After Mitt Romney’s election defeat, I argued last week that the Republican Party should focus less on the social issues, where public opinion is turning against them, and more on limiting the role and size of government.
On The Daily Rundown on Wednesday, NBC News’ political director Chuck Todd backed up that assertion with exit poll data.
In most of the swing states that determined the outcome of the American presidential election, a majority of voters agrees that government should do less. The number was unusually high in Colorado, probably because the state also held a referendum on marijuana legalization on election day. Most Republicans opposed that measure although the libertarian wing of the party, which favors marijuana decriminalization, is gaining in numbers and in strength.
Voters who identify as either conservative or moderate far outnumber those who say to lean left in all of the swing states. In Iowa and Ohio, two states that Barack Obama won narrowly, even relatively more voters identify as conservative than nationwide.
With the exception of New Hampshire and Wisconsin, in all of the swing states more voters were also opposed to the president’s health reform law than in favor of it. Republicans argue that it poses an infringement on individual liberties because it forces Americans to buy health insurance.
Given these numbers, Todd was right to question whether Republicans “know how to message in these places.” The 2010 congressional elections showed that if Republicans run on small-government issues — restraining government spending, keeping taxes low, reducing the regulatory burden on businesses — they can win overwhelmingly. When they are associated with fringe positions on abortion and immigration, they lose critical constituencies which can tip an election in the Democrats’ favor even in areas that otherwise favor them.