Republicans lost because they went too far to the right, disenfranchising Hispanics, youth voters, women and moderates, according to LBJ panelists in Bass Lecture Hall on Thursday.
Wayne Slater, a columnist for the Dallas Morning news; Sherri Greenberg, director of the Center for Politics and Governance; Victoria Defrancesco Soto, a fellow for the Center; and Evan Smith, CEO and editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune, broadly agreed that if the Republican party did not endorse a platform more moderate than the platform this year, the 2012 election would mark the beginning of a long-term decline.
“You know your party is in trouble when someone says, ‘What about the rape guy?’ and you say ‘Which one?’” Slater said in reference to women’s votes for Obama, which CNN national exit polls put at 55 percent.
DeFrancesco Soto said she saw an opportunity for Republicans to win over women, but they would have to give up some of their views on institutions such as Planned Parenthood.
“They fiscally are Republican, but they want a Planned Parenthood,” DeFrancesco Soto said. “They want to be sure Planned Parenthood rights are secured not just for themselves but for their daughters.”
DeFrancesco Soto also said voting laws were intended to repress the Democratic vote, but they actually had the opposite effect.
“I think it had a mobilizing effect,” she said. “I think young folks, black folks and brown folks said, ‘People are taking our vote away. We don’t really like this.’”
Panelists said they thought if Romney campaigned on his record as a moderate from Massachusetts, he would have had a chance at the election and that with the Republican party of today, he couldn’t have made it that far.
“If he had run as the Mitt Romney who governed Massachusetts, that Mitt Romney might have survived the election,” Smith said. “But he wouldn’t have survived the primary.”
Danny Zeng, College Republicans spokesperson, said he disagreed with the premise of the panel that Republicans are extreme.
“I think the Romney campaign didn’t define itself very well,” Zeng said. “The Democrats in this election have used a strategy where they talk to each party and tell them the Republicans are extreme.”
Zeng said he believed true Republican positions on issues like immigration shouldn’t turn off immigrants, because they support a pathway to citizenship, even though they don’t support amnesty.
At the end of the panel, Slater said no matter who takes part in the 2016 election, he wants to see more centered rhetoric.
“I think it’s imperative we have a presidential debate where the adults are in the room but not the children,” Slater said.
Printed on Friday, November 9, 2012 as: Columnists, experts credit 2012 outcome to red rhetoric