With all the efforts to understand the recent election defeat, a lot of the focus has been on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his campaign.
That is exactly the wrong way to begin analyzing the outcome of the 2012 campaign.
The focus on Romney as a candidate is profoundly misleading for those who want to prepare for future Republican victories.
Any analysis of recent Republican presidential results will reveal a systemic failure which can’t be ascribed to Romney.
The last clear Republican presidential victory was in 1988 when Vice President George H W Bush won with 53.37 percent over Dukakis.
Since then we have lost the popular vote in five out of six elections for president and dramatically underperformed in re-electing a president with the lowest margin in the history of presidential re-elections. (Other incumbents were defeated for re-election but none was re-elected with a narrower margin than President George W. Bush in 2004.)
Consider the results:
President George H. W. Bush lost re-election in 1992 in a three way race with then-Gov. Bill Clinton and Ross Perot. The Republican got 38 percent in a three way race.
Senator Bob Dole got 41 percent against President Bill Clinton in 1996.
Then-Gov. George W Bush got 543,816 fewer votes than Vice President Al Gore, but won because of a fluke in the electoral college. It was the fourth weakest winning performance in American history.
President George W Bush was re-elected with 50.73 percent of the vote in 2004. It was the weakest Presidential re-election in American history. This was against a candidate who on 53 issues averaged being in the minority position by 77 to 17 percent as a senator and whose record was more liberal than Senator Ted Kennedy???s.
By contrast, President Richard Nixon got 60.17 percent of the vote for re-election in 1972 and President Ronald Reagan got 58.77 percent of the vote for re-election in 1984. So the Republicans in 2004 were running between eight and ten per cent behind the norm for re-election.
Then Sen. Obama beat Sen. McCain in 2008 with the Republican only getting 45 percent and losing by 9,549,000 votes.
The defeat of Romney with 47.61 percent of the vote running 5,910,000 behind President Obama is about the norm for recent Republican candidates.
Instead of looking at the Romney campaign in isolation Republican activists and analysts should be looking at the culture, structure and system of the GOP and its consultants, people who are paid for campaign advice without long term institutional responsibilities.
Republicans need a thorough systematic lessons-learned approach because the problem is systemic rather than personality-based.
Any team which has had 20 straight years of underperforming ought to review the entire system and not simply focus on the newest scapegoat.
In the first weeks of our “Lessons to be Learned” project at Gingrich Productions, we have already begun to develop insights that are systemic rather than personality driven.
There are big problems from the failure to think strategically about issues, to the unwillingness to engage the proliferation of infotainment outlets, to the methodical failure to include minorities even when they agree with us on values and issues.
Over the next few months we will be issuing a series of reports on different aspects of the Republican failure to modernize.
As George Santayana warned: ???those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
We do not need to lose five of the next six presidential elections to learn that we have some serious thinking to do.