As the dust settles from the election results, one thing is clear: a lot of folks who used to call the shots have a lot less power than they did before voters had their say.
Mitt Romney tops the list, of course, but he’s hardly alone. Failure of the magnitude that conservatives suffered means years of having to rebuild reputations and regain power. It will be a long while before these ten losers find themselves commanding the same fawning attention from the media and their peers. In the meantime, they won’t have the clout that they used to, which is another noteworthy result from Election Day. Here’s a list of the biggest losers—and their 2013 comeback plans.
The Loss: Four years ago, Frank Schubert was the mastermind behind one of the worst anti-gay electoral victories ever: the defeat of marriage equality in California. This year, Schubert took the same campaign themes to four states—Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington—and suffered embarrassing defeats in all three.
He even recycled the same ads he used in 2008, promising voters that a vote against marriage equality didn’t make them homophobes (although it didn’t mean they weren’t, either), a tactic we suspect was designed because Schubert himself has an openly lesbian sister. To no avail. Schubert blew through $12.5 million dollars and a good portion of his bogus reputation as a brilliant political strategist. Joining him with a well-earned spot on the marriage equality loser list is Maggie Gallagher and her elves at NOM.
The Redemption: Marriage equality will likely be on ballots for years to come, so Schubert will recycle his ads for a while longer. There will always be ant-gay zillionaires ready to throw him some cash. He may even do better in off-year elections, when younger voters don’t turn out with the same force they do in presidential years. But given demographic realities, Schubert’s best hope is finding a way to grant immortality to the shrinking ranks of religious right voters.
The Loss: The Florida congressman is a favorite of the Tea Party, which meant that he was prone to outrageous—even nonsensical—statements. West was the guy who compared being gay to ice cream and scooter riding in a single metaphoric meltdown. He also called the gay community “intolerable,” which is pretty rich from someone who said he “heard” that 80 Democrats in Congress were card-carrying Communists.
The Redemption: West lost reelection by just a few thousand votes, so he may try again in 2014, unless he gets sidetracked by a rich gig speaking inanities to other true believers.
The Loss: There’s a lot of competition for the title of Biggest Loser. At least from a financial perspective, Karl Rove can’t be beat. The man who exploited anti-gay sentiment to get George W. Bush reelected lost some serious cash for some very rich conservatives used to a good return on investment.
His super PACs, Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads, spent $170 million on campaigns. Only 13% of all of that money resulted in a winner, giving Rove the distinction of the man who spent the most money for the worst results in 2012.
Coupled with his implosion on live TV on election night, it will be a long time before Rove regains his luster as the political wizard who oversaw George W. Bush’s reelection—if ever.
The Redemption: Rove still has the ability to rake in beaucoup bucks for his super PACs. Plus, he has an unswerving commitment to rewriting history in his favor, so in a few years Rove will likely be citing 2012 as the pinnacle of his success.
The Loss: The somewhat openly gay co-founder of PayPal and Facebook billionaire almost single-handedly underwrote the Ron Paul campaign, dropping more than $2.7 million on the loony libertarian’s quixotic campaign. But Thiel wasn’t content to let his losses rest there. He ponied up an additional $2 million for the Club for Growth Action super PAC, which spent millions on Tea Party candidates, many of the decidedly anti-gay variety.
Thiel is reportedly angered by the president’s reelection, musing openly about leaving the country to avoid what might be a tax hike for the wealthy next year. (No wonder he once questioned women’s suffrage: They voted 56 percent for Obama.) One would think he’d be honored to pay his share of taxes in a country that that venerates entrepreneurs and made his extreme wealth possible, but nooooo.
The Redemption: Thiel views his campaign contributions as a long-term investment, saying that he’s looking to the 2016 cycle (when the demographic trends among voters will be even more challenging for Republicans). Let’s hope he has as much luck then as he did this year.
The Loss: During the year-long run up to Election Day, no one held more sway over the GOP than Rush Limbaugh. Even conservative columnist George Will said the party leadership was afraid of Rush. After election day, probably not so much. Rush’s bluster didn’t deliver new votes, despite his apocalyptic claim that an Obama win would mean the end of the Republican party (we should live so long).
Instead, Rush is franticly backpedalling. Influence? What influence? He’s just a poor radio host who shouldn’t be blamed for the party’s crushing losses. Rush may not be able to duck blame for the losses, but he may have the influence part right. He’ll be likely to have a lot less of it.
Limbaugh is an entertainer (e.g., a clown), so the more outrageous he is, the more money he makes. Four more years of Obama may have him foaming at the mouth all the way to the bank.
The Loss: He of the sweater vest and man-on-dog analogy, the darling of religious conservatives, the bane of Mitt Romney, hoped to clinch the nomination early. But he’s a truly lousy campaigner who couldn’t lick a stamp, let alone Romney.
