The Mitt Romney who made a gracious concession to Barack Obama on election night is more admirable than the one who now blames his loss in part on the “extraordinary gifts from the government” that the president bestowed on certain constituents.
Not that there isn’t some validity in his comments. Incumbents of both parties at every level exploit the power of their office during re-election campaigns, but Mr. Romney’s a big boy who ought to be above such complaints.
In a phone call Wednesday with donors, the audio of which has been acquired by network news organizations, Mr. Romney says, “What the president, president’s campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote.”
Among those gifts was the forgiveness of college loan interest, which Mr. Romney described as “a big gift.” Another was “free contraceptives,” which he said were “very big with young college-aged women.” The Obamacare provision allowing people up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance policies was another “big gift to young people,” and resulted in strong support from blacks and Hispanics as well.
What Mr. Romney didn’t acknowledge was that his policies held little appeal for young voters, particularly minority voters. Yes, the president did win support from Hispanics through an executive order issuing some of them “Dream Act” privileges, but Mr. Romney’s urging illegal immigrants to “self-deport” was enough to drive them to the president’s corner. It is no coincidence that since the election, immigration reform has become a renewed priority — for Republicans as well as Democrats.
Mr. Obama, in the tradition of Democratic candidates, sought the youth vote more actively than Mr. Romney did, and it contributed to — but hardly guaranteed — the president’s re-election.
What’s more, the president’s voters weren’t bought with “gifts,” as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican who campaigned hard for Mr. Romney, was quick to point out. Expressing dismay at Mr. Romney’s remarks, Gov. Jindal said, “I absolutely reject that notion. I think that’s absolutely wrong.”
Perhaps looking ahead to the next presidential election, Gov. Jindal added, “I don’t think that represents where we are as a party and where we’re going as a party. That has got to be one of the most fundamental takeaways from this election.”
We’d like to believe other rising stars in the Republican Party recognize that. And we’d like to believe that one day, perhaps when the sting of defeat fades, Mr. Romney will too.