Newt Gingrich plans to spend six months in research to learn why Republicans lost so broadly in 2012 and what counter strategies may allow Republicans to regain the lead in American politics.

Newt says the 2012 problem was not Romney, but – broadly – the Republican Party. I agree. In micro, looking at Jeffco results, here’s why.

First Lesson

Voters did not distinguish between the Republicans on the ticketThey voted up or down on Republicans as a unit. 

Romney failed to win Jeffco, and Republicans lost at down-ticket levels in highly correlated fashion at the individual precinct level. Romney got 47.5% of the 2-party vote (excluding all minor candidates). Here are the correlations to Romney’s results:

  • CU Regent at-large = 99.0% correlated
  • State House (combined) = 94.6% correlated
  • County Commissioner 2 = 98.2% correlated

Interestingly, the State House candidates as a group had a lower correlation because two candidates broadly under-performed Romney, and those two were not key targets for either party.

Whatever the Republicans and Democrats did in 2012 in Jeffco, where they worked they achieved nearly identical results up and down the ticket. It is for that reason that Republican John Odom (an appointed but incumbent county commissioner) lost. Neither he nor his opponent raised any significant money; voters judged them only on the basis of their party.

John Odom is the canary in the minefield. He had done nothing wrong in his two years in office. He made no mistakes in his “below the radar” campaign. Yet he still lost. That verifies Gingrich’s belief that the 2012 “problem” was the Republican Party, not Mitt Romney. Odom, incidentally, earned 10,000 more votes in 2012 than our 2010 ticket leader (John Suthers) had earned in Jeffco.

Campaigns’ Impacts

This is why the Obama campaign created a new term for its target voters: switch voters. This isn’t the same as swing voters. They believed they could shift some voters from voting for Republicans to voting for Democrats, and keep the Republicans from reverse switching some voters. In past elections, Colorado often voted for a Democrat for governor and a Republican for US Senate in the same election. No more. Swing voters may be a thing of the past.

It isn’t that down-ticket Republicans ran bad campaigns in Jeffco. All three key State House candidates raised more than $100,000. They all wore out their shoes going door to door. None of them stuck their foot in their mouth. And – within fairly close parameters – they performed nearly the same as Romney did in their precincts. They were off, one way or the other on average, barely more than 400 votes. And – being down-ticket with resultant drop-off – they should have garnered fewer votes than Romney. Enstrom actually beat Romney’s totals in his precincts.

Voters appear to be voting more straight ticket ballots. To make Republicans the winning party, we must change the party’s image.