After Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama in 2012, an election that Romney and the Republicans thought they would win and were so confident that they were shocked by the result, the party did what they called an ‘autopsy’ about the loss and what they needed to do to win in the future. Their conclusion? The party’s policies were fine but they needed to make a greater effort to get their message out and to be more inclusive.
While unveiling the 100-page report at the National Press Club today, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said he wanted the report, or autopsy, to be “honest” and “raw,” stressing the message of inclusion to Americans who might not be on board with all the party’s policies.
“Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement,” Priebus said of Mitt Romney and the GOP’s 2012 loss. “There’s no one solution. There’s a long list of them.”
The report, called the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” lays out an extensive plan the RNC believes will lead the party to victory with an extensive outreach to women, African-American, Asian, Hispanic and gay voters. Among the plans: hiring paid outreach staffers across the country in a $10 million push that begins right away; backing “comprehensive immigration reform”.
Priebus noted that the party’s policies are fundamentally sound but require a softer tone and broader outreach, include a stronger push for African-American, Latino, Asian, women and gay voters.
“To be clear, our principles our sound, our principles are not old rusty thoughts in some book,” Priebus said, but the “report notes the way we communicate our principles isn’t resonating widely enough.”
Well, we know how that turned out. Trump became the nominee and ran on appealing to the worst elements of angry white male voters. And he won. Whether he won because of that message or because Hillary Clinton ran a poor campaign we may never know.
Now the party has come out with a new autopsy prepared by Trump’s chief pollster Tony Fabrizio and it places the blame squarely at Trump’s feet.
The post-mortem, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, says the former president suffered from voter perception that he wasn’t honest or trustworthy and that he was crushed by disapproval of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. And while Trump spread baseless accusations of ballot-stuffing in heavily Black cities, the report notes that he was done in by hemorrhaging support from white voters.
The findings are based on an analysis of exit polling in 10 states. Five of them — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — are states that Trump lost after winning them in 2016. The other five — Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas — are states that Trump won in both elections.
The report zeroes in on an array of demographics where Trump suffered decisive reversals in 2020, including among white seniors, the same group that helped to propel him to the White House. The autopsy says that Trump saw the “greatest erosion with white voters, particularly white men,” and that he “lost ground with almost every age group.” In the five states that flipped to Biden, Trump’s biggest drop-off was among voters aged 18-29 and 65 and older.
Suburbanites — who bolted from Trump after 2016 — also played a major role. The report says that the former president suffered a “double-digit erosion” with “White College educated voters across the board.”
Trump’s personal behavior, the autopsy makes clear, contributed to his defeat. “Biden had a clear edge over POTUS on being seen as honest & trustworthy,” Fabrizio writes.
Trump’s response to the pandemic was also critical. The autopsy says that coronavirus registered as the top issue among voters, and that Biden won those voters by a nearly 3-to-1 margin. A majority registered disapproval of Trump’s handling of the virus.
Most voters said they prioritized battling the coronavirus over reopening the economy, even as the president put a firm emphasis on the latter. And roughly 75 percent of voters — most of whom favored Biden — said they favored public mask-wearing mandates.
The autopsy was completed on December 20th and given to Trump’s top advisors just before Joe Biden’s inauguration. It is not clear if Trump has seen this autopsy but it is clear that he had no input into it. It is impossible for him to conceive that he was responsible for his defeat. In his mind he is like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way and ran a perfect campaign and that the victory he was entitled to was stolen from him. I suspect that his advisors have not shown it to him for fear of him going into a rage at yet another ‘betrayal’
So this autopsy will end up in the trash. He will refuse to accept it and if he does not run again, the party will likely conclude that a different candidate will not have those same negatives.
Denial is so much easier than making changes.