Exit polls showed that an overwhelming majority of Latino and — and Asian-American voters — more than 70 percent of each group — voted to reelect President Barack Obama on Tuesday. Combined with black voters, who supported President Obama in even higher numbers, these voters of color were able to carry key states for the President and give him the big win over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. So, what inspired such a huge turnout? A lot of us predicted a lack of enthusiasm. We know the Romney campaign counted on us staying home.
This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features Democratic strategist and MSNBC contributor Karen Finney, Republican strategist Elroy Sailor, Deborah Simmons of “The Washington Times,” and Pennsylvania state senator Vincent Hughes.
MR. MARTIN: Welcome back.
As we said earlier, exit polls show that an overwhelming majority of Latino and – and Asian-American voters – more than 70 percent of each group – voted to reelect President Barack Obama on Tuesday. Combined with black voters, who supported President Obama in even higher numbers, these voters of color were able to carry key states for the President and give him the big win over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. So, what inspired such a huge turnout? A lot of us predicted a lack of enthusiasm. We know the Romney campaign counted on us staying home.
We’re talking about that with Democratic strategist and MSNBC contributor Karen Finney, Republican strategist Elroy Sailor, Deborah Simmons of “The Washington Times,” and Pennsylvania state senator Vincent Hughes.
[I’m] glad both of you guys figured out the pocket square thing.
MR. MARTIN: All right.
MS, KAREN FINNEY: Got the memo.
MR. MARTIN: This obviously was – was a very interesting week, obviously. Huge election. Mitt Romney’s campaign was absolutely stunned.
MS. FINNEY: Yeah.
MR. MARTIN: I mean it wa- – it was crazy. They had to cancel the fireworks. He had no concession speech planned. They even cancelled the credit cards that night to pay for cab rides going home.
MS. FINNEY: [Crosstalk. Chuckles.]
MR. MARTIN: And so what about the turnout and how the Obama campaign [was] really able to micro-target the voters down to literally the street they lived on.
MS. FINNEY: Yeah. You know, I’ll tell you one of the things that’s so interesting about this race. The Republican spin now is, oh, it was the spending on television ads and all these other things. Here’s the truth. We copied the Rove model – [chuckles] – after 2004. It’s part of what Howard Dean was building in 2005 that –
MR. MARTIN: That 50-state strategy.
MS. FINNEY: — was – the 50-state strategy – but also the sort of technological underpinnings that then – it was called “neighbor to neighbor” that then became the Obama strategy that they just blew out and basically understood that you have to reach voters where they are. You have to know exactly who they’re – who they are, what they care about and communicate with them on the issue that they care about. So, you need to understand what issue is it that’s going to get that person motivated to get out and vote. And you’ve got to have that constant communication.
And I[’ve] got to tell you. I mean, you know – you had Cornell on the show earlier. Earlier in the evening on Tuesday when I was talking with him, he – they pretty much knew they had it because they knew by Election Day who they had to reach, where those people were, and they knew when those people had been reached. So, they had a pretty good sense all along what was going on.
MR. MARTIN: Yeah, I read one story where the Romney campaign – they literally – they were quoted as saying, “How did they find folks in this county” – you know, “in this area of Florida? We never thought there were even Democrats there!” I mean that showed you how, with the details, they were able to – to really hone in on those critical voters. And, of course, they’re still counting in Florida, but they sa- — the O- — the President – they’ve already conceded. The President likely will come out with a 60, 70,000 vote advantage. Those small numbers? Honing in like that – that’s how you deliver.
MR. ELROY SAILOR: Well, I try to be a per- — person of optimism. Now, here’s how we make – Republicans can make lemonade out of lemons. What – [crosstalk] –
MR. MARTIN: Go buy some lemonade?
MR. SAILOR: [Chuckles.]
SEN. VINCENT HUGHES: They can’t afford it. Okay? [Chuckles.]
MR. SAILOR: What Republicans are going to have to do now is they’re going to have to realize that our policies cannot just be spoken and directed to white males. It’s going to create a better opportunity, I think, for African-Americans, Latinos, women and other coalitions. Here’s why. Because the Democrats ran a policy campaign that was – [unintelligible] – with specific issues that impacted those coalitions. Republicans ran a ca- — a po- — a campaign that was – [unintelligible] – of specific issues that impacted those coalitions as well. You can talk about healthcare reform at a national level. You can talk about the bailout at a national level, but there [were] no empowerment zones targeted to urban areas. There [were] no enterprise zones targeted to urban areas – on either side of the discussion. We did not have a[n] urban debate that was domestic policy-focused.
So, what’s going to happen now is you’re going to see Republicans saying, “Well, we have to win. Our party is shrinking. We have to talk to these demographics.”
Now, I hope that the Democrats don’t continue to take black folks and other minorities for grame- — granted and think they can continue in –
MS. DEBORAH SIMMONS: Again.
MR. SAILOR: — talking about those issues, but I think that’s the lemonade that comes out of lemon[s]. It’s going to force Republicans to start talking about these issues.
SEN. HUGHES: You know, I’ve been hearing this for 50 years. Okay? For 50 years – maybe even longer. The Republicans say, “We[’ve] got to do a better job of reaching out to black folks and Latino folks,” and I’ve been waiting for them to do this “better job.” They ignored them in the electorate.
