developed a welfare mentality, waiting for the national party to send the checks along with instructions on what to do next. At the national party, most committee members become representatives of the committee rather than the states they represent.

All programs and oversight flows from the ad hoc RNC leadership and is given to hired suits from the D.C. and Northeast establishment – whose basic motivation is to get the contracts, be important and personally “get ahead.” The RNC hires these consultants even though they do not have a clue as to how to identify voters, much less get them to the polls.

At the same time, state legislative leaders back home hunger for major donors. It certainly makes sense, as we do need their support, yet this devotion has seriously damaged the party as legislators lay everything at the feet of the corporate check writers. Officeholders have for the most part lost their desire to live near and spend time among the campaign volunteers. Encouraging, training and networking with them just consumes too much of their precious time. Most find themselves enduring the campaign volunteer base when they are forced to interact with them at GOP meetings or election time. Meanwhile, they yearn to replace volunteers with talented consultants who require neither care nor feeding. The bottom line is that hiring consultants to get the job done makes life so much easier. That was, until Election Day 2012.

All of the grass-roots structure building that worked so well in the past has been ignored or forgotten. Over the past 25 years, the focus of the RNC and state party leaders has been raising big money and turning it over to highly paid consultants whose job it is to spend the donors’ money we give them. These consultants do not make commissions off of old-fashioned retail politics efforts – phone banking, door knocking, recording the data to identify our voters and push them to vote. The result is that resources are redirected to the new schemes and away from effective ground operations. In this cycle, the liberals did not make that mistake!

It’s sad to say, but in the 21st century most elected GOP members have no idea of how they actually got elected to office outside of their undeniable charm. Yes, they suffered the slings and arrows of the hit pieces, yet they are fairly clueless as to what it actually took to get the job done. What they do understand is they gave big checks to campaign vendors and professionals, and the next thing you know they were being sworn in.

I live in one of the most targeted congressional districts of the 2012 cycle. Despite multiple high-propensity Republican voters in my home, we did not receive one telephone call from a live volunteer or a knock on the door from a campaign or precinct worker. Remember when real people used to ask us if they could count on our vote? Only Democrats do that now.

We did receive a tsunami of annoying pre-recorded robo calls and time-consuming national political recorded messages (the new GOP voter contact program). If it were not for the fact that I am a long-time activist, those endless annoying calls would have turned all of us against the candidate – who, by the way, is still awaiting the last of the post-election vote count, and it does not look good. This useless and counterproductive program was used throughout the country instead of a real-people-centered contact and ground operation.

It’s quite apparent that running up to the election the RNC had no mechanism to get Romney voters to the polls. On Nov. 6, as the numbers were coming in, the campaign big shots on various channels proclaimed we could overcome the deficit because of the votes still uncounted from regions that were likely to vote for us. You can’t depend on geography. Unfortunately, for the most part, no one personally contacted the conservative thousands in those regions to get them to the polls. Those people, “our people,” did not vote.

I will never forget early election night as a certain senator bragged about the multiple thousands of contacts his state had made for Romney. Instantly, I knew exactly what he was talking about. I have heard it all too often over the past decade. He was referencing the pre-recorded robo calls launched in his state and quite proud of the effort, not realizing these calls were useless. In return for that investment, Romney/Ryan had no method for getting our votes to the polls. Chalk it up to another brain child of vendors and consultants.

In the midst of this amazing campaign plan, a tidal wave of money flowed into our PACs. Where will these donors be the next time around? We speak about businesses rightfully unwilling to invest their hard-earned cash in job creation as the liberals regulate and tax free enterprise. All the while we squander the limitless contributions those businesses provided during this cycle. Where will they be in 2016?

Two years ago we cleaned the liberals’ clock. They did not whine about the need to be more like us as so many of our incompetent leaders and stars do today. No, they had the courage of their convictions. The Democrats rolled up their sleeves and hit the ground immediately to identify every voter they could for 2012. Election Day they swamped communities where they needed to win and dragged people out the door and to the polls. They knew where to go and how to get their people to vote. This loss was not about conservative policy, we were simply no match for our opponents.

So where do we go from here?

Stop all the surrendering of conservative values.

The RNC and local party organizations must return to the basic methods that are now enhanced by technology of identifying our vote and getting it to the polls. The boys from the East will not like this. It is so passé’ and will certainly be the most difficult task to accomplish. Brain-dead consultants and party elite will do everything they can to maintain their position of self-importance.

Get away from the control of D.C. and the Eastern Establishment.

Make no mistake, if the same people remain in control of the GOP, we will not have a party in four years.

Launch a full-scale accounting of every voter contact we have. Account for it and classify it. This must be done by those who know what they are looking for, not by the present advisers and consultants.

We must have a state-by-state critique of what happened on the ground.

Adjust to the change and make-up of our party. The GOP now has a very impressive cadre of elected Hispanics in high places. Use them to work on-the-ground, in Hispanic targeted areas to connect with voters. Do it now before the next election. Quit speaking about OUTREACH to these people. The words are insulting and to them mean “we want to use you now.” Stop talking about outreach programs, just get out and do it!

We need our congressional members and senators on-the-ground at the state and local level messaging and building structure. Sacrifice is called for here. This will be difficult because they like the comfort of the beltway and their state houses.

Begin now. You don’t build an effective ground operation during an election.

Clean house, build now and prepare for the next battle. It may already be too late. If we fail to fight now, it certainly is.

And finally …

God Bless Mitt and Ann Romney and their family. They gave their all as they ran the race and fought the good fight. I pray they keep the faith.

Barbara Alby is a retired California legislator and state GOP leader who represented the California GOP for 12 years on the Republican National Committee. Barbara earned her stripes as a radio talk-show host with “Statewatch,” where she used the airwaves to build an army to promote conservative public policy and elect true conservatives to public office. She is sponsor and author of California’s Parental Consent for Minor Children’s Abortions as well as her landmark legislation to protect women and children from sexual predators, “California Megans’ Law.” She is a respected and effective voice for the voiceless.