Jindal Quickly Rejects Romney’s Claim Obama Won because of Free Stuff “Gifts” to Key Constituencies (UPDATE 3)

Call it a quick slapdown — and an indication of a likely split within the Republican Party between those who want to continue to use the rhetoric used in the 2012 Presidential election and those who feel it’s time for a major change.

Yesterday defeated Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney got much attention and raised some eyebrows by basically re-affirming what he said in the (in)famous 47% video: he claimed that the reason Barack Obama was re-elected was because Obama offered “gifts” to key constituencies which Romney essentially said were women, minorities and young people. There was little in Romney’s interview that indicated a deeper analysis of why the Republican Party lost or any suggestion that Romney or the GOP erred in the Presidential campaign, its execution or strategy.

This was a re-stating of Romney’s comments during the campaign and a narrative by many conservative new and old media critics who’ve repeated “free stuff” as a mantra — precisely the kind of demonizing and dissing of segments of voters perceived to be wary of the GOP for a host of other non-free-stuff reasons. The suggestion: part of America (those who support Republicans) are successful and producers, and those who don’t (those who support Democrats) are unsuccessful and moochers. Many — including many Republicans — now believe this kind of approach will be political poison for the Republican Party which needs to try to appeal to and woo potential constituencies, not insult or belittle them.

One of the key Republican figures who moved swiftly to distance himself from Romney’s analysis and try and distance the GOP from Romney’s dismissive remarks is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who many believe has 2016 political aspirations of his own:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal forcefully rejected Mitt Romney’s claim that he lost because of President Barack Obama’s “gifts” to minorities and young voters.

Asked about the failed GOP nominee’s reported comments on a conference call with donors earlier Wednesday, the incoming chairman of the Republican Governors Association became visibly agitated.

“Visibily agitated” is a sign that some GOPers really want to move on and start to expand the party’s coalition not berate or belittle those that didn’t vote for Mitt Romney:

“No, I think that’s absolutely wrong,” he said at a press conference that opened the RGA’s post-election meeting here. “Two points on that: One, we have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent. We need to go after every single vote.

“And, secondly, we need to continue to show how our policies help every voter out there achieve the American Dream, which is to be in the middle class, which is to be able to give their children an opportunity to be able to get a great education. … So, I absolutely reject that notion, that description. I think that’s absolutely wrong.”

He reiterated the points for emphasis.

“I don’t think that represents where we are as a party and where we’re going as a party,” he said. “That has got to be one of the most fundamental takeaways from this election: If we’re going to continue to be a competitive party and win elections on the national stage and continue to fight for our conservative principles, we need two messages to get out loudly and clearly: One, we are fighting for 100 percent of the votes, and secondly, our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream. Period. No exceptions.”

What Jindal says is not political rocket science. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Dick Morris may not agree with his blunt comments, but serious analysts such as University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato and other thoughtful versus talk radio type analysts share Jindal’s view of the GOP: if it wants to thrive and even survive nationally, it must expand its tent and compete to get more voters inside its tent. And that is not offering “gifts” but making the case that Republicans are their friends and can offer policies relevant to their dreams and lives.

How wrong did Jindal seemingly find Romney’s comments. THIS WRONG:

Then, without prompting, Jindal circled back to the topic as the press conference wrapped up.

Considered a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, he blamed Romney’s defeat last week on his failure to outline a vision for where he wanted to take the country.

“Gov. Romney’s an honorable person that needs to be thanked for his many years of public service, but his campaign was largely about his biography and his experience,” he said. “And it’s a very impressive biography and very impressive set of experiences. But time and time again, biography and experience is not enough to win an election. You have to have a vision. You have to connect your policies to the aspirations of the American people. I don’t think the campaign did that, and as a result this became a contest between personalities. And you know what? Chicago won that.”

And, on this issue, many (including many Republicans) will conclude Jindal won this argument.

UPDATED: Hot Air’s Allahpundit:

That’s the sound of a man who’s running in 2016 and who has a better ear than Mitt Romney for how to talk to middle-class voters. If you buy the makers-versus-takers clientelism explanation, the GOP really might as well not field candidates in national elections going forward. In an age of fiscal crisis, it’ll never keep deficit hawks in the party fold by trying to out-”gift” Democrats; either the party will fracture or the crisis will hit and there won’t be any money for “gifts” anyway. There are three big reasons why Romney lost, I think, and none of them are about gifts. First, people just … didn’t like him that much. His favorable numbers improved towards the end after the Denver debate, but at best he was at rough parity with Obama…

