Whenever a political party loses a major election there is a certain amount of soul searching that goes on. This is a healthy process. If Republicans don't ask what went wrong and what can be done better next time, we will never move forward.
I am certainly glad that Republicans will continue to lead the House of Representatives. However it is also clear that the American people did not sign on to the vision put forward by our party in the 2012 election. I believe strongly in conservative principles, but we need to think hard about how we turn those principles into concrete proposals and how we show that our ideas will lead to a stronger, more prosperous nation.
Polls before and after the election showed that the American people thought that the Republican nominee would do a better job of running the economy. The economy was the number one issue for most Americans, but it wasn't the only thing people thought about when they were entering the polling booth.
Caring is critical. The job of president is about far more than budgets and spreadsheets. The decisions that have to be made cannot always be reduced to numbers and data. The American people want a president who is thinking about them on a personal level. Exit polls showed that President Obama had an 11 point lead on the question of which candidate was more in touch with the American people.
This reminds me of the famous, "Who would you rather have a beer with?" question from the 2000 election. George W. Bush won that tongue-in-cheek poll, and also won the election. Despite a privileged upbringing, Bush was able to convince the American people that he would be a caring president.
By contrast, Mitt Romney's statement about the "47 percent" portrayed himself as a person who thought in figures and numbers and who wrote off voters based on demographics and economics. I don't know if any politician who writes off nearly half of the electorate could be voted dog catcher, let alone president.
If Republicans want to lead, our message of opportunity and prosperity has to be for every American. We have to make it clear that our policies will benefit citizens from all across the economic spectrum.
Rich, poor and middle class Americans want a fairer nation. I believe that Republican principles of standing up for job creation, opportunity and personal liberty are the best way to raise the standard of living for everyone.
I believe that every American dreams of having more than food stamps, public housing and Medicaid. I know that people who are on these programs dream of a better life for their children. We have to demonstrate that Republican policies are better at providing opportunities for poor Americans to move into the middle class.
Government may be able to provide a safety net, but it will never be able to create the good private sector jobs that build a more prosperous society. Four years ago, we saw the stimulus bill spend nearly a trillion dollars with little effect on employment and no effect on median household income.
The typical American family made 7 percent less in 2011 than they did in 2007. Despite government spending at a record level compared with our GDP, we are in the midst of the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression. The wealthy continue to do fine, while poor and middle class Americans struggle.
Republicans need to be fighting poverty just as hard as Democrats, but we shouldn't do it the old, tired way of throwing money into the bureaucracy. An ever expanding federal government hasn't reduced the poverty rate and hasn't fixed our broken inner city schools.
Since I came to Congress, I've looked for free market solutions to help low income individuals save for college and for their retirement. Over the past year, I've been working with other members to promote free market solutions to the problems that keep families in poverty. We can have a powerful message of hope for Americans who are struggling economically, and we don't need to consider any citizen a lost cause.