Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham on the evolution of Abraham Lincoln's moral principles and political leadership -- and what the era of Lincoln can teach us about the state of our democracy today.
In his victory speech last night, President Barack Obama spoke of reaching out to Republicans to address issues that can only be solved together. He won a second term after a tough race against GOP challenger Mitt Romney and record-breaking campaign spending on both sides. Many say he prevailed over Romney, at least in part, as a result of changing U.S. demographics: a rising number of Latino voters and the declining impact of white voters. Obama faces a Congress that remains divided and a still-struggling economy. Please join us to to talk about the challenges ahead for both Democrats and Republicans.
- James Thurber Professor and director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, and author of "Obama in Office: The First Two Years."
- Andrew Kohut Director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
- Michelle Bernard Founder and president of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. President Obama delivered a confident victory speech last night after his hard-fought win in yesterday's presidential election. He cited the need to work with lawmakers from both parties, but with the Congress that remains divided, the challenges are daunting.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me to talk about the presidential outcome and its implications: James Thurber of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and Michelle Bernard of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy. I do invite you to join us this morning. Give us your questions, your comments by calling us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter, and good morning to all of you.
MR. ANDREW KOHUTGood morning.
PROF. JAMES THURBERGood morning, Diane.
MS. MICHELLE BERNARDGood morning.
REHMJim Thurber, let me start with you. It was said that this was going to be a very tight race. The popular vote was fairly close, but the Electoral College, not so. What were the numbers?
THURBERWell, I think that the media generally like to have a horse race, like to keep it very close. But I was watching what was happening in each of the battleground states, and it looked like, to me, for quite a while, but especially in the last two weeks, that this was going to be a blowout, that maybe Romney would win in Florida and North Carolina, maybe Virginia. Virginia was a great surprise to me. So in the end, he did -- the president did -- he has fewer Electoral College votes now than he did in 2008, but he did very well with 303.
REHMAnd, Andy Kohut, how did President Obama win reelection?
KOHUTHe won reelection, Diane, because his coalition from 2008 returned to him. He carried young voters. He carried nonwhites, including blacks, Latinos, Asians and people of other races. He carried poor people and well-educated people. This is a very interesting combination. Less affluent people and people with Ph.D.s and college degrees voted for Obama. Now, that isn't to say that he didn't lose ground compared to 2008. He took a big hit among independents. Independents voted for Romney.
KOHUTWhites voted much more in favor of -- less in favor of Obama than they did four years ago. But given that his constituency stuck with him and the turnout was sufficiently high among blacks and Latinos, he was able to -- I'm not going to say eke out a victory, but he did win, at least a two point, maybe even more, margin in the popular vote.
REHMMichelle Bernard, why did Mitt Romney not win?
BERNARDSeveral factors went into Mitt Romney's defeat. I think one of the most important factors that the public will need to look at and, quite frankly, that the Republican Party needs to look at, aside from Mitt Romney as the candidate, was the enormous damage that we have seen to what is the "brand" of the Republican Party.
BERNARDAll throughout the primary process, we saw a Republican Party that seemed to be the party of only white males. There seemed to be no room for African-Americans. There seemed to be no room for women once outside of the uterus. There seemed to be no room for Hispanics within the big umbrella that is supposedly the Republican Party.
BERNARDWhen you had candidate Romney, for example, speaking about Hispanics "self-deporting" back to their countries of origin, when you had then candidate Rick Santorum insinuating that African-Americans don't want to work and making comments that he wants to -- he wants African-Americans to have jobs rather than to give them the proceeds of the state through welfare, all of that did incredible damage to the brand the Republican Party.
BERNARDThere was a state legislator in Wisconsin in talking about Wisconsin's equal pay act who literally said one could argue that money is more important to men than it is to women. So if you are a woman, if you are Hispanic, if you are African-American and you're looking at the Republican Party as a whole before you even get to Mitt Romney as a candidate, you had to sit back and ask yourself, is there any room for me in this party?
REHMAndy Kohut, you talked about the base coming back to Barack Obama, but what about the overall turnout? What do we learn from that?
