Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu (R), the irascible TV face of Mitt Romney’s campaign, told a Granite State audience Tuesday that President Obama won reelection thanks to a base that’s “dependent, to a great extent economically, on government policy and government programs.”
That puts Sununu squarely in the “gifts” caucus, the group of Republicans who — like Romney himself — believe Obama’s coalition is formed by people who want handouts rather than the self-sufficient, individualistic base that they envision as the GOP base. In the wake of the Republican losses across the country last month, the party has split over the “gifts” idea, with some former Romney surrogates and officials dismissing the notion and others, like Sununu, embracing it.
Sununu made his remarks at a post-election forum with two other former Republican governors of New Hampshire. The Concord Monitor reported Sununu said Obama won “not because of message,” but because the party unified and pushed out their government-dependent base.
“It was because of political organization, political unity, joining together across a broad spectrum of different views within the Democratic Party, and presenting a perception of what they were going to do in a way that was absolutely attractive to their base,” he said.
The two other former Republican governors in the room, Craig Benson and Steve Merrill, agreed with Sununu’s take.
Republicans in general tend to believe that a smaller government favors greater individual responsibility while a larger government favors more dependency. But the language of “gifts” — also known as the language of the “forty-seven percent” — is something many prominent Republicans are trying to get away from. That includes Romney’s own VP nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).
“Both parties tend to divide Americans into ‘our voters’ and ‘their voters.’ Republicans must steer far clear of that trap,” Ryan said at a Washington awards banquet Tuesday. “We must speak to the aspirations and anxieties of every American.”
Republicans on the short list for the 2016 presidential primaries as well as activists from the Hispanic and other communities have for the most part repudiated the “gifts” language. But other former members of Team Romney have latched onto the “gifts” rationale as Sununu has. Last month Romney’s top campaign adviser Stuart Stevens bragged about winning the majority of votes among Americans who make more than $50,000 a year — who, he suggested, are the Americans worth winning over.
“The Republican Party has problems, but as we go forward, let’s remember that any party that captures the majority of the middle class must be doing something right,” Stevens wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.
After the piece was roundly criticized, Stevens walked things back a bit, lamenting that the Romney campaign didn’t do more to reach out to minority voters.