Thursday, November 08, 2012

A Bonhomme Richard Election

I don't see how the candidate who lost to John McCain, who then got creamed by Barack Obama, can now be considered the best option to beat Barack Obama. -- Me, in one form or another, on Mitt Romney and the Republican Party, starting at least 18 months ago.
Tuesday sucked. To borrow from Churchill, it was a "colossal...disaster". Amazingly enough, I do find some encouragement - minor as it may be - but the road ahead is going to be long and hard. As a lot of people are doing, I'm pondering how to move forward with conservatism and libertarianism, and what role I can play in the equation. I know I can do more, but am uncertain as to where to start. When I figure it out, I'll be sharing. I know there will be a lot of introspection, and a lot of teaching - so expect me to wax philosophically here more often than I have been doing.

Since everybody else has given an election post-mortem, I figured I might as well throw in my two cents too.

The One Point of Light

Keith Rothfus! Make that, Congressman-elect Keith Rothfus! Honestly, this was one I didn't think we'd win after redistricting in which parts of the previous Pennsylvania 4th and 12th districts were combined to form the new PA-12. The district combination worried me as we lost key "red" voting districts (Butler County) and gained the ex-Murtha area out in the Johnstown region.

Encouraging sign number one was from the primary that pitted Democratic incumbents Jason Altmire (PA-4) and Mark Critz (PA-12) against each other. Given his strength in both Allegheny and Beaver counties, I was fairly surprised when Critz was able to win based solely on his strength to the east in Cambria and Somerset counties.

Encouraging sign number two was Rothfus' strong showing in the primary - when he was running unopposed. There was a big turnout for an unopposed election, including some totals that were competitive with the totals of Altmire and Critz in their primary combined! Still, with the expectation that unions would be as powerful behind Critz in the general as they were in the primary, I figured Rothfus was headed for a repeat of his narrow defeat of 2010 when he challenged Altmire.

Boy, was I wrong. Not only did Rothfus win, he did so convincingly by over 10,000 votes at the current tally. I haven't dug too deep into the numbers yet, but just comparing the Allegheny and Beaver county returns (the only district areas which are more or less unchanged from 2010 to 2012 in the switch from PA-4 to PA-12) the gains that Rothfus produced over Altmire's 2010 results are amazing, particularly in more working class, union-heavy Beaver County.

I'm definitely going to have more analysis of this race in the next few days as I have the chance to dig into the data some more. I think what happened in PA-12 is going to be a good starting point for how we're going to have to attack the next few election cycles.

Congratulations again to Mr. Rothfus. He will hopefully be a strong conservative voice in the new Congress in the fiscal areas that matter most right now. Be assured though: I'm going to be holding his feet to the fire to deliver on his promises.

A Failure of Polling

A lot has already been written about what went on with polling, failures or skews in turnout models, squaring the exit polling data with the campaign and President Obama's record, etc. I'm not going to do that. What I do want to discuss is the first time failure of my "yard sign poll" to predict the national election winner.

I count yard signs. To be counted, the sign has to actually be in a yard or otherwise identifiable as belonging to a residence or a business. I don't count "same ticket" signs (e.g. a house that had just a Rothfus sign wouldn't be counted as a Romney vote) or signs that show up on road medians, etc. I'm trying to gauge enthusiasm.

Now, my area in the Pittsburgh north hills is pretty representative of America, I like to think. It's a "purplish" area in today's nomenclature: generally conservative, but sends both Republicans and Democrats to office, etc. I limit my totals to drives across this area, and right before the election the last four Presidential cycles, I took a more extensive drive around the area to have a wider sample.

For 2000, 2004, and 2008 the national result was predicted almost exactly, even though Pennsylvania as a whole always went for the Democratic candidate. This year, it wasn't close. I had Romney as +19.

I also drove through areas (not as part of my "polling") that one would consider locked for Obama and I was stunned at the lack of signage. These are urban areas that were practically wallpapered and carpeted with Obama gear four years ago and were barren this year.

It was enough to make me think Governor Romney would handily win the election - and that Pennsylvania being in play wasn't a pipe dream. Oops.

As with PA-12, I'm going to be digging into some PA-wide numbers too. This is a state that based on energy policy alone should have been a slam-dunk win for the GOP.

On Mitt Romney

It's no secret (see the opening statement) that Romney wasn't my candidate of choice. I will say this: of the candidates who did run, we wound up with the best of the crew.

I admire Governor Romney; much more so now than I did at the beginning of this election cycle. I believe him to be a man of immense character, even though he may be a little light in the conviction department when you analyze his politics across the years.

The Romney campaign was very well run from a procedural standpoint, but I think their failure to be more combative - in the spirit of Mr. Romney's first debate performance - throughout the campaign hurt them. Especially as the campaign had to fight against a "likability gap", continually referring to the President as a "nice guy but over his head" didn't make a whole lot of sense.

Failed Presidential candidates who don't hold other elective office don't really have a stage or a role, but I hope Mitt Romney finds a way to stay involved in the national discourse.

I never thought I'd be saying this when he locked up the nomination, but when I voted on Tuesday I voted for Romney more than I voted against Barack Obama. I really believed by the end he'd have been a great President. God bless you, sir.