KOHUTWhat we don't know, it's too early to say, exactly what the overall level of turnout is. It's probably less than in was in 2008. But two key components that were of doubt in debate prior to the election: African-Americans and Latinos turned out at same high, unusually high rate in 2012 as they did in 2008. Now, I think that probably means the Obama people did a pretty good job when they get out to vote effort because both of those constituencies were a little depressed, were not as enthusiastic, but they still turned out.
REHMBut, Jim, you talked about the media sort of drumming up this very close, tight race. It wasn't just the media. There were an awful lot of people, prognosticators on both sides, who were arguing this was going to be a very close race. How come it spread as much as it did?
THURBERWell, you have to go back to the primary. And this is one of the problems that Romney had in the general election, is that he shifted very far right, saying some tough things about immigration that alienated the Hispanics. Then from the time when he got the nomination and it shifted back, he tried to move back. But during that period, the president and his campaign defined him in a very negative way. I'm not saying they were negative ads.
THURBERThey were talking about how they didn't care about the middle class, that he was a businessman that liked to fire people, et cetera. But then we had the first debate, a shock -- a shock for the Obama campaign, a shock for America -- and it closed, and it got very close. And then the president eked out a few percentage points after the vice presidential debate, the second debate and the third debate. And Sandy may have had an impact on the president looking presidential.
THURBERWe have rally effects when these things happen around presidents. He came out very well in the poll, Romney did not. And so I think that that's the story. But behind the story is -- a campaign is a war, OK, a war that has different tools. And this campaign is probably the best campaign that we've seen in terms of microtargeting, stealthy microtargeting in the battleground states, in places like Ohio and Florida and elsewhere. And these people who put this campaign together in terms of the trips in the microtargeting using Twitter and all kinds of social media should be complimented.
REHMI want to understand better what you mean by stealthy microtargeting.
THURBERWell, by stealthy, they didn't let a lot of people know about certain kinds of targeting that was going on. Like, for example, with the Hispanic-Latino community, they had a lot of very well-known Latino leaders helping them in these key states. And they used people on the streets who could speak Spanish. They didn't make a big deal about it, but I think it made a difference. And, in fact, it looks like the Hispanic community, Hispanics in America voted at a 75 percent level this time for Obama.
KOHUTWell, it's worth noting here that while the Obama people did a great job, Romney really didn't come off very well in the end. He had a lower than 50 percent favorable rating, 47 percent. He was personally unpopular. When the exit polls asked, who does his policies likely favor, 53 percent said the rich.
KOHUTWhen the same question was asked last -- yesterday, about Obama, a plurality said Obama's policies favor the middle class. So a lot of the problems that we saw when Romney mentioned the 47 percent and this whole issue of fairness, which America -- majority of Americans say the system is not fair, came back and really hit Romney.
REHMThat 47 percent statement, Michelle, must have resonated rather far.
BERNARDIt resonated, I think, not just all throughout the country, but it resonated worldwide. This is America, the land of the free. In New Hampshire, they say, you know, live or die. You know, we talk about the country being the country where all people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And then we have Mitt Romney on tape talking about the "47 percent" who are somehow, in his opinion, moochers of the great state.
BERNARDAnd, you know, and I will tell you, I mean, all along -- early on we were talking about the path to 270 and would it be the economy or would it be demographics. And what we ended up seeing was that it was not just demographics but it was also ideology. You know, there are people on the losing side, whether they were in the House or the Senate or, quite frankly, at the presidential level, will quite easily, say, for example, when we think that Hurricane Sandy put President Obama over the top.
BERNARDBut, quite frankly, you look at Hurricane Sandy, and you couldn't also help but remember Hurricane Katrina. And we saw for people -- when we have this argument about what is the proper role of government, should government be small, should it be limited, we saw that government under proper circumstances and with the right president leading the nation can work. There was a very huge difference in how people were treated and the immediate response we saw after Hurricane Sandy compared to what we saw during Hurricane Katrina.
BERNARDBut one of the other things, I think, that's important to add, particularly with minority communities, minorities feel that we have a moral obligation to vote. And after you start it -- even though there was an enthusiasm gap because, for example, in the African-American community, the unemployment rate is so much higher than it is at the national standards, when you started hearing stories of voter suppression, when you saw the story about the alleged murder of Trayvon Marder -- Martin earlier during the year, African-Americans came out, and they said, we have to vote.
