ON DAY ONE of the post-Mitt Romney era, the nation’s true Republican leader – that would be radio’s Rush Limbaugh – tried to make sense of it all for his 14 million or so “Dittohead” listeners in a voice that alternated between stress and bafflement.
“It’s being said once again that the Republicans have an outreach problem, that we don’t have Hispanics, we don’t have blacks and we don’t have women and we don’t have . . . ,” Limbaugh trailed off. “OK, fine. We don’t. What are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to embrace amnesty [for undocumented immigrants]?”
Over the course of his monologue, the radio icon asked again Wednesday if Republicans should “embrace illegals” to woo Latinos. And as for the party’s gender gap: “If we’re not getting the female vote, do we become pro-choice; do we start handing out birth-control pills? Is that what we have to do?”
For Limbaugh, the question was rhetorical, as he insisted that the party’s answer is not a move to the soft center but instead to “Conservatism, with a capital C,” advancing the far-right argument that Romney fell short against President Obama because he was too liberal. But in just four minutes, the movement’s guru encapsulated the debate over its foggy future that is tearing the Republicans apart on the day after Obama captured a second term.
You don’t need to be a wizard like election-prognosticator Nate Silver to see that the Republican Party has a math problem, on two levels. While Republicans continue to control the U.S. House and many state legislatures, including Pennsylvania’s, when it comes to the White House, the party has a losing hand. Since the dawn of the 1990s, Democrats have won four of the last six presidential elections and won the popular vote in five of them.
But the underlying arithmetic is even more devastating. Exit polls from Tuesday emphasized the “old” in the Grand Old Party. Romney won a landslide victory among white voters, with whom Obama (39 percent) actually ran worse than 1988 landslide loser Michael Dukakis. And the former Massachusetts governor also won 55 percent of all voters 65 and older. But white voters continued their steady decline to 72 percent of the total electorate, down another two points from 2008.
So where Obama won the election was in a landslide of everybody else – a rainbow coalition that featured blacks, Latinos, college students and educated professionals, but was not limited to those groups. For example, one survey found that gays and lesbians were 5 percent of the electorate and voted 77 percent for Obama. Another found the president getting 73 percent of the Asian-American vote, a gain from 2008. Electoral wins for gay-marriage advocates in two states and marijuana legalization in two others were also signs of a shifting political breeze.
Most experts say Romney’s lack of support among the nation’s fastest-growing demographic group, Latinos, was the real game-changer of 2012, delivering battleground states Nevada, New Mexico and possibly Florida to the Dems. On Tuesday, Obama increased his huge edge among this bloc, holding Romney to just 27 percent.