On Paul Ryan

Mr. Ryan was reelected to his House seat, so he'll be back at the Capitol as the Chairman of the House Budget Committee. I'm a big fan, and in a perfect world, he'd challenge John Boehner for the Speakership. Not expecting him to rock the boat though, but it'd be nice if Boehner or Eric Cantor would step aside and let their party's VP nominee move up the chain.

On the PA Senate Race

Yeah, I never gave Tom Smith much of a chance, and the results bear that out. Based on the infatuation with the name "Bob Casey" here, Senator Casey is going to be damn difficult to displace, unless he goes back to his policy of always running for the next office.

He could challenge Governor Corbett in two more years. Maybe then PA voters will realize finally he isn't his long deceased dad.

On Other Races

Allen West, out? Mia Love, loses? Both hurt. The rest of my sentiment for other lost races and opportunities can be found next.

On Having Effective Candidates

This is an area I'm going to ponder and write about more aspects of later, but I'll leave it at this for now, and yes, I feel like shouting: IF YOU ARE A PRO-LIFE CANDIDATE, HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT YOU CAN BE ASKED A COMPLETELY PREDICTABLE A-BOMB QUESTION, BE COMPLETELY UNPREPARED FOR IT, AND HAVE IT MAKE YOU RADIOACTIVE WITH YOUR MIND-NUMBINGLY BONEHEADED, STUPID, AND FRANKLY IDIOTIC ANSWER?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Thank you, I feel better for yelling.

On Widening the Map

Well, the Romney campaign made late efforts in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin and got...nothing. They didn't even get Florida or Virginia back. A future GOP presidential campaign is going to have to look less at traditional regional patterns and go on the attack.

The hold strategy obviously isn't working. Campaigns are going to have to look at areas of attack in every state, not just traditional "red" states or swing states. If the GOP candidate in 2016 doesn't pull off a few surprise victories in states considered "safe Democratic" today, they won't win. There's my first 2016 prediction - bank it. :)

Widening the map also goes to issues and messaging, and that I'm going to opine on area by area in the coming future. We must contest everywhere. Remember Churchill after the miracle at Dunkirk: "Wars are not won by evacuations."

On President Obama

His victory speech sounded like that in 2008. Simple question: when has he ever acted according to his grand, flowing rhetoric of coming together to work for the advancement United States? I expect we'll still be asking that question on January 19, 2017.

What Should Have Been

As I was sitting at my son's gymnastics school Tuesday evening waiting for his trampoline class to finish, the Gaelic Storm song "I Thought I Knew You" came up on my iPhone playlist. At the time my spirits were as high as they could be as to what the outcome of the election would be. I tweeted hopefully about it playing at the time. We've all hoped for waves of buyers' remorse to strike Obama supporters, and this is most definitely a "breakup" song, an upbeat one, and the lyrics struck me as particularly fitting (my minor corrections & formatting):

Surfing through the pages in my mind, I find a picture of you,
You were young and I was too, "I do," you said, and I believed you.
Singing songs and dancing in the street, the beat I don't remember,
A barking dog, a velvet chain, the rain was cold, but you were colder. 

I thought I knew you, I thought I knew you,
Thought I knew what you're about, I doubt if I ever knew you. 

We took the ferry late at night, first light discovered us together,
We agreed that paradise was nice, but couldn't last forever.
Bright eyed and bushy tailed, I failed to see what everyone saw,
Moss growing on the roof, the truth was getting hard to swallow. 

I thought I knew you, I thought I knew you,
Thought I knew what you're about, I doubt if I ever knew you. 

For every left there is a right, every day there is a night,
A moon, a sun, a smoking gun, a tear, an eye, a last goodbye.
For every hand there is a glove, every hate there is a love,
Heaven and earth, a death, a birth, a hat, a head, and a hunger never fed. 

You dropped the TV in the pool, that's cool, I know, but no one saw you.
Hotel rooms and limousines, it seems to me you got your heaven. 

I thought I knew you, I thought I knew you,
Thought I knew what you're about, I doubt if I ever knew you. 

Tomorrow never comes they say, but hey, you know I don't believe them.
Close my eyes and drift away, today has gone, I'm still standing.
I'm standing.

It wasn't to be. There are sixty million-odd pairs of of eyes we have to figure out how to open and make the breakup happen. It's too late for them to reject Obama, but fundamentally it's Statism that must be taken down, not any one person.

The Title of This Post

I figure a bunch of you have wondered, "where'd that come from?" On September 23, 1779, Captain John Paul Jones of the fledgling Continental Navy took his ship, the first USS Bonhomme Richardinto battle against the much heavier armed HMS Serapis at the Battle of Flamborough Head off Britain's North Sea coast. 

As the Bonhomme Richard was literally being shot to pieces, sinking under Jones' feet, and her colors ripped away by enemy fire, the British commander asked if Jones was surrendering. His retort is immortal in US Navy lore:

Sir, I have not yet begun to fight.

Jones brought his wounded ship abreast of the Serapis, grabbed every last man, and boarded the enemy vessel. They won the day. Jones' victory convinced France that supporting the nascent United States against the mighty British Empire was a battle worth joining.

And so must be true with everyone who loves liberty, our Declaration, and our Constitution. A lot of hopes were shot away on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 - but it's time now to fix our political bayonets and scream, "Boarders Away!"

If anyone thought we'd solve how far our Nation has fallen with one election, well, that's a fantasy. It took generations to descend, and unless the whole thing collapses (a possibility), it's going to take generations to win it back. 

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