REHMMichelle Bernard, founder and president of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy. When we come back, we'll talk further and take your calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Of course, we have three wonderful analysts looking at the election results. James Thurber, he is professor and director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University and author of "Obama in Office: The First Two Years." Jim Thurber, you're going to have to write a new book now.
THURBERThe publisher wants me to.
REHMExactly. Andrew Kohut is director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Michelle Bernard is founder and president of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy. And I do want to get to women in just a moment because that's such a significant portion of what happened yesterday.
REHMBut here's an email from Charles in Ohio, who says, "When strategists look back at this election, I think they'll determine one of the biggest errors the Republican Party made was their effort to enact tougher voter ID laws around the country. The awareness that national effort was underway to enact these laws, perceived as an effort to suppress the votes of the poor and minorities, was a major factor in revving up enthusiasm among the Democratic electorate." What do you think, Andy?
KOHUTWell, I cannot prove it. But if you look at the numbers, it's pretty clear that we had much -- compared to anticipated rates of turnout, we had much more turnout from non-whites. The Latino vote was as much as 10 percent, the African-American 13 percent, and that is comparable to what we saw four years ago.
BERNARDYou know, I will tell you, the numbers are still coming in. There was a huge gender gap, which I know we'll get to later. But there was a gender gap among women in all 50 states, but particularly in swing states. If you look in states like Virginia, Virginia was so important to the election last night. And if you look in areas -- not Northern Virginia, which is just outside of Washington, but more rural areas that -- where the Romney campaign really felt that they could make inroads with white working-class males.
BERNARDYou also saw in areas like Richmond, Hampton Roads, Front Royal, Va., large numbers of African-Americans coming out to vote and coming out to vote because it is -- it was a civil rights issue. It was a moral issue. And the perception that after all these years, anyone who would try to suppress the votes African-Americans or any other America -- any other Americans was just thought to be barbaric.
THURBERI think these actions backfired. And they were on the news continually, especially Florida, where they shut down voting on Sunday, which they had in the last election.
BERNARDSouls to the polls.
THURBERThey -- right. And they were threatening to send people to prison and also fine them if they didn't turn in their registrations within 48 hours. That was set aside. Listen, there were 40 states where we had early voting, and in seven of those states, the laws changed substantially to make it more difficult to vote, to have voter ID and other kinds of things. And it was all blamed on the Republican Party. It just totally backfired. If that's their strategy to bring in a broader-based party, it's not the way to go.
REHMWhat about the independents, Andy Kohut? Did he win over as many independents as he did in 2008?
KOHUTJust the opposite. Romney carried independents by a margin of 50 to 45. Obama lost seven percentage points among independents. He carried independents in '08, did not carry it this time. The only reason that we -- he succeeded in maintaining or winning a margin of the popular vote is because the Democrats turned out at pretty high rates and voted for him at the same high rates that they did four years ago. So he lost whites. He lost independents. He would say, wow, he's in trouble. But the reason he was in trouble was because of the composition of the vote.
BERNARDChanging demographics. We -- I mean, I -- not enough can be said about the changing demographics of the country over and over and over again, and it was demographics that played so heavily into this. Going into 2012, the Obama campaign knew that the Democratic Party -- just as the Democratic Party enjoys positive feelings by the female electorate, they do not enjoy negative feelings by a lot of white males. And the strategy was to do whatever they could to not hemorrhage any of the white vote that they had in 2008.
BERNARDIt was hard for Barack Obama to get it, particularly even competing against Hillary Clinton in 2008. But he also knew that his stronghold was going to be among women, African-Americans and Latinos. And quite frankly, going forward, the Republican Party, if they want to win and not become a party just of the South, they're going to have to find a way to reach out to those demographics.
REHMLet's talk about what happened in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Jim Thurber.
THURBERWell, Ohio went for Obama, and he had something like -- between the vice president and the president, he had over 30 trips to Ohio. He spent a substantial amount of his money for the air war, television and radio, before, during the Republican convention. Romney didn't pay -- didn't but any ads during that period in a shot up. The unemployment rate went down significantly in Ohio.
