Having just lost an election, many Republicans are anxious to remake our party in the image of Democrats. The theory seems to be that whatever we're doing isn't working, so we better change everything.
But in fact, whatever Republicans did in 2012 -- other than an overly long primary fight -- worked amazingly well, given the circumstances.
In a detailed analysis of the 2012 election, William A. Galston, a fellow with the liberal Brookings Institution, makes a number of fascinating observations that Republicans would do well to consider before embracing amnesty, abortion, gay marriage and Beyonce.
In my analysis of his analysis, the single most important factor in the election was simply that Obama was an incumbent. As Galston notes, beating an incumbent president is a feat that has happened only five times since the turn of the last century. Republicans have done it only once.
On closer examination, in all these cases the incumbent president faced a primary challenge. In three of the five, the incumbent also had a third-party challenger in the general election.
-- In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt ran against incumbent William Howard Taft and, failing to win the Republican nomination, ran on a third-party "Bull Moose" ticket against him.
-- In 1932, President Herbert Hoover faced a number of primary opponents, including Calvin Coolidge and John Blaine (and it was also a few years into the Great Depression).
-- In 1976, Ronald Reagan nearly beat a never-elected incumbent, Gerald Ford, in the primary, losing narrowly on the convention floor, 1,070 to 1,187. (And Ford still almost pulled it out!)
-- In 1980, Teddy Kennedy ran a primary campaign against President Jimmy Carter all the way to the convention, and John Anderson ran as a liberal third-party candidate in the general election.
-- In 1992, Pat Buchanan ran against incumbent George H.W. Bush, winning an astounding 37 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary, and then Ross Perot ran a shockingly popular third-party campaign, winning 19 percent of the general election vote -- mostly, polls showed, from Bush.
The one time Republicans beat an incumbent was in 1980 when Reagan beat Carter. Not only was the economy in shambles, not only had Iranian savages been holding 52 American hostages for more than a year, but Carter was badly battered by these extra opponents. (And that's to say nothing of an amphibious rabbit assault!)
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