Sunday, November 11, 2012


To judge from this New York Times article, it wasn't just the Romney campaign that believed victory was inevitable -- Boehner and (apparently) some of his troops did, too:
On a conference call with House Republicans a day after the party's electoral battering last week, Speaker John A. Boehner dished out some bitter medicine, and for the first time in the 112th Congress, most members took their dose.

Their party lost, badly, Mr. Boehner said, and while Republicans would still control the House and would continue to staunchly oppose tax rate increases as Congress grapples with the impending fiscal battle, they had to avoid the nasty showdowns that marked so much of the last two years.

Members on the call, subdued and dark, murmured words of support -- even a few who had been a thorn in the speaker's side for much of this Congress....

Aides say this is an altered political landscape that Mr. Boehner did not expect....

Some Republican members appear ready to accede.

"The election was a wake-up call," said one veteran Republican in the House. For many members, "everyone they knew hated Obama. Everyone they knew agreed exactly with them. And then we lost." ...
And Politico says the self-delusion was party-wide:
Across the party's campaigns, committees and super PACs, internal polling gave an overly optimistic read on the electorate....

The National Republican Senatorial Committee consistently had a more upbeat assessment of races in North Dakota and Montana, among others, than their Democratic counterparts. One GOP poll even showed Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock holding even with his opponent, even as public polls showed the embattled Republican hemorrhaging support. A Republican poll taken by Susquehanna Polling and Research showed Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith leading Democratic Sen. Bob Casey by 2 points a few weeks before the election; Casey won by 9 points....

In the House, ... Utah Democrat Jim Matheson, who was down 15 points in a September poll by the firm Public Opinion Strategies, won by a single point. New York Rep. Tim Bishop, who trailed by 5 in a mid-October McLaughlin & Associates poll, won by just over 4 points. Another poll showed Massachusetts Rep. John Tierney trailing his GOP challenger by 17 points less than a month before the vote; Tierney won by a point. California GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack, who led her opponent by double digits in a mid-October survey by consultant Arthur Finkelstein, lost by nearly 3 points. In Illinois's 12th Congressional District and New York's 18th Congressional District, private Republican polls left the party surprised by Democratic wins....

"On the Republican side, this was the worst cycle ever for polling and there's nothing that even comes close to it," said GOP strategist Curt Anderson, who helms the media and polling firm OnMessage. "It was a colossal disaster and it wasn't confined to the presidential campaign."
I'm not sure I really accept what the Times article is telling us -- that the nature of the loss will really make House Republicans significantly less intransigent. Near the end of the article, we hear from a number of Republicans who aren't at all chastened. I still think it's quite possible that these folks will gum up the works for the foreseeable future.

But if Republicans really are prepared to play nice, it's clearly less of a response to the size of the Democratic victory than to the difference between what happened and what Republicans expected. When I saw Tuesday's numbers, I thought for sure that the Republicans would be saying with one voice that the Democrats have no mandate. But their expectations got a thumpin'.

They ran a campaign based on contempt for young people and non-whites and single women and gay people and the "47%," and that contempt extended to the Democrats' political operation. They didn't really believe the Kenyan community organizer could beat their white male Christian flag-waving country-and-western get-out-the-vote operation. They saw Obama as one of the 47%. They're the businessman's party; they didn't believe Obama and Co. could build something that could run efficiently.

The fever may not really break and there may not be more cooperation across the aisle. But if it happens, that's why: not just because Democrats won, but because the whole Republican Party expected Democrats to lose.


Rand Careaga said...

"They didn't really believe the Kenyan community organizer could beat their white male Christian flag-waving country-and-western get-out-the-vote operation."

It's remarkable that their much-vaunted computerized GOTV operation, Project Orca, appears itself to have been built with off-the-shelf epistemic closure—well, that and a generous helping of grift, as pollsters and consultants lined their pockets.

Project Orca all by itself could probably be the subject of a decent post-campaign documentary, and the title is already there for us: Free Willard.

Victor said...

With your political strategy at stake, your political life at stake, and your parties future at stake, one might think that you would welcome ACCURATE information, and not just take the word of grifters who figured out that saying, 'Your clothing look regal, Sire's,' while stealing your money, all the while, laughing behind your back.

And we wonder why they are climate change deniers?
The don't believe in thermometers or barometers. Why would they believe in empirical evidence like that?
If their family and friends tell them the weather's just fine, they go out without their umbrella's. And then are surprised when they're soaked in a rain-storm.

Danp said...

Republicans will find a way to convince themselves that Romney won, or would have had it not been for Sandy. And since low-info strategies work much better in off-year elections, this mentality will be reinforced in 2014. Those who disagree are either liberals or apostates pretending to be Republican. This has become the party that can't learn, because it rejects observable evidence.

Ten Bears said...

I may, Steve, have to conceed err in my long standing observation the Republicans threw these past two elections to the O. Which isn't to say the powers-that-be, the... ahhh... Corporations, the Bankers and the Insurers, the Usurers... in mounting and lending their not inconsiderable support to what amoumts in the end to a clown campaign against in spite of four years of relentless racist obstructionism a fairly popular and quite successful incumbant president... did not.


BillyWitchDoctor said...

Principal Skinner (John Boehner): "Why, there are no children here at the 4H club, either! Am I so out of touch? ...No. No, it's the children who are wrong."

Note to GOP: "I REJECT YOUR REALITY AND SUBSTITUTE MY OWN" is a mildly amusing meme, not a platform.

Lex Alexander said...

If you want an illustration that Republicans and Democrats really think differently, you can't come up with a better one than this.

Here's Ezra Klein, writing in August 2006 about how he became a "liberal" during the Bush years:

"... what's really warped in me is not where I stand on the political spectrum, but the trust and assumption of good faith with which I can approach the news, and the Republicans, and all the rest. What I found, and what drove me to change, was that my imputation of good intentions and willingness to trust official information were creating a profound analytical deficiency where, time and again, my observations and predictions would be proven wrong because I'd chosen to believe that I wasn't being lied to. It wasn't that my rage bubbled and broiled till, with one ear-shattering roar, I became an aggressive partisan, it's that I had a metric upon which to judge myself -- the eventual accuracy of my arguments and assumptions. And by actually paying attention to those results, I found I had to repeatedly recalibrate my cynicism and partisanship."

So there you have it. You either live in a bubble or you live in the real world, and you act accordingly. Klein's not my favorite writer, but at least he's not a raging fabulist like most of the GOP.