THURBERAnd this is the biggest mistake that, I think, Romney made, is that that he didn't back off the fact that he didn't support the president for helping the automobile industry. And the entire state is full of automobile parts makers, automobile companies. Plus, the president, as you well know, about a month ago, took a suit to the World Trade Organization threatening China, taking that case, threatening China for flooding cheap parts.
THURBERThey loved it in Ohio. Pennsylvania is the same thing. You all know that James Carville comment that Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburg and Alabama in between. No offense to Alabama, but it's conservative in between. And they also have a lot of automobile workers that really liked his policies. But secondly, they liked Joe Biden. Biden went there almost 15 times.
REHMAnd steel workers as well.
THURBERRight, steel workers. Those industrial workers really helped in that state also.
REHMYou know, it's interesting. Last night on Fox News, Fox called Ohio fairly early for President Obama. Karl Rove was sitting right there, did not respond very happily when that happened, felt that it was called too early. Is there some problem with these networks calling things so quickly? The polls had already closed. But nevertheless, with a slim margin, they were calling it. Andy.
KOHUTWell, I was at NPR last night, and we were agonizing over Ohio, as were others. But each new organization that participates in this endeavor has its own team of experts. And some experts get there faster than others. And the Fox people, to their credit, maybe not consistent with the ideology of that organization, said he's got it. And I guess...
REHMAnd that was it.
KOHUTAnd that was it. They were right.
REHMJim Thurber, the immediate challenge for this president, of course, is the fiscal cliff. Talk about the stakes in that issue and what could or could not happen between and Jan. 1, given that that Congress remains the Senate in Democratic hands, the House in Republican leadership.
THURBERWell, the lame duck session that's after the election between now and the end of the year is very important because this time, we have the so-called Bush tax cuts that will go out of existence. It will generate $3.1 trillion in the next decade but may push us into a recession. So that is part of the fiscal cliff. Secondly, there's a sequestration that was established that has automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion, 50 percent from defense, 50 percent from domestic discretionary, without touching entitlement programs.
THURBEREntitlement programs and net interests are 65 percent of our entire budget. And so part of this agreement out of the Aug. 10, 2011 agreement when we had the super committee that failed was the sequestration. That faces us, but also payroll tax. We've got a holiday on paying a payroll tax for Social Security. We have the estate tax coming to an end, a holiday on that. And it's -- there's a multitude of other issues like what are we going to do about unemployment? It's still pretty high, and there's lots of issues there that the president is pushing, plus education, transportation. OK.
THURBERThe bottom line is the president is going to have to get tough, and he's talking about getting tough. He's talking about coming together, marginalizing the far right in the House of Representatives, using the Senate to pass a bill that will deal with these things, with the anticipation that the Senate will have a net one or two new Democratic senators if the two independents vote with them -- they have somewhat of a mandate -- and getting Boehner to go back to where Boehner was 10 years ago, and that is he was more moderate. He's been pulled far to the right by...
THURBER...Tea Party people in the House, and there are not many of those left. Eighty-seven of the new freshmen that came in last time, 50 percent were Tea Party people. There are a few of those. They're gone. If we need -- if we get something done on this fiscal cliff, we've got to come to the middle, but there's not many people in the middle. We've got to come to the middle. The president's got to get tough, threaten vetoes and really negotiate hard. He has not done that, in my opinion, so far, and he's got to get tough on this.
BERNARDIt will be very interesting to see if next week, when Congress comes back into session, if House Republicans will look at the reelection of President Obama as a mandate from the American public to reach across the party aisles and actually do their job. The American public did not vote for dysfunctional government. They want a government that functions. They want -- they don't want for us, for example, to go over this fiscal cliff.
BERNARDThey want people to be able to work it out. It's interesting to hear, for example, Mitch McConnell has reportedly been quoted as saying that the American public voted Barack Obama in for a second term because they want him to finish the job that they gave him, and it is incumbent upon the president to come to Republicans with policies that will actually work. That does not sound like anything that is in the spirit of compromise.
