This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," November 10, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," our complete post-election wrap-up. A look at how President Obama won a second term and what he's likely to do with it.
Plus, how should Republicans respond and regroup for 2014 and beyond?
And from tax hikes to collective bargaining to gay marriage, how some big ballot measures faired Tuesday in states across the country.
Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
A divided country gave President Obama a second chance on Tuesday, handing him a narrower but still decisive win over Republican rival, Mitt Romney.
Here with a look how he did it, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger, Political Diary editor, Jason Riley; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.
So, Kim, let me start with you. When you get a defeat like this, there's no one thing necessarily that explains it. But why don't you pick out your most important?
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: Look, I think there were two things key to the Obama victory. One was that, very early on, they ran this very high-dollar attack campaign against Mitt Romney, a bit of a character assassination. This was throughout the summer. Mitt Romney didn't respond to it and, in fact, we now know he didn't really ever recover from it. When you combined that with the president's brutally efficient, we now know, turnout operation, and in particular in core states like Ohio, Virginia and Florida. When you look at the popular vote there, pretty close in the end. But in the end, he got out his partisans in much the same numbers as in 2008 and that's what won it for him.
GIGOT: So, Kim, you're saying that's about $100 million or more that the Obama campaign poured on Mitt Romney, on Bain Capital, on his tax returns, on the fact that he's a plutocrat, sort of making him to be Gordon Gecko without the social conscious.
STRASSEL: Yes. Right.
GIGOT: And Romney's campaign, if your view, would you agree they made a fatal strategic mistake in not countering those attack ads?
STRASSEL: I think it was the mistake. And there was a belief in the Romney campaign that somehow if you were responding, you were losing, but by sitting back and not doing anything -- and one of the problems, they didn't have a lot of money. This was still the primary season. They hadn't been opened up to the general campaign dollars yet. But by sitting back, they did allow the president to brand him that way. And when you looked at the exit poll numbers and questions people asked, that was certainly the impression left with lots of Americans.
GIGOT: And, Jason, the Romney camp told me, I remember, in August, they didn't feel they had enough money to respond at the time to make either both a positive and defensive message to those ads, so they went with the positive one, here is what Romney will do on day one.
I also think those attacks had a kind of voter suppression impact on some of these lower-middle class voters, and explains maybe, in part, Ohio, why Romney didn't even get the same number of votes -- two million votes, 2.5 million votes lower than John McCain.
JASON RILEY, POLITICAL DIARY EDITOR: I think what stands out about Obama's victory to me is how ugly it was. this was identity politics on steroids, Paul, telling black people Republicans want to take away their right to vote and telling women there's war on them, tell seniors that Paul Ryan wants to push granny off the cliff in a wheelchair. This was real -- this was not the hope-and-change Obama. This was not the "there's no red state and blue state" Obama. He won ugly. It's divisive. And if this is the template for how Democrats want to win elections going forward --
GIGOT: But, Jason, I can tell you what the reaction in the White House would be if they heard you say that. They would say, oh, get over it, grow up.
This is politics, Republicans got a -- you know, put on their boxing gloves and get over it.
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Oh, yes.
GIGOT: This is -- so what? You know? I won. You know, suck it up.
HENNINGER: I agree.
This is the new benchmark in the way you win a presidential campaign. No question about it. It's too bad. But that's the way it is.
Now, I want to elaborate on one of Kim's points, about the brutally efficient Obama turnout machine. This turnout machine did not materialize after the convention in August.
HENNINGER: We need to pay a lot more attention to the so-called Obama ground game. It's in some ways -- we try to talk about this in neutral terms. It's somewhat analogous to a corporation's marketing campaign for a new product. And they don't just do that overnight. Obama kept offices open after the 2008 campaign in Iowa, in Ohio, in Florida, in Virginia. These people were working full-time and targeting campuses and they were targeting minority neighborhoods, and their target groups. And they were feeding --
GIGOT: You've got to give them credit for that, don't you?
HENNINGER: I am giving them credit for that. But you have to understand that Obama's policies on things, the sort that Jason was just describing, was essentially a propaganda campaign to drive these voters away from the Republicans. And they did it by sending them e-mails every week, by talking to them, by holding meetings, and by literally, physically taking them to the polls.
GIGOT: But why -- when Romney was saying -- the Republicans were saying we're going to be able to match that, Kim. You know that. They were telling you they had a ground game every bit as formidable. And in the end, not only do they not match Obama, they didn't match John McCain.
They fell short of John McCain by a couple million votes. So is this all --
STRASSEL: Look, I think --
GIGOT: So what happened?
STRASSEL: Yes. Look, I think their organizational structure was in place, but this, again, to get to the way Mr. Romney ran his campaign. Somebody made an interesting point to me this week and said, you know, at the very end, he was enthusing big crowds. The problem was he was enthusing those people who should have been with him from the start. And he just didn't have the time. And when he finally turned after the Denver debate, finally got some momentum. There wasn't enough time to bring in all those undecided voters, the people that were sort of marginal in the end because he spent so much of this time, campaign, instead letting Obama define him and deciding to run a referendum campaign on the president.
GIGOT: What about the minority vote, Asians, Hispanics? Jason, they went even bigger numbers for President Obama this year, than four years ago.
RILEY: Oh, sure. I mean, that's -- he got particularly Latinos. There were more of them. They made up a larger percentage of the electorate and won more of them. That may have been the key, particularly in the swing states in the mountain west that George W. Bush did so well in, Colorado, Iowa, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico. Romney didn't play out there.