For several weeks, politicians and pundits from the beltway to newsrooms have analyzed the results and implications of this historic election. While some make valid points, few have articulated the real reasons why Republicans didn't fare as well as they hoped. Even fewer have given a direction for what it takes to be successful going forward.
Working on both the Mitt Romney campaign as his national coalitions director and the Rick Santorum campaign as his national campaign manager, perhaps I have a unique perspective. As a coach on the field understands better than an announcer in the booth why his team lost, the same applies in politics.
For the past decade, our country has been in a political flux, with the partisan pendulum swinging sharply from the left to right election after election. Nov. 6 looked to be a culmination of this with Republicans coming off a very successful midterm election in 2010 and a President who remained unpopular.
We were greatly mistaken. As the millions spent on the airwaves by both parties in critical swing states became white noise and each candidate made his own mistakes throughout the race, it is clear that this election was won on the strength of a superior ground operation.
While Republicans became overconfident from their successes in the last midterm, Democrats buckled down immediately and began to identify their voters. To those saying the GOP must water down and moderate its platform, let us remember that not once did those on the political left moderate their policies. Rather, they began by systematically revving up each section of their base.
To name a few, Democrats pandered to unions through the political theater in Wisconsin. They put in play the class warfare card by calling for the end of the Bush-era tax cuts, then encouraged environmentalists by blocking the Keystone XL pipeline. Finally they created the fictitious "war on women." One by one, they appeased those most likely to pull the lever in favor of President Obama's second term.
Their grassroots army, Organizing for America (OFA), then immediately began identifying these individuals by working with local parties in competitive states Democrats knew they needed to win. In a swing state, it was not uncommon for a voter who likely supported the President to have been contacted by a member of OFA multiple times even before April. By contrast, Republicans were months out from even setting up GOP Victory offices in these same states, let alone implementing identification programs. Pro-Republican Super PACs, our party and many of our candidates were more interested in placing ads on the air than getting boots on the ground.
Democrats also implemented an impressive operation to register new voters. In New Hampshire, I know of an unregistered young man in his 20s who bought a home in September. In October, he was greeted at his door by an OFA staffer who called him by name, told him he fit their criteria as a possible Democratic Party voter, and asked him what they could do to help him register. As expected, OFA then followed up several times before Election Day.
We all know how this story ends: with the President winning every swing state other than the two he never should have won in 2008. After digging deeper, we Republicans lost seats in the Senate, and other than a few House seats redrawn in our favor we didn't win any truly competitive House races.
As we approach another mid-term election, the pundits have been quick to say 2014 should be a historically successful year for Republicans. This might be true. However, if we as a party do not embrace the importance of building solid grassroots operations state by state, targeting voters based on our issues, and creating new voter recruitment plans, we could likely wake up on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014 very disappointed.
While Republicans must move forward, we need to learn from 2012 just as the Democrats learned from 2010. If we don't, we have only ourselves to blame.
Mike Biundo of Manchester was Rick Santorum's national campaign manager in the 2012 Republican presidential primary. In the general election he worked as national coalitions director for Mitt Romney's campaign.