BERNARDYou know, the president has to be tough, but also Republicans in the House in particular are going to have to be reasonable and understand that the entire country has changed. The mood of the country, the way that people feel what the proper role of government should be has completely changed. And we elect them to do a job, and obstructionism is not governance.
REHMMichelle Bernard. She's founder and president of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Andy Kohut, you wanted to add to that.
KOHUTWell, in this period, President Obama is going to have a lot of political capital. Last night, what we found in the exit poll was that his approval rating was 53 percent. He wins reelection, that 53 percent is going to go up. So the members of Congress are going to be looking at a very strong president when it comes to public support.
KOHUTAnd they're going to look -- if they look in some detail, consider public opinion, there's a lot of moderation in the public's approach to dealing with the deficit. They don't want to just see cuts. They want to see a combination of cuts and revenue enhancement. And that's...
KOHUTTax increases, but they don't want to see a massive tax increase or massive tax cuts. They're sort of in between.
THURBERBut there's not a lot of moderation on Capitol Hill. In 1970 to '80, we had one-third of the House and the Senate that crossed over, that were in the middle and voted together. You know what it is now? It's 2 percent. Nobody's in the middle. The blue dogs are gone, and the Republican Party has gone further to the right. And the president's presidential support score the first two years were in the 90s, and he dropped down to 20 percent.
THURBERSimilar situation happened with Clinton. He went from 87 down to 38 percent, but Clinton had a guy on the Hill that he could work with, Gingrich, and they -- and he worked his way back up to a 58 percent batting average of getting things done. I'm not sure that the party is willing to reach out and work with him on the far right, and that's a problem for McConnell. That's a problem for Boehner. And I think we have to look at those leaders to see if they can bring their party further to the middle and work with the president.
REHMJim Thurber, you've been lecturing around the world. You've heard from people in various parts of the world. How are they looking at what is happening here in this country?
THURBERWell, first of all, I think about 90 percent of the people in the countries where I visited would vote for Obama, and the other 10 percent would say they wouldn't vote at all. There was very little support for Mitt Romney. I think it depends on the country. The Chinese are very concerned of our -- about our debt and deficit. Almost 67 percent of our debt has been purchased by foreigners.
THURBERWe have a $16 trillion debt that the president has to deal with in this fiscal cliff. He has to deal with it by tax increases. The public seems willing to do that, but also some cuts in popular programs. So people overseas, even in the E.U. where they have fiscal problems, are looking at our fiscal problems also.
REHMOK. So considering that, how can the Republicans, even if they are on the far right, not come together in some form of compromise?
THURBERWell, one of the reasons they don't come together is that we have weak parties in terms of recruiting people. I mean, what did the Republican Party have recruited, Akin in Missouri or Mourdock in Indiana? They self-recruited. They have a lot of their own money. So we have a lot of independents. Individualism and independence by people who self-recruit is rampant in the House and the Senate.
THURBERIt's very hard to bring those people together in the middle because they will lose in the primary. The primary's the real election in the House of Representatives. We only had 51 seats this time that were competitive out of 435. And so, therefore, they're thinking about their primary electorate, which is on the left and on the right.
REHMAnd -- go ahead, Andy.
KOHUTWell, you know, I agree with you about what the Republican response has been. But they really took a hit in Aug. 11 in terms of the image of the -- no one came out very well, but the image of the Republican Party was hurt. The Republican Party was seen as extremist and not willing to compromise. And in this environment, I think many of them will look at that experience and say, well, what are we going to get ourselves into down the road if there was not some way of figuring this out?
THURBERBut, you know...
REHMDo you agree, Michelle?
BERNARDI would like to agree, but there is a -- there is part of me that looks at how the House of Representatives, since 2010, has acted with regard to Barack Obama. And it seems as if obstructionism to them is their belief, and a lot of them will feel that that's why they were reelected in 2012.
REHMAll right. Short break here. When we come back, it's your turn to weigh in with your calls, your email, your tweets. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMWe'll go right to our first caller in Orlando, Fla. Good morning, Lyndon. (sp?)
LYNDONYes, ma'am. Good morning to you and your guests.
