To Win a Case, You Have to Argue It First

Predictably, some Republicans declared before 11 p.m. on election night 2012 that the party simply must lay off those nasty divisive social issues. For thirty years, after every serious Republican setback, I’ve heard the same thing. What the complainers refuse to see is that the major GOP candidates DID lay off those issues this year. The Democrats didn’t.

I emerged yesterday from four months’ employment with the New Hampshire Republican State Committee. They took a chance on me, an “undeclared” Republican-leaning voter, and put me to work.  I knew this was not a year to be on the sidelines. I accepted the fact that the message from both the presidential and gubernatorial Republican campaigns was going to be resolutely economic. At no point in my employment was there any confusion about that. The “social issues,” however compelling, were to be downplayed. In New Hampshire, the results are before us. Four days ago, New Hampshire voters chose Democrat Maggie Hassan to be the next governor, spurning Ovide Lamontagne. Democrats now hold a majority in the New Hampshire House. A recount is pending that will likely result in a Senate split right down the middle. [Note: the final tally is a 13-11 GOP majority.] Nationally, the president responsible for the HHS mandate has been re-elected.

Ironically, a Democratic gubernatorial nominee who opposes any regulation of abortion managed to persuade voters that the pro-life Republican nominee was too “extreme,” while the Republican declined to address that as he kept concentrating on jobs and the economy.

There’s a case to be made that Hassan is the one who is dangerously extreme: opposed to parental involvement in an adolescent girl’s decision to abort; in favor of unrestricted abortion at any stage of pregnancy; opposed to gathering morbidity and mortality information on post-abortive women. There’s also a case to be made, locally as well as nationally, for keeping contraception a private choice without compelling other people to pay for it. Extremism reposes in the Obamacare policy that calls contraception “preventive care.”

But first, a candidate has to want to make the case, and then learn to do so effectively to persuade uncommitted voters, just as pro-life voters need to make the case neighbor-to-neighbor. Dismissing these matters as irrelevant “distractions” leads to results like Tuesday’s. We apparently have to learn this anew every few years.

Someone remarked to me the other day that Hassan won because she came across during the campaign as another John Lynch: inoffensive, likable, unthreatening. Let’s see how likable she is when the new Democratic majority in Concord tries to repeal parental notification, which I believe they will do as early as possible next year. The Republicans have yet to choose a minority leader (Speaker O’Brien, while re-elected to his House seat, doesn’t want the job), who will decide if and how a repeal effort should be handled. Not as a distraction, I trust.

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