Santorum’s entire campaign was embarrassing in its ineptitude, so much so that he made Romney look good, which was no mean feat. Among the highlights of the Santorum campaign: the introduction of a 1950s view of contraception as a campaign issue, the revelation that reading JFK’s speech about separation of church and state made Rick want to throw up, and musings about abolishing public schools. And let’s not forget the time Santorum used a public forum to insult a gay soldier serving in Iraq. The only thing Rick was good for was as the Dan Savage Full Employment Agency.
The Redemption: Santorum may have left the longest-lasting (and worst) legacy from the 2012 campaign: he cemented the dangerous relationship between the Catholic Church hierarchy and the religious right. Apparently, that’s enough for Rick to believe he can still get into the White House without taking a tour. He recently said that he’s “open” to a run in 2016, which will no doubt gladden the hearts of conservative Christians and dismay the party establishment.
Bob Vander Plaats
The Loss: Just a year ago, Bob Vander Plaats was savoring his power over the GOP presidential field (which was really more of an abandoned lot). As head of The Family Leader, Vander Plaats was the most prominent religious right leader in the crucial caucus state. Vander Plaats reputation was built on his successful effort in 2010 to oust three of the seven state Supreme Court justices who approved marriage equality.
This time out, Vander Plaats flopped. David Wiggins retained his seat on the court, despite Vander Plaats’ efforts. Coupled with Obama’s win in Iowa, the loss means Vander Plaats and the religious right in the state have a lot less sway at the ballot box than they used to.
The Redemption: With its early caucus, Iowa will still play a big role in the 2016 presidential primary season. Republican candidates will be scrambling for any votes they can get, so they’ll still be treading carefully around Vander Plaats, even with his diminished stature.
The Loss: The son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham was pulling hard for a Romney win on election night. The elder Graham’s endorsement of Romney had sanctified the candidate for religious conservatives wary of Romney’s Mormonism. Franklin clearly wants to assume his father’s old role as preacher to presidents, but that won’t be happening with Obama in the White House. Perhaps that’s why Franklin insists Obama won because the “majority of Christians” didn’t vote.
Putting aside Graham’s definition of Christian, the statement is just flat wrong. Turnout was the same as 2008, but Graham’s followers don’t carry the same weight as they once did.
Franklin could take a page from his Dad’s book. Billy Graham says that one of the things he wishes he had done differently was to have “steered clear of politics.” Words for preachers to live by.
The Loss: As anyone who follows him knows, Bryan Fischer is impervious to reality, so it’s hard to know whether he recognizes how much power he squandered on election day. Sure, he’ll still get some powerful politicians on his radio talk show to make absolutely off-the-wall statements, because Fischer represents a key constituency in the GOP, the nutburger wing. But that wing took a big hit on Nov. 6.
The Redemption: Fischer is already positioning himself outside the party consensus on key issues, like immigration. GOP party leaders know that changing demographics mean they have to soften their stand on immigration, but Fischer is pushing for a clamp down “because Hispanics are socialist by nature.” Fischer may lose what little sway he has in the party, but he’ll always be the spokesperson for a particular fringe of it.
The Loss: Old Crazy Eyes did win re-election (barely), but she had to spend about $65 per vote to do so and pulled fewer voters than Romney did in her Minnesota district. That’s hardly a stellar accomplishment. Voters apparently felt that Bachmann is spending too much time in the national limelight and should be paying more attention to district issues.
Her abysmal performance in the Republican presidential primary didn’t help either. Probably nothing can stop Bachmann from making her usual nutty comments, but the national media may have decided her day is past and pay her less attention.
The Redemption: Bachmann could put her head down and actually focus on her constituents for a change. It would be a smart thing to do because the party is already looking for ways to block her future presidential plans. Bachmann’s big win in Iowa was at the Ames straw poll, which Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstadt now wants to abolish.
The Loss: They’re proudly gay and conservative and they’re also a bunch of losers (at least in electoral terms—you can extend it if you wish). GOProud rushed to embrace Mitt early on and then ticked off a list of candidates it endorsed.
On the Senate side, the results were pretty lousy. First, there was that questionable decision to endorse old Bush-ite Tommy Thompson over out lesbian Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, as well as supporting candidates who have consistently anti-gay voting records.
Of the 10 Senate candidates the group endorsed, only three were elected, including Orrin Hatch in Utah, who could only have lost if he was running against Mormon founder Joseph Smith. Btw, thanks, GOProud, for helping to send Dean Heller and Jeff Flake to the Senate, where they can continue to press their anti-gay agenda at our expense.
The Redemption: Some sins are beyond redemption.