Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney delivers his
concession speech during his election night rally in
Boston, Massachusetts. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Republicans reeling from their second presidential loss
in a row are engaging in some soul-searching but are at odds on
how far the party must change to remake its image.
Divisions that were stitched up during the presidential
campaign in a show of unity against the Democrats were on
display again after Republican Mitt Romney's loss to
President Barack Obama.
If there are five stages of grief, then Republicans had gone
from denial to anger and depression. But the last phases,
bargaining and acceptance, were apparently still elusive as
Republicans bickered over whether a serious change of course
is needed to appeal to a broader spectrum of American voters.
Romney's loss underscored a growing problem within the party
in dealing with the changing face of the U.S. electorate as
Hispanic voters, turned off by harsh conservative rhetoric on
immigration, helped Obama win battleground states like
Virginia, Colorado, Nevada and Ohio.
Romney also struggled during much of his campaign to appeal
to women and young voters, as the party got tangled up in
high-profile disputes over abortion and gay marriage that
turned off people who might otherwise be attracted to the
Republicans' free-market economic message.
Some party leaders got the message and called for a more
inclusive party in the wake of the second consecutive
Republican loss of the White House.
"We have to become a party of inclusion, not outreach,"
former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, who
lost the Republican presidential nomination fight this year,
told CBS' "This Morning" program. "We have to recognize that
if you're not going to be competitive with Latinos, with
African-Americans, with Native Americans, with
Asian-Americans, you're not going to be a successful party."
But after seeing the rise of Tea Party fiscal conservatives
over the past two years, many on the right felt that the
problem was not that Romney was too moderate but that he was
not conservative enough. That guarantees a battle over who
the party will back in 2016 when it next chooses a candidate
to pursue the White House.
"Mitt Romney's loss was the death rattle of the establishment
GOP," said Richard Viguerie, chairman of ConservativeHQ.Com.
"Far from signaling a rejection of the Tea Party or
grassroots conservatives, the disaster of 2012 signals the
beginning of the battle to take over the Republican Party and
the opportunity to establish the GOP as the party of
small-government constitutional conservatism."
Not only did Romney lose his bid for the White House, but
Republican hopes of making gains in the Senate and perhaps
even taking control of the chamber were dashed.
Two reasons for this setback were named Todd Akin and Richard
Mourdock, who had both stood a good chance of winning Senate
seats in Missouri and Indiana until they made comments about
rape that angered women and turned the tide against them.
"The people of this country sent a clear message to our
elected officials that we want a government that works to
protect the interests of working-class citizens of every
race, gender and sexual orientation," said Amy Kremer, chair
of the Tea Party Express, a conservative group.
Still, many Republicans were loathe to cite any one reason
for their setbacks.
"While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the
other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP
lost," said Senator John Cornyn, chairman of the National
Republican Senatorial Committee. "Clearly we have work to do
in the weeks and months ahead."
Illegal immigration remains an Achilles heel for the
Republican Party, with many conservatives in no mood to
support any policy that might be seen as amnesty for an
estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.
Romney, in his drive to secure the presidential nomination
last spring, found himself tugged to the right to the point
that he said that he supported the "self-deportation" of
It was a more hard-line position than that taken by
conservatives Texas Governor Rick Perry or Gingrich, two
presidential hopefuls who called for more moderate policies
During the presidential campaign, Romney tried to moderate
his position on immigration, but the damage may have been
done as his stance was an easy mark for Obama.
David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy
Institute at Southern Illinois University, said Republicans
need to get immigration off the table by reaching a
comprehensive immigration deal with Obama during his second
"Clearly they have to do things differently and there's
nothing like a political defeat and losses to focus the
political mind," he said.
But some conservatives felt Romney was not a strong advocate
for their views on social issues.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, a spokeswoman for the Susan B. Anthony
List, a non-profit group that campaigns on conservative
social issues, accused the Romney campaign of making a
"strategic decision" to avoid bringing social issues,
particular abortion, into the presidential debates, thereby
failing to engage potential voters who feel strongly about
"We can only do so much," she said. "If Romney doesn't talk
about Obama's extremes, it doesn't work."