Third, they emphasize the powers of incumbency. Romney only became the presumptive front-runner because the GOP's A-list -- mostly too young in any case -- feared the huge advantage an incumbent president enjoys and stayed home. 2016, they swear, will be different. Nor do they seem to fear a reprise of the 2008 and 2012 primary circuses because the A-listers in 2016, they insist, will all have well-established conservative bona fides and won't have to bend over backwards to cultivate the conservative base.
Trying to appeal to the Right while facing various nutcase candidates, Romney shot himself in both feet, labeling himself a "severe conservative" and staking an extreme anti-immigration position. George W. Bush, on the other hand, could run as a "compassionate conservative" in 2000 because his street cred on the Right was unchallengeable. Indeed, Paul Ryan is already talking up "compassion," while Ted Cruz, the new (extreme) senator from Texas, is hawking "opportunity conservatism."
Fourth, there is the perceived success of Republicans other than Romney, particularly in what white Republicans call the "Heartland." GOP operatives are still angry at Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock for losing two gimme Senate seats to the Dems by "saying stupid things" (in the words of Bobby Jindal, Louisiana governor and frequent visitor to Iowa), and they wonder how they lost in Montana and North Dakota.
Still, they kept their majority in the House of Representatives, losing only a handful of seats. (That the GOP lost the majority of total votes cast gets less attention.) The Party also added a 30th governor to its roster, and held onto its control of the majority of top offices and legislative chambers in the states. Come 2014, GOP operatives expect the Party to do quite nicely, as the opposition party often does in midterm elections, especially if turnout demographics look like 2006 and 2010. Another lesson many movement conservatives have learned is that the more they pound away on their issues, the more they shift American politics rightward even when they lose.
All of this suggests to anxious Republicans that they are not crazy for seeing no immediate need to make big changes to appeal to demographic groups outside the Party's aging white base. But the short term is likely to be short indeed. Think of them, then, as the POD or the Party of Denial.
Meanwhile, on the Bridge of the Titanic
Avoid it as they may, the long-term picture couldn't look grimmer for the Party. Demographics may well be destiny. Even a cursory look at the numbers exposes the looming threat to the Party's future prospects.
* Whites: About three-quarters of the electorate (and 88% of Romney's voters) this year were white, but their numbers are steadily sinking -- by 2% since 2008. Yes, many whites may have stayed home this year, turned off by Mr. Car Elevator, but whites are projected to become a demographic minority by 2050 -- or possibly even before 2040 -- and minority births are now outpacing white births.
* White Christians: The bulk of Romney's supporters (79%) were white Christians (40% of whom were evangelicals), but this is an aging and shrinking group. Three-quarters of senior voters but only a quarter of millennial voters are white Christians, and the generations in between are much less likely to consider themselves "strong" members of their religion than seniors. (Non-white Christians, Jews, observers of other faiths, and the growing number of the religiously-unaffiliated all overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.)
* Hispanics: According to the Washington Post exit polls, Obama received 71% of the Hispanic vote in 2012 (67% in 2008). Already 10% of this year's voters (9% in 2008), the Hispanic population is exploding, accounting for half of U.S. population growth.
* Asian Americans: The nation's fastest growing demographic group -- now 3% of this year's voters (2% in 2008) -- gave Obama 73% of its vote in 2012 (62% in 2008).
* Unmarried Women: The percentage of unmarried women has been growing slowly since the 1970s, up to 53% of women as of last year. Even among subgroups favoring Obama, there was a marriage gap in which unmarried women (23% of this year's voters) favored Obama by huge margins. Despite winning 53% of (mostly white) married women, 31% of this year's voters (down from 33% in 2008), Romney lost women overall by 11 points.
* The Young: The millennial generation (born between 1978 and 2000) has been voting overwhelmingly for Democrats (66% for Obama in 2008, 60% this year). They are projected to be 40% of the eligible voting pool by 2020. Because they are relatively diverse and secular, the GOP cannot assume that enough will emulate previous generations and swing to the right as they age.
Such polling figures should frighten GOP leaders. There's no reason to believe that what we saw on November 6th was anything but the tip of the iceberg.
The factions in the party that are not socially conservative see these looming threats as an opportunity to get the GOP to drop the social stuff. But movement conservatives aren't going to cede ideological ground, not when they (correctly) think it's a necessity if they are to attract their base voters. "This country doesn't need two liberal or Democratic parties," is the way Bobby Jindal puts it, typically enough.
Like right-wing pundit Fred Barnes, many movement conservatives and Tea Party leaders will continue to insist that whites are going to remain "the nation's dominant voting bloc" for many elections to come." Hedging their bets, they have decided to become more "inclusive" or at least just inclusive enough in these days of micro-targeting and razor-thin election margins. After all, Romney would have won New Mexico, Florida, Nevada, and Colorado if he had captured even slightly higher shares of the Hispanic vote and he could have won in the Electoral College if fewer than 200,000 voters in key states had switched their votes.