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Lessons From Election 2012: Demographics, Spending


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steven Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne. Lots to talk about on this morning after a presidential vote that brought the re-election of President Obama with the sweep of the battleground states that left no room for a Republican challenge. To get two views on what the morning brings, we're joined now by Republican strategist Ed Rogers and Democratic political analyst Dee Dee Myers. Dee Dee Myers served in the Clinton White House. Ed Rogers served in the Reagan White House. Welcome to you both.

ED ROGERS: Thank you.

DEE DEE MYERS: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: So let's begin with something that we here on MORNING EDITION have not talked much about yet this morning, and that's the astonishing sum spent on this presidential election, the most money ever on the two combined campaigns. And Ed Rogers, let me start with you. Can you point to an example, one example of how those billions actually affected the outcome?

ROGERS: Well, you're asking somebody to prove a negative. What would it have been like if that money wouldn't have been spent? It's going to be a billion dollar-plus election. The American presidency is a massive outreach program and multifaceted from advertising to door-to-door. The money doesn't bother me. I don't think we should target that it should be less or it should be more.

It's big. It's important. It's expensive. We need to do it and we need to do it right. And I don't know how democracy would be served by spending less. Well, how much less and how much less on what?

MONTAGNE: Oh, OK. So no apologies on the money spent.


MONTAGNE: What about you, Dee Dee Myers?

MYERS: You know, I have a different view. I think that there's too much money in politics and I hope we can have a thoughtful conversation about how to reduce the amount of money in politics. I mean, we saw the swing states targeted, blanketed with ad after ad after ad and I think at some point there's a, you know, the law of diminishing returns kicked in.

But I do think a couple of things. One, because there were no limits this time, both campaigns had basically as much money as they wanted to spend. We were able to see, for example, the Romney campaign reach into states like Pennsylvania at the end, kind of a Hail Mary, but something that wouldn't have been possible without unlimited spending.

But I think the Obama campaign was able to invest a lot of that, not just in TV ads, but in the ground game to get out voters and I think that will prove to have been the difference.

MONTAGNE: Well, let's stay with you, Dee Dee Myers, for a moment and get to some more central issues that this campaign brought out. Demographically, the election provided rather a stark picture; Hispanics, women and the young backed Mr. Obama. Mr. Romney had strong support from older Americans, whites and men. What kind of challenge does this present for the president in his second term?

And actually, weirdly, not getting the backing of as many older Americans, whites and white men?

MYERS: Well, I do think it's incumbent on the president to reach out to those demographic groups that he was less successful with, including as you point out, whites and older Americans, in particular sort of white and working class whites and suburban white voters. He need to reach out to them and make it clear he's their president, too, and he wants to be their president.

But I think, you know, more broadly, the president built a coalition four years ago that held and it reflects the future of the country. The country is moving toward a more diverse, a less white, you know, a different kind of country than it was 20 years ago and the Republican Party's going to have to figure out how to reach out to Hispanics, how to reach out to African-Americans, how to appeal and talk to younger voters or they will not be able to put together a winning candidacy for the White House.

MONTAGNE: Well, Ed Rogers, you're here. Tell us how they do that.

ROGERS: Well, I agree with the statement of the facts as Dee Dee presented them. The Republican Party does not have enough votes among Hispanics, young people and working women. Yeah, that's a problem. And the issue is for Republicans, well, is it ideological? What is the problem? Why is it that Republican Party is old and white? Is it really more about something other than pigmentation? Is it about the policies that the groups that don't support the Republican Party want?

MONTAGNE: Well, is it?

ROGERS: Or is it a - well, that's a good question. I don't know yet. I mean, there's some weird things that I can't reconcile in my brain yet. You know, we're going come away from this election, Republicans are going to have more than 30 governors of the 50 and Republicans kept the House in a brisk way. We lost the Senate, though. We lost the top of the ticket by a narrow popular vote and so what lessons really need to be learned?

And are we two Americas and one young people, Hispanics, others have a certain requirement, an aspirations that they have and expectations that they have of government that aren't shared by others. So do the Republicans become a me-too party for purposes of appealing to Hispanics and others or do we do a better job of selling what the Republicans already are? I don't know yet, but I don't think it's as simple as, well, saying, well, gee, we have to adopt the policies that appeal to young people and Hispanics superficially.

But I don't know what lessons to be learned yet from, again, 30 governors having a strong majority in House, losing Senate races, losing at the top of the ticket by a narrow margin, I don't know yet and I don't want to say and rush out and over-interpret the data that really hadn't been digested yet.

MONTAGNE: Well, let me ask you. In a blog in The Washington Post website this morning, you offered your congratulations to the Obama team, but you added congratulations is not the same as well done.

ROGERS: That's right.

MONTAGNE: What do you mean?

ROGERS: I mean, I took to heart and I resented the aspects of the Obama campaign, particularly the comment about revenge, I thought was particularly offensive. I thought it was particularly illuminating. And, hey, they won. They put together. They spent more on advertising. Dee Dee talks about the ground game. They spent more on advertising and on the ground game then did the Republican ticket. But I think some of it was not consistent with what good intellectually honest politics ought to be.

MONTAGNE: Well, let me...

ROGERS: They won. I worked for Lee Atwater and winning is winning. Winning is what matter. Leave the governance to others is sort of Lee's point of view. Well, congratulations, but I don't acknowledge well done.

MONTAGNE: Well, let me give Dee Dee Myers the last word here. We just have a few seconds. But I'm wondering just what Ed has just said, do you think that there has been a bad taste left with Americans from this election?

MYERS: I think that there was - that it was a narrow election. It was a base election, and so both campaigns appealed to their base. Both campaigns tried to disqualify the other guy and I think that left a lot of Americans with the - scratching their heads a little bit and wondering, can't we do better than this? And I think it's incumbent on the president now to reach out to both sides.

But I do think that there were, you know, certainly the Romney campaign didn't cover itself in glory in a lot of ways and I think they will regret that as they look back. But I think there are some positive notes. One of the things that I saw last night that was exciting was, you know, 10 women were elected to the United States Senate. I'm happy that nine of them were Democrats. But that is a record and we're going to have a record number of women serving.

I think we had much higher turnout than people expected across a lot of demographic groups, so people are invested. I think there was a lot more enthusiasm for the process, so I think that was positive.

MONTAGNE: And we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you both for joining us.

MYERS: Thank you.

ROGERS: Thanks a lot.

MONTAGNE: Dee Dee Myers is a Democratic political analyst and author. Ed Rogers is a Republican strategist and an opinion blogger. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.