Mitt Romney is taking fire from both the left and the right after telling donors on Wednesday that he lost last week's election because President Obama had showered young voters, minorities, and other key liberal constituencies with "big gifts." "With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift," Romney said on a conference call with his national finance committee. "Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women." He also said that Obama's health care reform was a "huge" gift for Latinos and blacks. Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, among other GOP leaders hoping to reach out to Latinos and other groups that spurned Romney, quickly denounced Romney's comments. "We have got to stop dividing American voters," Jindal said. "We're fighting for 100 percent of the vote." Here, four reasons why critics say Romney was wrong to place the blame where he did:
1. First, he's simply incorrect
Romney's analysis is somewhere on the spectrum from "incomplete to inaccurate," says Mike Allen at Politico. "Obama didn't win Janesville, Iowa or New Hampshire because of gifts to minorities." Those places are overwhelmingly white. Indeed, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, Obama didn't somehow buy votes by showering Americans with "free stuff." He convinced people "he actually cared about the problems they were dealing with," which "is something that Romney never seemed to be able to do." Still, it's silly to deny that Obama made several major gestures to his liberal base — from imposing a safe harbor for young illegal immigrants to "evolving" on gay marriage — during the campaign, says Allahpundit at Hot Air. So the question "isn't whether O is guilty of 'clientelism'" — "it's whether clientelism was decisive."
2. Romney is hurting the GOP effort to broaden its appeal
It's hardly a surprise that Romney's fellow Republicans, including Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, are upset, says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. They're obviously "ready for the Romney chapter to be over." Romney's White House dreams might have vanished, but theirs haven't. And Romney's sour grapes "won't help the GOP's efforts to win over minority voters," especially given his earlier remark about how the "47 percent" of Americans who pay no federal income taxes were destined to vote for Obama because they're dependent on the government. "What Jindal says is not political rocket science," says Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice. If the GOP "wants to thrive and even survive nationally, it must expand its tent and compete to get more voters inside its tent," not by offering better "gifts," but by offering "policies relevant to their dreams and lives."
3. Republican constituencies get plenty of loot, too
"On the off-chance this nonsense still needs rebutting, let's be very clear: There are plenty of reliable Republicans who get heaping piles of government goodies," says Noam Scheiber at The New Republic. Seniors get Medicare, veterans get VA benefits, and corporations "gorge on lavish subsidies" — all with a thumbs-up from Romney. "Believe it or not, there are even wealthy financiers out there who don't pay income taxes on their loot and who deduct the mortgage interest on their vacation homes. (Not that I have anyone specific in mind.)" And don't forget, "Romney himself promised an exceedingly large 'gift' to elderly Republican voters: restoring $718 billion worth of savings from Medicare that Obama had achieved through the Affordable Care Act."
4. This just shines a light on Romney's other failures
"Romney, a famously data-driven decider, has completely missed the boat when it comes to explaining his loss," says Peter Cohan at Forbes. The real cause was "a self-inflicted wound — the failure of Romney's online voter turnout system — ORCA." The Romney campaign touted ORCA as an "unrivaled high-tech means of communicating with more than 30,000 field workers who were stationed at polling places on Election Day." It failed miserably, and it was that "lack of tactical execution excellence" that sank the campaign. Plus, "Romney's favorable ratings were among the lowest recorded for a presidential candidate in the modern era," says Andrew Kohut at The Wall Street Journal. It's true that Obama benefited from a big turnout among Latinos, blacks, young people, and other members of his base. But anyone chalking up the GOP's defeat to supposed gifts to these voters is "paying too little attention to how weak a candidate Mitt Romney was, and how much that hurt Republican prospects."