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Bursting the Republicans' bubble

Republican supporters battle to come to terms with US election result, blaming Storm Sandy for Mitt Romney's defeat.
Last modified: 9 Nov 2012 18:07

Several days after the US election, some Republicans are still struggling to accept the result. 

The disappointment of defeat has been made greater by the assumption of victory. They believed the pollsters who told them they were going to win. They lapped it up when their candidate said on Tuesday that he had only written one speech. They were certain that everything that needed to break for them would, and that Mitt Romney would be the 45th President of the United States. 

Part of the problem for Republicans is their access to information. 

So many believe that the media in the US is biased against them – dubbed the 'lamestream' media by the darling of the right, Sarah Palin – that they turn to right-wing news channels and blogs and radio commentators. 

In these places, their assumptions are not challenged, alternative views are rarely advanced, instead they find comfort in the affirmation and repetition of the things they themselves believe. 

This has become known as the 'right-wing bubble'. 

Here, as the polls before the election continued to show Romney behind, commentator after commentator criticised the figures. 

They claimed that Democrats had been oversampled. They alleged that as Republicans were more likely to be in work, then they would not be at home when the pollsters called. They convinced themselves that Romney supporters were more likely to turn out on the day. 

And they would constantly quote the right-leaning poll which always gave Romney an advantage to show the other polls were wrong. 

Breaking the momentum 

On the night of the election in the convention centre in Boston where the Romney team planned to hold its celebration, I spoke to a number of Republicans who simply could not believe the results. At first they thought there must be something wrong, but then as the reality hit, they thought they knew why Romney had lost. 

"Hurricane Sandy," they told me "stopped Mitt's momentum". It's been a refrain which has been picked up over the last few days. 

Hailey Barbour, a respected figure in the Republican movement and a former governor, went on TV and proclaimed "Hurricane Sandy saved Barack Obama’s presidency". 

Karl Rove – one of George W Bush's key advisors and a man who raised hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy donors to help Romney's campaign, said: "If you hadn't had the storm there would have been more of a chance for the Romney campaign to talk about the deficit, the debt, the economy."

At a breakfast for some of his biggest donors on the morning after the election, Romney himself suggested Sandy stunted his momentum. 

Ipsos/Reuters, the most consistent poll throughout the election campaign, had Obama ahead throughout the campaign. It showed there was no real Romney surge, even after the first debate, and there was no suggestion of an Obama bump after the storm.  

In the days after the election, there has been a tendency among Republicans to ignore the result. One commentator on Fox News suggested Obama's win was a message for him to change course. 

John Boehner, the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, said in his morning after news conference that he expected the president to cut tax rates and simplify the tax code. He essentially argued that the Romney tax plan should be implemented. 

The reality is if you do not win you don't get to introduce your ideas.

If the Republicans continue to believe that they lost simply because of the hurricane, if that narrative is repeated in all the usual places, the party will fail to learn the lessons of the 2012 election.   

Exit polls say the party is too white, too male and too old to appeal to a modern America.   

They have to confront the real issues of their loss, and they have to burst the right-wing bubble to do it. 

If they continue to believe the approach in four years should be the same ideas and policies, but with the hope of better weather,  they are almost doomed to repeat the experience of this election.