….Second, he got out-organized — badly. We’ve been over this already to some extent in wallowing over how ORCA failed and how Romney’s pollsters misread the electorate, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. Every day for the past week, some dispiriting new news story has appeared describing how Obama’s campaign team was doing something smarter or cheaper or more efficiently(!) than Mitt’s team. Here’s a NYT piece about Team O developing its own data-driven TV ratings system based on political leanings (“the Optimizer”) so that it could make more targeted ad buys. Here’s one about Team O hiring a “dream team” of behavioral scientists to help them figure out little things they could do that might encourage irregular voters to actually go down to the polling place. (Yes, it’s a little creepy.) Here’s one about Obama’s Super PAC using online media to maximize the number of views its videos got at a fraction of the cost Republican groups incurred to air their stuff on traditional media. I almost prefer to think that the election result was a demographic fait accompli because that hurts less than thinking Team Mitt and conservative groups might have left a winning margin out on the field simply because they didn’t know how to leverage it into turnout.

Third, I’m echoing other conservative writers in saying this — Ramesh Ponnuru, Ross Douthat, and Reihan Salam, for starters — but the GOP needs a more dynamic pitch to working families, a.k.a. the middle class. That’s what Jindal’s rejection of Romney is all about. “Class” talk tends to make righties nervous for good reason; coming from the left, it’s almost always a prelude to calls for redistribution. But it’s a useful way to define people whose lives are consumed with familiar problems of everyday life — work, pay, debt, tuition, gas prices. Address those basic concerns and they’ll pay attention. Besides, if the GOP is doomed under normal demographic metrics like race and gender, then it urgently needs to try to reshape how voters define themselves. Emphasize the middle class and you can compete across demographics that might otherwise view you coolly.

UPDATE II: John Avlon on Romney:

Romney’s comments about his opponent’s “old playbook,” as he called it, again revived a dystopian scenario conservatives have been warning about since the New Deal, where Democrats “buy” a permanent majority and undermine democracy at the cost of the productive class. Using this old myth to explain his defeat illustrates again Romney’s disconnect from modern America. He views growing groups—young voters and particularly young women, and Hispanics—as outside special interests, and not as an essential part of the fabric of America.

And it shows the mind of a man who believes that everything is for sale—including, or especially, votes. This is consistent with what I always felt was the most accurate criticism of Romney: that he approached politics as a salesman, offering every group a different pitch. From that perspective, it’s easy to see how he could complain about government as a competing salesman, cobbling together constituencies with “gifts”—which sound perilously close to “bribes” in this context.

A final point: President Obama backing the DREAM Act or contraception coverage is not a nakedly political gesture, it is a matter of policy difference. Addressing the needs and desires of people is not a bribe or a government gift to be exchanged for a vote. It is part of the purpose of representative government as conservative forefather Edmund Burke himself once envisioned: “Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom.”

Romney’s distance from this perspective about government shows how far the conservative conversation has drifted from original principles. His impulse to rationalize defeat as victory for liberal special-interest bribery shows again that it is probably best for the country that he was not elected president this November.


NOTE: There was an error in the first version of this post that has since been corrected. We regret the error.

UPDATE III: NBC’s First Read puts this perfectly into perspective and doesn’t mince words:

*** Why Romney’s “gifts” explanation is laughable: When you think about it, Romney’s explanation for Obama’s victory is laughable — the president won because he successfully delivered to his voters. Isn’t that what politicians and presidents are supposed to do? In addition, Romney’s “gifts” rationale doesn’t explain why he lost Iowa, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin, states with older and whiter populations. What’s particularly striking here: Jindal’s criticism. He was the first Republican to step up here, and it’s an easy brave moment if you’re an aspiring 2016er. A softball to hit out of the park. Romney, sounding more bitter than big in those comments, is giving plenty of aspiring Republican leaders to now use this moment to distinguish themselves from Romney. Watch for a bunch of folks on the GOP side to pile on actually.

20 Comments

  1. His comments on personality, although very astute & accurate, are also pointless. Aren’t presidential campaigns ALWAYS about personality in the end?

  2. With all due respect, I think we’re ready to get away from that to hear the voice of reason and vision.

  3. Read the comments to Allahpundit’s post and you see a small segment of the “don’t get it”. Many commmenters there still are latching on to this free stuff idea. What is this FREE STUFF?!!? Social security? That was earned. Food stamps? Free but based on income and many get on them due to lost jobs (and food’s rising cost not helping). But some want to keep harping on the “47% are moochers” idea. I followed Obama’s campaign fairly close. I didn’t hear any “you getting free stuff” talk. In fact, neither Obama or Romney went that route.

