Republicans search for answers about what went wrong in the election

Chris Moody

Seeking answers to why their presidential candidate lost the election, the first round of consensus on the right has focused on the Republican need to recalibrate its message to connect with the nation's shifting voting demographics—or, at the very least, acknowledge that the country is changing.

The search for answers about What Went Wrong began almost immediately on election night, a signal that some had already been mulling the possibility of a loss for some time.

"Two obvious lessons so far: It's a different country demographically. And mediocre candidates lose elections," Tucker Carlson, a Fox News contributor and editor in chief of the Daily Caller, posted on Twitter on Tuesday night. He went on to write an essay with Daily Caller publisher Neil Patel, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, about the Republicans' failed attempt to take back the White House.

"The country is changing too fast," Carlson and Patel wrote in their election postmortem. "Most people have the sense that America is different demographically from what it was 20 years ago. But unless they've been reading the latest census data, they have no real idea. The changes are that profound. They're also permanent and likely to accelerate. In order to remain competitive outside Utah, the GOP will have to win new voters, and soon."

According to early data from Election Day, a whopping 75 percent of Latino voters voted for President Barack Obama, an increase from 2008, when the group chose Obama over Sen. John McCain 67 to 31 percent. Obama was also successful among Asian-American voters, who supported the president over Mitt Romney 73 to 26 percent. As expected, Obama won more than 90 percent of the black vote.

"Romney made a conscious decision to blow off Hispanic voters," wrote Red State editor Erick Erickson. "Yes conservatives, we must account for this. The Romney campaign to the Hispanic community was atrocious and, frankly, the fastest growing demographic in America isn't going to vote for a party that sounds like that party hates brown people. That does not mean the GOP must offer up amnesty. It does mean that a group that is a natural fit for the GOP on social issues, must in someway be made to feel comfortable with the GOP."

Long before Tuesday's election, there was a realization among Republicans that the coalitions the party had built and benefited from in years past would no longer be strong enough to win national elections.

"We're nonstarters with these groups. That's what's wrong. It's an  unsustainable coalition," former Virginia Republican Rep. Tom Davis told reporters during a breakfast meeting in September. "We've got to be an open, welcoming party and recognize that we're going to have to broaden our coalition to start winning elections. We are a regional party now.

"If you can't win in these circumstances, what do you do when things are good?" Davis added.

The lack of outreach to minority voters stretched back into the primaries. While Republicans, for instance, campaigned for primary votes in Michigan, a state with the highest concentration of Muslim and Arab Americans, Ron Paul was the only candidate to reach out to those communities. The rest, including Romney, declined to put forth much of an effort. The Republican debates, in which Romney sought to outflank his opponents by tilting to their right on immigration, also may have hurt the Republican candidate among Latinos, who remembered the positions he took only a few months earlier.

Romney himself seemed to realize that Republicans faced a challenge of an expanding Democratic electorate, but he did not seem eager to make efforts to reach it. His secretly recorded comments at an off-the -record fundraiser last spring, in which he told a group of donors that it would be impossible for him to convince "47 percent" of the country to vote for him, were indicative of this fear, which was spreading through the Republican Party.

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney told donors at the time, although the recording of his comments were not made public until Mother Jones magazine unearthed them in September. "All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it."

Others on the right blamed the loss on Romney's lack of conservative credentials. Despite referring to himself during the primaries as "severely conservative," Romney was, after all, a former governor of a liberal blue state with a moderate record. Republicans aligned with the tea party, many of whom held their noses to support Romney over Obama, lashed out at the party for choosing a candidate they never fully supported in the first place.

"What we got was a weak, moderate candidate, handpicked by the Beltway elites and country club establishment wing of the Republican Party," said Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin at a postelection press conference in Washington.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who warned Republicans about supporting what he called a "Massachusetts moderate" during his primary campaign against Romney, called on Republicans to be more inclusive in their voter outreach methods.

"The question is do they want to, in a disciplined way, create a schedule and a program and include people who are not traditionally Republican?" Gingrich said during a Wednesday interview on CNN's "Starting Point With Soledad O'Brien." "The difference between outreach and inclusion, is outreach is when five white guys have a meeting and call you," he continued. "Inclusion is when you're in the meeting."