LYNDONAnd thanks for taking my call. I think two of your guests are on to something here. First of all, I'm one of those educated voters that voted for Barack Obama, and incidentally, I am a black man. But if you look at two things here, one, the Republican branding, which was mentioned by one of your guests, and the perception that, you know, if you're one of the 47 percent, you are not welcomed in the Republican Party, and two, the Republicans made obstructionism the norm.
LYNDONSecondly, another guest mentioned this moral obligation. I felt I had a moral obligation to support Barack Obama primarily because of this perceived dislike for this president. First, I'm one of those people who believe that Romney was on to something when he said that the -- it was about the economy. And I had enough issues with the way Barack Obama could've done a few more things to improve the economy.
LYNDONHaving said that, let's go back to the primary, the Republican primary. There was no love by the Republicans for Romney. What people said back then was, you know, he was wishy-washy. He couldn't pick an issue and stick to it. So there was never this love for him.
REHMOK. I think you've raised several really important issues. Michelle, he talked about the Republican branding, the obstructionism. He also talked about his own sense of moral obligation. But he went back to the primaries and said there was really no love for Romney to begin with. Do you agree with that?
BERNARDYeah. You know, it appears from every poll that you take a look at that Mitt Romney's favorable -- likability ratings were always less than desirable. People never really got to understand, who is Mitt Romney? Is Mitt Romney the type of governor that we saw when he was governor of Massachusetts? Is he a moderate? Is he a -- I believe he calls himself a strict or a severe conservative.
BERNARDWho did he stand for? In the first debate, we got a glimpse of Mitt Romney might be. We saw that he actually knew human beings. He actually spoke with people. Now, all the people he spoke with during the campaign seems to live in swing states. But he gave us the impression that he was having one-on-one contact with people, that he had a heart, that he understood the plight of real Americans. But then you were left with the Mitt Romney that we've seen over the last eight years, and you can't put your finger on who he is other than a good husband and a good family man.
KOHUTThe no-love factor is also within his own party. He had softer support, less strong support than Barack Obama. He had more people than Obama saying, I'm not really voting for him, I'm voting against the other guy. And historically, candidates who have that profile of support lose. And in fact, if you look at elections since 1960, the candidate with the soft support has lost almost every time, Nixon and Carter…
REHMAll right. To Rebecca in Roscoe, Ill. Good morning.
REBECCAGood morning. Thank you for taking my call.
REBECCAI listen to your program frequently. I'm sorry. I'm actually driving to a physical therapy appointment, so I've only got a minute.
REHMI wish you would pull over, as a matter of fact.
REBECCAI will as soon as I get to this lane.
REHMOK. Go right ahead, please.
REBECCAAs I've mentioned to the individual who took my phone call, I'm in the upper 2 percent that you talked about for economy. I am a physician. I am a female. And I voted for Barack Obama because I think one of the very critical issues that needs to be addressed is the women issue, the, you know, the abortion rights, the reproductive rights, the equal pay rights, and, of course, segues into minorities.
REBECCAAnd I think that if those issues are addressed and supported, I think our economy will recover. It's not going to recover immediately. We've had many years of Republican, I want to say, rule. That sounds awful. But it's going to take a long time.
REHMIt certainly is. Jim Thurber, the women's issues.
THURBERWell, I think that the women's issues are everybody's issues, in my opinion, performance of the economy and other issues but also health care. I mean, this is a physician. She knows that we have to deal with cost controls for health care, finance access to health and quality. And those four things are big parts of so-called Obamacare. Now, maybe this -- some of the physicians don't like Obamacare, but they knew -- we know -- they know that they have to have some cost controls.
THURBERThat's a women's issue in the sense that women generally take care of the books at home and have their children go. Now, that's a terrible thing to say, but that's what America does. They have women taking their kids to the doctor more than men. And so they understand this. And so -- and men, white males, didn't support Obama.
REHMIt was also reproductive rights, Michelle.
BERNARDIt was. It was a question. All of -- I agree. All issues are women's issues. That is my personal mantra.
BERNARDAll issues are women's issues. But when we have talks, quite frankly, about transvaginal probes and abortion rights and women, you know, putting aspirin between their legs back in the day as birth control, discussions in the House by House Republicans about whether or not to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, questions about legitimate rape, you know, you have to sit back, and people will say, well, those are social issues.
