Gary Johnson was to the Republicans in Florida in 2012 what Ralph Nader was to the Democrats in 2000, only more so. Johnson's .5% showing came mostly from the Romney side, or perhaps from voters who would not have voted at all otherwise. The margin of victory in just called Florida for Obama, is .72% as of this writing, but they are still counting the 200,000 absentee ballots, more than the President's margin of victory, and it is increasing.
In other Florida news, the Senate race and nine of 27 Congressional races , including that of bulldog Alan Grayson, went to the Democrats, in many cases, decidedly so. Republican "rabid dog" Incumbent Alan West is challenging the results, but with a .8% loss to Patrick Murphy, it's highly unlikely he will prevail, so it will be a Republican repudiation of Republicans in this traditionally deep south state. The Republicans hold on what Jon Stewart of the Daily show called the "Confederate States" is slipping badly, with Virginia gone over to the President, and even Romney's North Carolina win of only 2.2%.
Why is the old south slipping so badly away from Republicans? Well, for one thing, it is old, and getting older, or at least their base of old, white men is.
For another thing, the population is becoming more and more Hispanic. Hispanics accounted for half the population growth of the country:
"The 2010 Census counted 50.5 million Hispanics in the United States. Hispanics now account for 16.3% of the total U.S. population. The nation's Latino population, which was 35.3 million in 2000, grew 43% over the decade. The Hispanic population also accounted for most of the nation's growth (56%) from 2000 to 2010."
This is a population Romney and the Arizona-inspired Republicans alienated by suggesting it was OK to check their papers without cause to believe to believe they were in the country illegally, and that even those who were, should be encouraged to "self-deport." This explains why Obama captured 71% of the Hispanic vote and Romney just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote.
If demographics are destiny, the Republicans are destined to become the minority party for some time, until the shrill and intolerant Tea Party faction itself dies off, perhaps taking the Republicans down with them.
Can the Republicans change their message and win again?
Well, anything can happen on a local level. The country is more polarized geographically than ever, resulting in a new "Civil War," says liberal former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. So yes, on a local level, you can still get elected crazies on the Right. But, as a national party, the Republicans may be finished for a long time. Alan Grayson today pointed out that the 2012 elections, coming after the demoralized elections of 2010, when only 41% of the electorate even bothered to vote, shows that progressive Democrats, if they turn out to vote, can win the elections. Turnout is the key to representational democracy, and demographics are the key to the results.
The Republicans are caught in a bind. To win highly partisan primaries, they cannot alienate their highly charged-up far Right base, but to win the general election, they must tack much more to the center then the Democrats, whom much of the Left thinks are already too far to the Right, even during primaries, but whom they will vote for anyway, at least until the Green Party gets more than 1% of the vote in the general elections. Libertarian Party Candidate Gary Johnson broke the magic 1% barrier, but this understates the true shift Right-ward of the Republican base. For that matter, Johnson's anti-war message, similar to Ron Paul's, is out-of-step with the militaristic attitude of the hard Right Republican base; i.e. he is not far Right enough.
This ideological lurching has traditional Republicans, like house majority leader John Boehner (by an ever-narrowing margin, as votes still being counted in the House races show Democrats will probably end up with 200 seats, a gain of 7 seats from the still-majority Republicans, who will now have 235 seats), in an increasingly untenable position, pledging repeatedly, and rigidly, "no new taxes" even while increasingly realizing voters blame Republicans for Washington intransigence. Congressional approval ratings have been consistently in the low double digits for about a year now, so something has to give, and that "something" looks increasingly likely to be Republican seats.
It's possible the 2014 elections, if the economy improves and Obama's health reform package gains popularity as it is more completely implemented, may result in both houses of Congress going over to the Democrats. The Republicans can continue their by-now familiar game of stalling and blocking, but it looks like voters will increasingly hold them accountable for it. Or they can tack to the middle, and lose their base, without picking much up in return. What would it take to win back Hispanics? Or women? Romney tied himself into a pretzel, coming out in favor of positions on abortion and the 47% that he later ran away from. This is clearly a losing strategy.
Speaking of losing strategies....
Stark Roving mad
Karl Rove may be finished as a political operative/kingmaker. He has now disappointed some very powerful supporters. Donald Trump tweeted "Congrats to @KarlRove on blowing $400 million this cycle. Every race @CrossroadsGPS ran ads in, the Republicans lost. What a waste of money." Ever-direct, Trump may be saying what the uber-rich donor Republican base believes, that they have made a "poor investment" in Rove's Crossroads super-PAC. This is not a group that takes well to losing. They are used to getting what they want. Trump may next be speaking for his wealthy colleagues if he says to Rove, "You're Fired!" Without Rove, who is also being skewered for his on-air challenge of Republican mouthpiece FOX News' in-house election predictors, it's unclear who the new Chief Strategist will be for the now disarrayed Republican Party. Rove's strategy of lying and baiting is looking as antiquated as the Republican ideology.
Demoralized, leaderless, and with a shrinking base of angry old white men as their base; this brings new meaning to the term Grand Old Party, and there is nothing Grand about that.