    That is SO alienating. A person receiving disability pay isn’t a moocher. They are an injured American that can’t work. Yes there is a percentage of criminal behavior in receiving government assistance. But that is small. Some of these “moocher hunters” act like they live on sprawling self-built compounds with their own manufacturing, farms, metal works, power plants, etc (aka “I don’t need anything”). What a joke.

  4. thanks T. “A person receiving disability pay isn’t a moocher. They are an injured American that can’t work.” Your facts meet your humanity.

  5. The election is over Mitt, you lost big time, we the Reps don’t want to hear your theories on social issues anymore. Move over, start a new business, or better yet a charity and do some good for mankind (see Bill Gates for advice), you are not helping us turn a new page.

  6. Do you mean there is a place for moderates? even moderate Republicans? Wouldn’t that be nice. Now, we can hurl belittling comments to what we think of Romney as a candidate, or what we think went wrong in the contest between the Reps and the Dems, OR, we can get on with how we can resurrect economic security, establish pragmatic national security, to include defense, and focus on rebuilding a woefully dilapidated infrastructure while we respenct the fundamental tenets of our Constitution. What will it be? Are we truly looking at the positive economic benefits from newly found oil and gas fields? Or are we going to expand a dependency state while placing the federal government in control of identifying who will and who won’t benefit in our nation? We really have let our anti-trust legislation lapse, and we are in danger of not having a technically proficient labor force. Lots to solve, and griping ain’t gonna do it.

  7. NBC’s First Read’s comment on this is so good that I’m adding it to this post, adding a graphic and putting it on top of TMV. Check back in a few minutes.

  8. “That is SO alienating. A person receiving disability pay isn’t a moocher.”

    As a point of order, T, Romney never made a reference to disability payments.
    However, you will recall that on the other blog we comment on, I made the observation 3 months ago that Romney is a terrible articulator, nowhere near the skillset a candidate for national elective office needs to possess.

    This is yet another classic example of his shortcoming. Of course Jindahl is correct…..the best way of “marketing” is to create a “pull marketing” campaign by emphasizing the positives of your “product”.

    Most people would baseline prefer to be in the mode of moving toward a postive vision or outcome for themselves rather than be in the mode of continually parsing out the negatives of the opposition’s ideology. The latter is the glory of the blogger, not the politician.

    The average person lacks the self-confidence to say “I relish the opportunity to take life on all by myself, because I know I will succeed best by being left to my own abilities.” The statist ideology is obviously a comforting thought to more and more people who do not possess the confidence to be a rugged individualist. So, attacking those comforts is hardly a postive sales technique.

  9. Hopefully Romneys’Insensitive and stupid remarks will fade into oblivion just as he will do. The only way he will be remembered in history is when people in this nation recall a time when our two parties were so divided on the issues they almost came to blows. “and it all began with a fellow named Mitt Romney in the great Obama election of 2012″.

  10. “…we need to continue to show how our policies help every voter out there achieve the American Dream, which is to be in the middle class, which is to be able to give their children an opportunity to be able to get a great education.”

    Is that really all there is to it? To be in the middle class?

    I don’t think so. If you’re already in the middle class, what’s the dream then? To tread water? No. It is to move up a little more, and provide your kids a better opportunity than you had. I came from a working class background. We managed to move up into the middle class. My dad got to see his kids go to college…something he didn’t get to do.

    Social mobility is the thing, not the middle class. I don’t think for one second the GOP’s policies are aimed at helping the middle class, nor are they designed to help social mobility. They’re focused almost entirely upon the “job creators,” but not at all on the people who actually DO the jobs. “Small business” is put on a pedestal and held up as a shining example of what America is all about, but nary a word is said about the people who do the work that makes those businesses successful.

    Yes, it is great to have employers driving the economy, but if you do nothing to lift up the employees as well, you’re just making the middle class smaller and social mobility even less likely.

    This is something my dad understood well, and I owe my middle class life to that understanding. He ran a small manufacturing plant…the mighty “small business” that we hear about incessantly. He was successful, but not because he cut corners and drove his employees’ wages down. Quite the opposite. He treated his employees so well (and more importantly paid them well enough) that when union activists came in and tried to organize the shop, the employees literally kicked them out of the building.

    The plant was so successful – even in tough times – that other companies tried to recruit my dad. He was offered more money, sometimes even double what he was making, to leave. He refused every time, because he was loyal to the guy that owned the plant, and was even more fiercely loyal to his people.

