By Mark Rhoads -
In spite of the fact that Mitt Romney's top advisors ran a terrible campaign last fall, they did succeed in a better climate where John McCain had failed by restoring two important states back to the Republican column with a fair win in Indiana and a close win in North Carolina. McCain had lost both states and his electoral vote total was 173 in 2008 compared to 206 for Romney in 2012. McCain lost Florida, Ohio, and Virginia to Obama and so did Romney for a loss of 60 electoral votes on the GOP side whereas George W. Bush carried all three of those states in both 2000 and 2004. A flip of those three states to Romney would have put him ten electoral votes short of defeating Obama last November.
One place that Team Romney looked to try to pick up the last ten votes was Wisconsin which at least had the virtue of being the home state of Gov. Scott Walker and Rep. Paul Ryan. But Ryan had never run statewide in Wisconsin so he was an unknown factor outside of his own congressional district. Apart from fundraising skills, Romney's shaky credential was that he won a single election for governor of Massachusetts in 2002 but chose not to run for re-election in 2006. He never had a ghost of a chance to win that state in any presidential contest so the state was never in play for the GOP and has never been for many decades. So Romney brought nothing to the table as a nominee in terms of new electoral college opportunities. That fact, combined with his chronic flip-flopping, ice cold personality, and lack of fluency in base conservative prinicples that appeal to most Republicans left him with no room at all to expand the GOP base beyond the country club members who supported him in primaries.
Sen. Marco Rubio did win Florida in a statewide contest in 2010 by a very wide margin over former GOP Gov. Charlie Crist and Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek. The 29 Electoral votes of Florida will also be critical in 2016 following two close Obama wins in that state. If Florida moves back to the GOP column, then more resources can help to push Virginia and Ohio back to the GOP also for a total of 260 Electoral Votes of the 270 majority needed to win in 2016. So national analysts who claim the Democratic nominee has a "lock" on the Electoral College in 2016 are ignoring how close the race was in both Virginia and Ohio in both 2008 and in 2012 and the critical factor that greatly increased African-American voter turnout played in both states in two elections. One close observer of African-American voters explained to me why I was wrong that Obama could not win the same high percentage of black voters in 2012 with black unemployment so high. He told me that the support for Obama in 2012 was also very very high not because a barrier was being broken as it was in 2008, but because many black voters were afraid that if Obama lost after only one term, it would be many decades before another opportunity for a black nominee would come along. I have seen no data to support that theory but is sounds like a reasonable explanation to me.
This same person told me that one strong motivation for Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint his aide William Cowan as the successor to Sen. John Kerry was that national Democrats were embarrassed that Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) would be the only African American in the Senate. But Cowan has never been elected to any office and he has said he will not run for the Kerry vacant seat so he will not be in the Senate very long. So without Obama on the ballot, it is not likely that the African-American vote will soon again be as monolithic a voting block as it has been in the two atypical elections of 2008 and 2012. Democratic planners know that the loss of only about 3 or 4 percent of African American voters in a national contest can be enough to tip Ohio and Virginia back to the GOP and make North Carolina less competitive and safer for the GOP.