John Bolton

John Bolton

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Did National GOP Fail in Get Out the Vote Effort in Key Senate Races?

Why did candidates underperform polls?

It's Not DeMint's Fault!

The day after the November 2nd election some establishment GOP members of the U.S. Senate blamed Jim Demint, South Carolina's junior Republican Senator, for the loss of seats in Delaware, Nevada and Colorado. Taking those three seats would have meant a 50-50 tie in the Senate. Not enough to win control as Vice President Biden would have cast the tie breaking vote in favor of Democrat control.

Yet the long knives are out for DeMint despite the fact that DeMint was not involved in the primary races in Delaware or Nevada and as Politico reports:

DeMint got behind newly-elected GOP senators Pat Toomey (Penn.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Ron Johnson (Wisc.) in primaries even as party officials had varying degrees of skepticism about their general election prospects.
DeMint raised over $7 million for GOP candidates, outraising all other GOP Senators including those who are now complaining about him.

What's behind the DeMint bashing? I suspect that establishment GOP Senators are eager to marginalize his successes in advance of DeMint's proposal for earmark reform; which is still opposed by some GOP officials who didn't get or understand the message of the Tea Parties.

Where was GOP groundgame?

The real nagging question from this election is why did several GOP Senate candidates underperform at the ballot box when compared to polling trends in those races? Forget Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, who admittedly had her flaws and never had a lead. Look at Sharron Angle in Nevada (DeMint did not back Angle in the primary). Every poll at the end gave her a slight lead but she lost to Harry Reid by almost six points. What put Reid over the top was a massive get out the vote effort that trumped what might otherwise have been an Angle win. It was a get out the vote (GOTV) effort fraught with corruption but even the ethical portion of the effort he made was unmatched by the GOP. Where was the national GOP get out the vote machine in this key race?

In Colorado Ken Buck (DeMint backed him in the primary) was also ahead in polls at the end only to lose by less than 1 point. Again, no sign of any significant national GOP GOTV effort. Instead, the group American Crossroads, affiliated with Karl Rove, used a consultant with weak ties to grass roots voters in Colorado in a last ditch effort that was overpowered by Colorado's unions and progressive groups like who have an excellent track record in the state. As this analysis in the Colorado Independent points out: "Tea Party enthusiasm is no substitute for well-organized political movement infrastructure."

Lastly, it's important to note that Dino Rossi in Washington State, not an early DeMint or Tea Party backed favorite, lost his race narrowly to Patty Murray. The independent group American Crossroads helped here too but the question remains: where was the GOP groundgame?

$8 Million Down the Drain in California!

While GOP GOTV efforts in NV, CO, WA and elsewhere were starved for cash both the RNC and National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee dumped $8 million into California to help out Carly Fiornia. Barbara Boxer beat Fiorina by  over 9 points; doubling the margin of her polling leads in the closing days. No matter how much many of us would have liked to see Barbara Boxer defeated, it's possible that taking away a good portion of that $8 million could have made the difference in the key races above.

There is also the problem of cutbacks in overall spending on GOTV efforts by the RNC after fundraising fell short. This weakness on the part of GOP Chairman Michael Steele's performance will be up for discussion as he runs for a second term as Chairman.

GOP MUST Improve GOTV Effort Before 2012!

Obviously, blaming Jim DeMint for losses in a handful of close races is absurd. And the worst thing about such a calumny is that it takes away the spotlight from where it needs to be. Namely, on implementing and FUNDING a better get out the vote effort in key states. Obama, big labor and the well funded progressive machine have kept in place the organization they used to put Obama over the top in 2008. In many cases they actually PAY people to do the grass roots grunt work while the GOP continues to rely on volunteers.

As it was in the Colorado race, the bottom line is that tea party enthusiasm is not enough to overcome a well oiled and well funded progressive machine. What's called for her is a honest look at the shortcomings in the architecture of our get out the vote effort nationwide. What will happen in 2012 in must win states like Ohio when their may be less Tea Party enthusiasm but a great outpouring of Democrat support for Obama's re-election? We have less than two years to address this issue and blaming Jim DeMint will only make the problem worse!

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