    That’s not the kind of thing the GOP is encouraging. Their policies help the likes of Papa Johns, or Applebee’s, or the other companies who are threatening to fire people just because the election didn’t turn out like the boss wanted. They want to close small factories like the one my dad ran and ship those jobs overseas. What happens to the employees is not even on their radar. All they care about is that the investment firm which bought the factory makes a profit. It’s about the bottom line, not about people.

  11. Cjjack…well put!

  12. Great article. I also don’t buy the argument that Obama won because he promised us all a chicken in every pot/forty acres and a mule!

  13. The statist ideology is obviously a comforting thought to more and more people who do not possess the confidence to be a rugged individualist.

    Quite to the contrary, casual. A social safety net is *exactly* what encourages people to be the rugged individualists you speak of. Who will give up a dead-end or boring job that pays the bills to start a new business or follow their passions if the price for failure is utter ruin and homelessness for the person and their family? Pretending that everyone who voted for Obama and who wants a strong social safety net does so because a lack of individuality or fear of having to make it on one’s own strengths is quite frankly not just a misreading of the facts, but is pretty offensive to boot.

  14. CO.. And neither is attacking the “average” person, as you call it a “positive sales technique” That is what Mitt and his ilk do.

  15. CO, I see they are attacking the messenger, so let me add my shield to yous. I think i understand what you are saying, since I identify with being a statist and knowing plenty others Reps, Dems and Indies that are also. And, I really do admire the risk takers, garage geniuses, and those that stick there nose out of the box. I hope I haven’t misconstrued your words, that is just how I read them. Although I am a half-full kind of guy, maybe that’s why, cause I’m sure this isn’t a partisan squabble. :-)

  16. CO, I should have clarified that Romney didn’t say those words. I was referring to what I heard on some other blogs. :)

    Being in information technology and now self-employed, I’m deep into the rugged individualist mode. BUT, as mentioned, not everyone is cut out for that in modern society. Back in the day, you had NO choice or die. Today, technology has us much more comfortable and complacent. That being said, many of those non-rugged individualists are hard workers. And being called a “moocher” or the like because they voted for Obama is horribly insulting and completely out of touch. I like where Jindal is going. I’ve been saying for eons (LOL) that Republicans should go after EVERY demographic but leave words like “plantation”, “moocher”, etc out of the convo. Talk about what smaller government really means. Want to get rid of the US Dept of Education? Show how local control of schools will benefit blacks, Hispanics, etc. Break it down. Show and prove. That’s the way.

  17. Jindal gets it. Clearly many other republicans need to play catch up. T-Steel’s comments resonate for me.

  18. Jindal is seizing an opportunity to advance himself. Whether he is sincere only the god’s of politics no for sure. Either way, it, IMHO, it will help the Reps out of the stone age.

  19. This is a positive step forward towards a more inclusive GOP that seeks to better represent all Americans. The first step to solving a problem is admitting/recognizing there’s a problem to begin with.

    I’m with you T-Steel. To use your example, I’m not fundamentally opposed to the idea of the dissolution of the Dept of Ed. I tend to be a facts/proof guy though. I don’t want someone simply cutting the DoEd simply because they don’t LIKE big government. I want it done because it’s a great/better benefit to all of us to have local control (and I do tend to believe that local levels know what’s best since there are fewer degrees of separation). Departments and administrations were formed for a reason and it wasn’t, as a Ron Paul supporter might suggest, to usurp our liberty. Perhaps at this point we could have aggregated enough data to show that the return on investment of the DoEd is simply not worthwhile.

    All of that said, one who wants small government on the level that (as an example) Ron Paul desires must think about what kind of country we want to be. Are we going to be 50 (or 51?) disparate factions of states with wildly varied educational backgrounds? Or do we want national standards upon which we judge the effectiveness of educational programs? Where’s the check and balance on a state program that is deficient? How does one a) judge that and b) reprimand that state. Ideally it would be the constituents within that state, but with a failed education system (in this hypothetical) how can we expect them to know they can/should do that?

  20. I’ve seen too many instances when the “rugged individualist” has a few bad breaks and turns into a statist.
    Most countries in the civilized western world have a safety net, and ours is thinner than most.
    Yes a lot of people are getting government benefits-for a variety of reasons— one is that the economic meltdown and slow recovery created a lot of unemployment. One of the reasons we haven’t bounced back is that investors like the sure thing of outsourcing jobs where they have little regulation and where they can pay almost nothing. American workers cannot compete with their counterparts in China, Mexico and India.

    We used to have a society with secure well-paying jobs that even someone with a high school diploma could get. That world is disappearing– so should the answer be to taunt these people and blame them for mooching off the government?

    Did they cause the meltdown??

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