Mitt Romney said Wednesday that his loss to President Barack Obama last week was due in large part to his rival’s strategy of giving “gifts” during his first term to three groups that were pivotal in the results of last week’s election: African-Americans, Latinos and young voters.
“The Obama campaign was following the old playbook of giving a lot of stuff to groups that they hoped they could get to vote for them and be motivated to go out to the polls, specifically the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people,” Romney told hundreds of donors during a conference call Wednesday. “In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups.”
Romney’s frank analysis echoed his secretly taped comments at a May fundraiser, where he told a small group of donors that 47 percent of the electorate was unlikely to vote for him because they paid no income taxes and were dependent on government. It followed his running mate Paul Ryan’s assertion that Obama’s win stemmed from turnout among “urban” voters.
Both were at odds with the election results; Obama won several key states without large cities or minority populations, among other things. And he did so in part by asserting that it was Romney who was planning to disburse gifts – by virtue of a budget plan that would have delivered tax breaks that were heavily skewed toward the wealthy.
The Los Angeles Times listened in to the Wednesday call, but Romney did not appear to be aware of the presence of reporters.
Young voters, Romney said, were motivated by the administration’s plan for partial forgiveness of college loan interest, the extension of health coverage for students up to age 26 on their parents’ insurance plans, and free contraception coverage under Obama’s health care plan, which he credited with ushering greater numbers of college-age women into Obama’s coalition.
The extended insurance coverage, in particular, was “a big gift to young people,” he said, noting that they turned out as a “larger share in this election even than in 2008.”
Romney said the Obama health care plan’s promise of coverage “in perpetuity” was behind the intensity of support for the president among African-American voters making $25,000 to $35,000, as well as Hispanic voters:
“With regards to African-American voters, Obamacare was a huge plus – and was highly motivational to African-American voters. You can imagine for somebody making $25- , or $30- , or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care – particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care for, what, $10,000 a family, in perpetuity, I mean this is huge. Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus.”
Pivoting to immigration, Romney said the Obama campaign’s efforts to paint him as “anti-immigrant” had been effective and that the administration’s promise to offer what he called “amnesty” to the children of illegal immigrants had helped turn out Latino voters in record numbers.
“With regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for the children of illegals – the so-called ‘DREAM Act’ kids – was a huge plus for that voting group,” he said. “On the negative side, of course, they always characterized us as being anti-immigrant, being tough on illegal immigration and so forth, so that was very effective with that group.
“The president’s campaign,” he said, “focused on giving targeted groups a big gift – so he made a big effort on small things. Those small things, by the way, add up to trillions of dollars.”
Romney’s analysis that voters had essentially been persuaded by financial benefit to vote for Obama pushed aside criticisms of his own campaign. Analysts who have studied the vote, for example, have given credit to Obama’s massive get-out-the-vote effort, which dwarfed its Republican counterpart.
Polls and interviews also suggested that, in part, those voters were driven to Obama by the Republican’s conservative positions on issues such as immigration, abortion and the role of government. Among African-American voters, too, pride in the nation’s first black president was a key element.
The Romney call came on the same day Obama told questioners at a press conference in Washington that he hoped to talk to his Republican opponent before the end of the year about ways they could work together.
The Wednesday donor call was organized by Romney’s finance team and included a final rundown of fundraising efforts as well as an analysis by Romney pollster Neil Newhouse, who has been criticized by some Republicans for misleading the candidate about his chances.
“I am very sorry that we didn’t win,” Romney told the donors. “I know that you expected to win. We expected to win. It was very close, but close doesn’t count in this business.”