BERNARDThey're not important. Women care about the economy. Well, social issues are important, and they are an economic issue. And every -- there is no American woman in her right mind who couldn't sit back and say to themselves, we thought these issues were behind us 30 years ago, you know?
REHMExactly. To Fall River, Mass. Good morning, Carol.
CAROLGood morning. How are you, Diane?
REHMI'm fine, thank you. Go right ahead.
CAROLThanks. Well, I am from Fall River, which is the home of E.J. Dionne, and I've never had the pleasure of speaking to him. But I'm very impressed with your show. I listen religiously.
REHMI'm so glad.
CAROLI'm a little emotional. I'm so ecstatic because of the victory. Number one, I was a little bit cynical about the youth factor. I thought perhaps the young people were, due to the obvious reasons, turned off, but they came through. And maybe Mr. Thurber could understand my next point. When I listen to this, all the talking heads, et cetera, and then the dialogue -- I'm old enough to remember Richard Nixon.
CAROLAnd I remember thinking, as a young person, that his loss was the fact that he underestimated the American people. And I see -- I think Romney did the same thing. I think he sort of -- I just -- well, in the kid's jargon, I don't think he gut it. So I'll just hang up. And thank you so much.
REHMAll right. Thank you. Jim Thurber.
THURBERWell, Carol, I'm old enough to have worked for Hubert Humphrey who ran against Richard Nixon in 1968. And Humphrey's words really came out in this campaign in the sense that he said, you judge a society the way you treat the sick, the poor, the aged, children that cannot help themselves. That language explicitly was not stated, but that was behind what the President was saying.
THURBERWhereas the other candidate, Gov. Romney, said, well, it's really up to the rugged individualist. We need to have freedom. We have -- need to have deregulation. We need lower taxes. And everybody will be better. Well, we know that's not true. And Americans know that's not true. I think that there was overreach by Nixon obviously with campaign finance, dirty tricks, and other kinds of things. Obviously, I was disappointed. Humphrey lost by .01 percent.
REHMAnd one has to wonder why. But on the youth vote, Andy.
KOHUTWell, in point of fact, the youth vote turned a little bit on Obama. In 2008, 66 percent of the people under 30 voted for Obama, in the current election, just 59 percent. But that 59 percent is the highest rate that he achieved still of any of the age categories. But there is no question that there was some disillusionment among young people, especially young white people, with Barack Obama but not enough to not make the youth's vote a critical factor on his behalf.
REHMTo Pittsburgh, Pa., and to Donald. Hi there.
DONALDI'm Donald. Yes.
DONALDI have a comment to add on to a comment of one of your commentators a little while ago about stealth campaigning.
DONALDCouple of years ago, there was an organization formed, the name I can't remember. It was a bunch of businessmen, big businessmen, and they were Republicans and conservative-leaning. They launched a 40-state program, which succeeded in Pennsylvania, in trying to pass laws that would limit voting by the blacks and young people, environmentalists and women and Latinos. And they tried to do this to win this election. And this was a very, very successful thing that was done throughout the country. They didn't get everything, every state they wanted, but that's what they were trying to do.
THURBERYes, very briefly, what I meant by stealth campaigning, it wasn't illegal. It wasn't something that would -- you should be ashamed of. It was just very quiet, GOTV, get out to vote, microtargeting using electronic means, other means and people that are of the same kinds that they are talking to. By the way, one thing about this campaign is there was a great waste of money. This campaign will be...
THURBER…$6 billion this time probably. And that, you know, the Koch brothers and others just -- they should have put the money in a dumpster and burned it because these ads didn't have that much impact. In my opinion, we...
REHMBut nothing changes. Every time, every election...
THURBERIt gets worse.
REHM...it gets worse, and we keep saying the same thing about the money spent or wasted on these elections.
THURBERIt's wasted on the TV ads, in my opinion. It's not wasted, and it's very reasonably priced on the ground. You win on the ground in these things. And Obama had a ground game that was way ahead of Romney. He had 733 offices versus 328 nationally, the latest count. He had 70 over in Virginia with people lining up again to volunteer. Romney did not have that. He had about 26. So he won on the ground in my opinion.
