Mitt Romney isn’t the only Republican trying to puzzle out President Obama’s victory. An internal memo from the RNC credited an array of factors with boosting the president’s re-election, including demographic changes and lingering resentment of George W. Bush.
The memo, which was obtained by NBC News and reportedly presented to Republican senators this week, uses the same exit poll data available to the major news outlet and other subscribers to the data set. And its conclusions are mostly in line with party strategist’s assessments from both sides.
The most fundamental factor behind Obama’s win: “Demographic change is real,” as the report puts it. The memo estimates 3 in 10 voters will be minorities in 2016, up from 28% in 2012, a proportion that was much higher than what Romney pollsters claim they expected on Election Day.
In a section titled “What Happened?” the memo pointed to high turnout in swing states, especially among young voters, Latinos, and African Americans, as a decisive blow. In Florida, for example, it noted that “238,000 more Hispanic voters participated than in 2008 and Obama got 60% of Hispanics.”
Other stats the memo highlighted: more voters blamed Bush for the economy’s struggles than Obama by a 15-point margin and Obama was seen as strong on middle class issues. The memo also suggested Obama received a “bump” from his response to Hurricane Sandy, noting that 42% of voters in exit polls said it was an important factor in their vote.
The memo contained no policy judgments, however, avoiding explanations for the loss such as Romney’s hypothesis that “gifts” to various demographic groups helped put Obama over the top.
A spokeswoman for the RNC, Kirsten Kukowski, told TPM that the report was presented only as a first step towards understanding the election and was not meant to be taken as an authoritative account of Obama’s victory.
“As a committee, we’re going to talk to every group we can find, focus group, poll and go into a thorough review of what these numbers mean,” Kukowski said.
As for recommendations, the memo primarily suggested more detailed assessments of how the Republican ground game performed and what lessons could be drawn from Obama’s successful turnout operation.
This post has been updated.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.