The Republican Party had a very good shot at winning the 2012 U.S. presidential election. One major reason was that, before this election, no U.S. President had succeeded in reelection when the unemployment rate was higher than 7.3 percent. At the time of the election, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent. So why did the Republican Party, specifically its candidate Mitt Romney, lose this presidential election?
There were several reasons for the Republicans’ loss. First, the Republican Party was too blunt in their opposition of the immigration reform proposed by the Democratic Party. The major content of this immigration reform bill was to pardon the illegal immigrants that had worked hard for their families and paid taxes for years without breaking laws during their stay, even though they had illegally emigrated to the U.S., and give them a path to permanent residency. The Republicans, in contrast, asserted that illegal immigrants should be arrested and deported to their countries, since they were criminals that had already broken the law by entering the country illegally. Even though public opinion leaned toward pardoning them, the conservative Republican Party stuck to its principles and ignored public opinion.
Secondly, the callous gaffe that Romney made by saying that 47 percent of the nation did not pay taxes and depended on the government became a problem. In fact, the statement was based on facts in terms of income taxes, but it hurt the pride of people with lower incomes. Because of this mistake, even white people in lower income classes turned their backs against Romney.
Thirdly, the Republican Party did not recognize the changes in the electorate of the U.S. The party failed to make a close political connection with Hispanics, even though Hispanics were the most rapidly growing ethnicity in the U.S., and the party made a vast, anachronistic miscalculation to primarily focus on getting white votes, as it did in the past. The Republican Party did not realize that America had been changed. In this presidential election, 93 percent of blacks, 76 percent of Asians, and 74 percent of Hispanics voted for Obama. Republicans did not expect that Hispanic and Asian votes would go to Obama in such overwhelming numbers, though they must have expected such support for Obama from black voters.
Fourthly, the Republican Party did not expect that the American people would think generously of the economic policies of President Obama, in that the President had been doing well for the U.S. economy to maintain this level in spite of the recession in Europe. Despite Republican assertions that the economy had worsened during the last four years under Obama, people did not think that it was Obama’s fault. Romney fiercely attacked Obama with the current economic indices of the U.S. But American people were convinced by Obama’s appeal to give him four more years to overcome the European financial crisis and revive the U.S. economy.
Fifthly, the Republican Party selected 42 year-old-Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as the running mate of Romney, in an attempt to sway younger voters in their 30s and 40s, a large part of Obama’s base. Ryan, based on his experience as the chairman of the House Budget Committee, fiercely attacked the economic policy of Obama with thorough mathematic data, but he failed to convince American voters and any results that could help the Republican Party in his debate with a political veteran, Vice President Joseph Biden. This was another reason why Romney lost this election.
Now the Republican Party should prepare for a fight against President Obama in the House of Representatives over the debt ceiling. As a result of the defeat in this presidential election, the fight will go on until the very last moment, but, unlike what happened 15 years ago, there will not be a government shutdown. The reason is that Republicans should take into consideration that the next presidential election that will come four years from now. Without an incumbent, there is a high probability for the Republican Party to win the next presidential election. I expect that the American people will want a Republican president four years from now.
Jay Kim is a former U.S. congressman. He serves as chairman of the Kim Chang Joon US-Korea Foundation. For more information, visit Kim’s website at http://www.jayckim.com.