Editorial: Exaggerated reports on the GOP

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Some of the triumphalism over Barack Obama's re-election has been overdone. There has been extravagant talk of the end of the Republican Party, heading for extinction as a result of "demographics". America, it is pointed out, is becoming more diverse, more socially liberal and more accepting of the case for active government.

It is true that the American electorate is becoming less white, and that President Obama did well among black and Hispanic voters. Although he also did well among women, and the American electorate is not becoming more female, as far as we know. It is also true that two states (Colorado and Washington) voted in referendums to legalise cannabis and another two (Maryland and Maine) to recognise gay marriage. And that right-wing "Tea Party" Republican candidates did badly.

But let us maintain a sense of perspective. Mr Obama prevailed by a margin of two percentage points in the national share of the vote, and by the same narrow edge in the most important swing state, Ohio. The winner-takes-all electoral college system exaggerated the decisiveness of his victory.

Observers with longer memories will recall decades of breast-beating Democratic analysis of the "demographics" – in their case, the migration to the suburbs – that had condemned the party to inexorable decline, if not extinction.

The fact is that Mitt Romney, although he looked the part, was not a strong candidate. One of his fundraisers was quoted anonymously on Wednesday as saying: "We had no message and we gave it to the worst communicator in the world." Mr Obama, for all that he disappointed some of his supporters' more audacious hopes, was a good candidate with a reasonable record in difficult times.

Parties reinvent themselves from time to time and, sometimes, find leaders who can convey a fresh claim to the future. The Republican Party will do both, possibly after a civil war between Tea Party types and sensible conservatives. We should hope that the renewal takes place, and that the centrists win, in time for 2016. It is healthy for democracy that elections are close.

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