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Republicans mourn 'the day America died' and plot the path ahead

COMMENTARY

November 07, 2012|By James Rainey
  • At the end of the night, supporters of Mitt Romney wait for him to come out and make a concession speech at the Boston Convention Center after the Republican nominee lost the election to President Obama.
At the end of the night, supporters of Mitt Romney wait for him to come out… (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles…)

The morning after President Obama’s reelection, tea party activists and movement conservatives reacted with dejection, rage and considerable resolve — saying they just need a better national candidate and a purer distillation of their anti-tax, small-government message to win the presidency in 2016.

That did not inspire high hopes for compromise in Washington — where automatic tax increases and budget cuts loom even before Obama’s January inauguration. If there was one subject on which the political right made conciliatory noises, one day after Mitt Romney’s defeat, it was immigration. Republicans must think about the issue in new ways if they hope to expand their appeal among the growing Latino population.

Out in the land, though, some hard-core conservatives spared no hyberbole in expressing their anguish over Obama’s victory.  The political blog for the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that a tea party group in Warren County, Ohio, sent an email Wednesday morning saying  “the world mourns the loss of America. Socialists, welfare and unions took over this country yesterday. Today I wear black. The day America died.”

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Not to be outdone, right-wing commentator John Stacy McCain (no relation to the U.S. senator from Arizona) fulminated at the “American Spectator” website in an essay entitled “Doomed Beyond All Hope of Redemption: Dark thoughts on the meaning of a catastrophic election.”

The losses suffered by some of the most doctrinaire Republican congressional candidates — like Senate hopefuls Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana — seemed not to faze the ideological purists.

Activists like Matt Kibbe of the conservative organizing group FreedomWorks for America chose to focus, instead, on election victories by Senate candidates like Ted Cruz in Texas, Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

“Candidates who ran on and articulated our message not only created a clear choice for voters but were overwhelmingly victorious in this election,” Kibbe said in an email Wednesday morning. “That is the power of our ideas and our movement.”

The message concluded: “We must never give up. We must never stop fighting. America's future depends on it.”

Long-time conservative stalwart Richard A. Viguerie  also trumpeted the “purity triumphs” theme, saying in an email that Romney had strayed from “the path that led Republicans to win seven of the previous eleven presidential elections.“ Viguerie also demanded the rejection of a raft of mainstream Republicans apparently deemed too moderate — National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, along with “establishment” consultants Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie.

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"Mitt Romney's loss was the death rattle of the establishment GOP,” Viguerie’s message said. “Far from signaling a rejection of the Tea Party or grassroots conservatives, the disaster of 2012 signals the beginning of the battle to takeover the Republican Party and the opportunity to establish the GOP as the Party of small government constitutional conservatism."

Other Republican sympathizers hinted, though, that there would have to be more moderation — at least in the GOP’s message on immigration. Obama won roughly 70% of the Latino vote, with many voters saying the Republican Party had alienated them with its hard line on immigration. There was talk in the primary season of installing an “electrified” fence at the Mexican border and using a tough Arizona law as a model for tracking down illegal migrants. Fellow Republicans belittled Texas Gov. Rick Perry because his state allowed in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants. They redoubled their mocking of Perry when he said his foes showed they “have no heart” in opposing tuition for young people.

Conservatives took a different tone on the issue Wednesday morning. On Fox News, one-time anchor Brit Hume said the Republican Party is “going to have to ask itself if the hard-line position that Mitt Romney assuredly took during the primary season to try to win this election … is in the long run a winning position for them.  … And so when they're saying 'Well, Mitt Romney wasn't conservative enough' as some certainly will say, you have to point to that issue as one that might be a short-term and a long-term loser for them, politically."

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