REHMInteresting. Here's an email from Greg in New Hampshire, who says, "Please comment on the role that presidential subordinates play in the reelection. Do people look beyond the president to the vice president or Cabinet-level position in making their decisions? Paul Ryan virtually disappeared after his nomination." Michelle.
BERNARDYou know, my personal opinion is that it really just depends on who the candidate is. So, for example, if we go back to 2008, there was a short period of time where Sarah Palin on the ticket gave John McCain a boost. But then her place on the ticket completely backfired and his campaign basically disintegrated. Paul Ryan doesn't seem to have really helped or hurt Mitt Ryan in -- Mitt Romney...
BERNARD...in any way. Joe Biden -- I believe Joe Biden and, quite frankly, former President Bill Clinton really helped Barack Obama particularly with white working-class males.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." What do you think about that, Andy?
KOHUTWell, with respect to Ryan, he graded -- vice presidents generally don't matter, and I don't think he mattered very much. But it's significant that Medicare was one -- was an issue that we thought was really going to matter a lot. It did not. The other issue that did not matter that much was the economy. I mean, people said the economy is the most important issue facing the country.
KOHUTBut when the exit polls -- pollsters asked, how much confidence do you have in Obama, how much confidence do you have in Romney, it was tie. So we didn't see what we thought we would see the power of the economy as an issue to change votes away from Obama to a large extent, and Medicare did not help the Democrats as we thought it might be cause.
THURBERThis is the first president since FDR in 1936 that's been reelected with unemployment rates at this height. So the...
REHMAnd everybody said it could not happen.
THURBERYeah. Right. There are all kinds of statements like that. I disagree slightly here. I think Ryan did not disappear because it -- he became a bullet in the discussion about how tough the Republicans would be about Medicare, Medicaid shifting it back to the states and putting limits on spending. That's for the poor, that's for children and people were upset.
REHMAnd I have an email on Paul Ryan from Tim in Ann Arbor. He says, "Ryan will return to the House as chair of the Budget Committee. He also today will begin his run for president in the 2016 election and must surely be considered a frontrunner. Is it possible or likely he will see his advantage to his political future by taking a leadership role in working with the president and moderating House Republicans in negotiations on the array of fiscal issues, including the impending fiscal cliff?" Jim.
THURBERHe plays a leadership role right now. If the caller means will he moved to the middle and play a role to bring people together with the president and bring together what they agree on, I don't think that's going to happen. I think Ryan is today talking about how he's going to be running. And I there is going to be a civil war in the Republican Party between the far right, Ryan types, and the Jeb Bushes.
THURBERRemember the Bushes were not even mentioned in this election. They were too moderate. An endangered species in Washington is a moderate Republican. But if they wanted to reach out to these minority populations, they're going to have to be much moderate, come to the middle, and that civil war has started right now.
BERNARDI agree that there's going to be a civil war. But I'll tell you, in 2008, someone asked me, who do you think was going to be a vice president -- a presidential candidate on the Republican side in 2016? And I predicted Paul Ryan. It was interesting because back then, people said, who is Paul Ryan? I think Paul Ryan has a future. I think he will moderate his views on social issues.
BERNARDPaul Ryan, truth be told, was one of the only people that we had seen in the Republican Party, whether you agreed with his views or not, that was willing to have an honest discussion with the American public about issues that no one wanted to talk about. He was in no way timid talking about entitlement reform, and a lot of people found that refreshing. And I think if he moderates his views and if he wants to have a future at the highest level of American government, we will see him reach over the aisle and try to do something about the fiscal cliff.
REHMAnd that's the last word from Michelle Bernard, founder and president of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy. Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, and James Thurber, professor and director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, thank you all so much. Isn't it wonderful? The election is over. Thanks for listening, everybody.
THURBERThank you, Diane.
REHMI'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
What troubles at Twitter say about the state of social media -- and why one tech watcher argues this could transform the industry in positive ways.
Political analyst Norman Ornstein on control of Congress, the red wave that wasn't, and other lessons from the midterm elections.
At the end of the year Dr. Anthony Fauci will step down from his post as the nation's top infectious disease doctor. He talks to Diane about his 38 years on the job -- and what's next.