Your Turn, NH: Repitching the Republican Party’s big tent


Republicans across New Hampshire were handed stunning losses on Election Day. Democrats stomped all over us, but it didn’t have to be this way. Instead of focusing on jobs and the economy, several of our leaders ignored demographic and political realities, hijacked our conservative agenda and brought back many of the tired Republican battles of the 20th century.

Unsurprisingly, this focus on the past turned off voters hungry for a positive vision for New Hampshire’s future – voters who strongly supported us just two years ago. Put another way, Republicans have no one to blame but ourselves for this year’s Democratic wave.

The Republican Party faces an identity crisis. Al Cardenas, head of the American Conservative Union, is correct when he says, “Our party become too old, too white and too male and it needs to figure out how to catch up with the demographics of the country before it’s too late.”

In New Hampshire, Obama won women by 16 percent, while Romney only won men by 4 percent. Nationally, the Republican Party is experiencing similarly huge demographic problems. The math isn’t pretty. Ninety-three percent of African-Americans supported the President’s reelection bid, along with 71 percent of Hispanics and 73 percent of Asian-Americans. Among young voters, Obama won by 23 percent. Among the middle-aged, he won by 7 percent. Romney managed to win among the elderly nationwide, but in New Hampshire he lost senior citizens by 10 percent.

Romney led in the small towns by 14 percent, but they constitute only 8 percent of the electorate. Meanwhile, Obama and Romney tied in the suburbs and Obama cleaned up in the cities, which represent a third of the electorate. Looking deeper into the data, we find that among self-identified gay and lesbian voters, Obama won 75 percent support, actually improving on his 2008 margin against McCain by a few points. In real terms, that translates to 4 or 5 million extra votes for Obama nationwide, which is greater than his current lead in the popular vote. As bad as the demographic problems were this year for the GOP, they will get worse every year that we don’t adapt.

Our party is also out-of-step on the policy side. Aside from the normal partisan sparring over abortion policies, some Republicans took the culture war to a new level by picking a fight over birth control, which some seemed surprised to learn is very important to women (and men). The Akins and Mourdocks of the world aren’t helping. And why did contraception, of all things, become the signature battle over Obamacare, while Medicare reductions, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, and increased taxes on medical devices were largely ignored?

As for the freedom to marry, we believe that it is inevitable nationwide and here to stay in New Hampshire. The law is wildly popular, with near-universal support among independents and Democrats and near-majority support among Granite State Republicans. Gay marriage supporters swept all four states where it was on the ballot in 2012. It’s time for all Republicans to start treating gays and lesbians with respect in the public square and work to give them equality under the law.

The GOP is falling behind the voters on an array of other issues too. This is true for immigration policies in particular, but also for energy and education reform, where we have clear opportunities to lead.

Here in New Hampshire, let’s learn from these mistakes and start solving our immediate problems in Concord. New Hampshire has $5 billion in unfunded pension liabilities with no clear solution to solve the shortfall; our business taxes are among the highest in the county; and our government debt is increasing at a rate that is far too high. Our students aren’t learning well enough, and we aren’t creating good jobs fast enough. With such large and immediate problems, it’s unclear to us how any New Hampshire Republican would have time left to think about anything else.

Every Republican has to ask himself if his work is growing the party or shrinking it. This state can’t afford a GOP civil war over who can be more anti-contraception, more anti-gay and more anti-immigrant. We need to be the party of big ideas that inspires more people to join us in an optimistic, engaging and broad coalition that solves the serious problems facing Granite Staters. And we have two years to prove to the voters that we mean it.

Sarah Crawford Stewart, a Republican consultant, is President of b-fresh consulting, llc. Tyler Deaton is a lobbyist and Secretary of the New Hampshire Young Republicans.