Let me start off by saying that I should have written this post a while back because an understanding of why John McCain lost the presidential election in 2008 is essential to understanding what the GOP must now do in order to re-energize and rebuild. I will also say now that this post is entirely based on my opinion on what happened, based on my perceptions as a student of politics and as a volunteer at McCain Victory Headquarters in Albuquerque during the campaign. I won't be citing any sources or referencing any blogs in this post, because I am basically just rambling about what I think the Republicans did wrong.
So why did John McCain lose? There are the obvious answers that most people attribute the loss to, like the economy, President Bush's image, Barack Obama's charisma, etc. My explanation, and of course I am not claiming to be the only one with this opinion, is that Republicans were simply not excited enough to go out and vote. Republicans made the fatal mistake of not promoting and making social issues a major focus of the election. George W. Bush in both of his campaigns was able to make social issues such as: abortion, gun control, the death penalty, stem cell research, gay marriage, etc., the focus of attention and he made sure to stir up Republican voters enough to ensure that not only would they go out and vote, but they would take their families and friends with them. He made sure that Republicans were angry that government wanted to take control of health care, or take away the right to own guns, or murder unborn babies. Anger=passion, and passion gets people to the polls. McCain was unable to stir the pot, no-one was angry that Barack Obama was the single most liberal Senator in the senate. No one was angry that Obama was in support of the D.C. ban against hand guns, or that he supported legislation as a state senator in Illinois that would prevent a doctor from saving the lives of babies who were born after a botched abortion. These issues were not put on the table and Republicans were not mobilized. As a result we saw a record number of Catholics and Christians voting for Obama, when in 2004 they came out strong for Bush. As a volunteer for McCain's campaign I made hundreds of phone calls and spoke with many Republicans who stated that they were not fans of McCain and that they were not going to vote. This seems to have been the popular option across the country. McCain was overly moderate during his campaign and shyed away from the controversial social issues because he wanted to appeal to independents and soft democrats, but in doing so he isolated his base. Above everything else, McCain lost in '08 because the Republicans stayed home. In 2012 the GOP needs a candidate who will get the voters to the polls.