I mean Brother Belcher said it very clearly. We had a very important, strategic document that was provided to us. It was called the Census! The people were there. We knew they were there. The Obama campaign perfected four years ago the ability to use technology to attach themselves and then connecting themselves to people all across the board.
Republicans have got to move in this direction because it’s best for the country. They’re captured now by the hard right. They[’ve] got a hold on them. All right? And they[’ve] got to kick these guys to the curb so that the country can move forward. That’s what’s going on right now.
That’s the trick you guys need to work on.
MS. FINNEY: But also – [crosstalk]- —
MS. SIMMONS: Well, no. [Crosstalk] –
MR. MARTIN: Deborah?
MS. SIMMONS: — wait a mi- — wait a minute. Wait a minute. I – first of all, I think the Republican Party needs to get rid of this “Gra-” – GOP thing – this “Grand Old Party. “Grand Old Party” of what? This is Two Thousand Twe- —
MR. MARTIN: It’s old!
MS. SIMMONS: — yeah –
MR. MARTIN: Old and –
MS. SIMMONS: — exactly.
MR. MARTIN: — white!
MS. SIMMONS: Exactly.
MS. SIMMONS: Here’s the –
MS. FINNEY: And – [crosstalk].
MS. SIMMONS: — thing. Here’s – here’s the thing. I mean we even had candidates running – Republicans running as “civil rights Republicans,” and I’m like, “What does that mean?”
MR. MARTIN: [Chuckles.]
MS. SIMMONS: Here – here’s – here’s the thing. President Obama and John Boehner are – because legislation on everything that needs to be done right now concerns a dollar bill, and those issues have to start in the House.
MR. MARTIN: Bu- — but here’s the deal, though.
MS. SIMMONS: And we talked about Obama has to pay attention to what he’s doing for the 40 million black folks in this country, and that’s the almighty dollar.
MR. MARTIN: Karen –
MS. FINNEY: Right.
MR. MARTIN: — Karen, I wanted to – first of all –
MS. SIMMONS: No matter –
MR. MARTIN: — when –
MS. SIMMONS: — how you slice it.
MR. MARTIN: — when we talk about this election –
MS. FINNEY: Yeah?
MR. MARTIN: — when you look at the ability to win, the Obama campaign also [was] very smart, I believe, in understanding what resonated in Colorado –
MS. FINNEY: Um-hum.
MR. MARTIN: — what resonated in Nevada –
MS. FINNEY: That’s right.
MR. MARTIN: — what resonated in Ohio, what resonated in Florida. And when you look at the fact that they only lost one of the battleground states –
MS. FINNEY: That’s right.
MR. MARTIN: — all that defense conversation Mitt Romney was having about spending 2 trillion more dollars did not win him Virginia.
MS. FINNEY: But also the point that Cornell made – that the dog-whistle politics and a lot of that hateful rhetoric didn’t work, and –
MR. MARTIN: Even now –
MS. FINNEY: — and –
MR. MARTIN: — they keep it up! “Oh, the” – “the” –
MS. FINNEY: “People just want free stuff!” [Chuckles.]
MR. MARTIN: — “the takers won.”
MS. FINNEY: [Chuckles.] Right.
MR. MARTIN: Did you see that fool Ted Nugent and Sean Hannity and then all –
MS. FINNEY: Right.
MR. MARTIN: — I mean the – it – it is as if they didn’t learn [from] what took place on Tuesday.
MS. FINNEY: Well – but here’s the thing. Now – this goes to your point. You’re actually – you’re wrong in terms – about the messaging. While it’s true that the broader, national messages weren’t necessarily targeted to communities, the whole point of micro targeting is that you micro target your message. So, in Colorado, it was a very targeted message to those voters about very specific issues. To African-American voters, a very targeted message – [crosstalk] –
MR. SAILOR: What [were] the messages –
MS. FINNEY: — so –
MR. SAILOR: — that [were] targeted –
MS. FINNEY: — so –
MR. SAILOR: — to the brothers in Detroit?
MS. FINNEY: — so a lot of the –
MS. SIMMONS: [Chuckles.]
MS. FINNEY: — broader messaging – there was – it was – again, I haven’t seen their data, but whatever they decided they needed to talk to those voters about – and I’ll tell you what. For women, who also increased our share of the electorate by 2 percent, this message about – you know, all this hateful “women aren’t smart enough to make their own decisions” kind of language – [unintelligible]- — it’s not just that – what Troy Ai- — Todd Akin said and what the others said, but really having respect for people. And I think also when the President talks about an America that works for everybody and a – a much more inclusive vision, I think that is part of what people also were wanting to hear.
MR. MARTIN: Hold – hold tight one second. We’re going to go to a break, and going to the break we’re going to actually play a sound bite from the President’s speech on Tuesday night.
When we come back, we’ll continue our roundtable. Here’s President Barack Obama Tuesday night in Chicago.
[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]
[LOUD CHEERING, APPLAUSE.]
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: I believe we can seize this future together, because we are not as divided as our politics suggest. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America!
PRES. OBAMA: And together, with your help and God’s grace, we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on earth.
Thank you, America. God bless you.
PRES. OBAMA: God bless these United States.