Facts and opinions in election's aftermath

Robert Ehrlich says gender gap, energized Democratic base made difference for Obama

November 11, 2012|Robert L. Ehrlich Jr

Fact: The empathy factor was a big winner for President Barack Obama.

Opinion: It proved impossible for a wealthy CEO-type to compete in the "he cares about us" category. Mitt Romney's "47 percent" comment most certainly (further) strengthened this narrative. But it was the Obama campaign's relentless rhetoric against wealth and income disparity that carried the day with enough middle-class voters.

Fact: Democratic candidates successfully exploited the gender gap when nobody was looking.

Opinion: The Clintonian "It's the economy, stupid" strategy did not play out according to (Mr. Romney's) plan. In fact, most of the major media were preoccupied by the front-burner issue of the economy while the Obama campaign and down-ballot Democrats in swing states served up a steady dose of "war on women" rhetoric focused on contraception and abortion. A resulting gender gap of 36 percent with single women (11 percent with all women) reflects a successful strategy. Parenthetical note: the Obama administration's aggressive attack on the conscience clause did not turn off a sufficient number of swing state Catholics to make a difference. In fact, the president won the Catholic vote outright.

Fact: Sandra Fluke was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention and an earnest campaigner for the president.

Opinion: Even in the pop culture age, it should take more than a stated desire for free birth control to make one a star attraction. Ms. Fluke's sex life is none of my business. I just don't want to foot the bill for her dalliances. My opinion, however, appears to be a minority view. Note to GOPers: It is now 50 years post-Pill, but too many female voters are buying into the "war" narrative. Perhaps a focus on the real war on women being fought by Islamic radicals across the globe or the real struggles of women-owned small businesses would be a more effective retort to how Democrats exploit the female gender gap every two and four years.

Fact: Governor Romney's "war on coal" theme was generally effective, but it was blunted by his stated opposition to pro-union project labor agreements.

Opinion: These controversial agreements may cost the taxpayers more money on large public construction contracts, but they remain the Holy Grail for many union voters in the Rust Belt. My pre-election, three-day weekend in north-central Pennsylvania only strengthened this perception. Otherwise, Mr. Romney carries even more union households dismayed by the administration's anti-coal policies.

Fact: President Obama promised unemployment at 5.8 percent if Congress would pass his stimulus bill.

Opinion: Most economists find it difficult to predict with great accuracy future economic activity, so why do politicians believe they can do better? Reminder to all aspiring office-seekers: Voters may not remember much, but they tend to recall specific promises about their pocketbooks. While the president's far-too-optimistic prediction haunted him throughout the campaign, it was not the Election Day killer many had thought it would be.

Fact: President Obama was required to produce his photo identification as he participated in early voting at his home precinct in Chicago. (Such is a requirement under early voting procedures, per Illinois law.)

Opinion: The irony here is delicious. Where is Eric Holder when you need him? Where is all the incendiary outrage from the left? I wonder how a "racist" requirement could pass in such a democratic stronghold?

Fact: "Hope" and "change" were effective Obama slogans four years ago; not so much in 2012.

Opinion: From the outset, the Obama administration sought to define "change" in a more expansive way than voters at large. The administration sought to "change" culture (government-run health care, income redistribution, Keynesian spending, gay marriage, Dream Act) while the people wanted to change Capitol Hill. But even a thumping in the 2010 midterm elections did not dissuade the administration from its political focus on a left-leaning agenda of health care, education and the environment. Tuesday, it appears that activists with strongly progressive views about these issues (teachers unions, greenies, government health care advocates) came through for the president.

Fact: Sixty-nine percent of small business owners and manufacturers believe the president's regulatory policies are detrimental to their businesses.

Opinion: Progressives of all stripes may not wish to recognize this inconvenient fact. Nevertheless, numerous national surveys (and my many conversations with owners of medium and small businesses) tended to support this notion. More than a few offered that they would keep their employee count under Obamacare's threshold of 50 in order to escape its mandates. Talk about a job killer!

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around," a book about national politics. His email is ehrlichcolumn@gmail.com.

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