"There was a different reaction this year than in 2008," he said. "Then, there were tears of joy; this year, there were sighs of relief."
Shields outlined the stages that a losing party goes through:
- Blame the defeat on its own losing candidate.
- Say the loss must have been due to a gimmick. (FDR was good on the radio, Reagan on TV.)
- Blame the customer, the voter. Republicans said voters were easily duped.
- Get me a winner. Party doesn't care who it is, they just want to win.
But in reality, he said, it all goes back to the candidate. The higher you go in politics, the more important the candidate is. Voters prefer "I like" over any other judgment. The primary candidate who surprised Shields most in this election was Texas Governor Rick Perry, who never showed his sense of humor to the public. Shields also believes the Republicans did not use their best candidate - that Mitch Daniels or Chris Christie would have been more electable, especially with the likability factor.
Romney was seen as insensitive, talking about the 47 percent who were written off - "the revenge of the waiters" - and people being bought off and given "gifts."
Shields also said an important key to Obama's win was Bill Clinton. He presented the best defense of the Obama Administration than anyone, including those in the Administration. He campaigned extensively and was brilliant at explaining complicated things.
Losing parties also divide amongst themselves, Shields said, into the "shirts" and the "skins." The "shirts" believe they lost because the world had changed and they didn't. The "skins" say that they were not true enough to their own beliefs. According to Shields, the Republican Party has more "shirts" than "skins" at this time.
The role of immigration in this election was important, Shields admits, "but it's a deeper problem than just immigration." He pointed out that several of the Republican primary contenders had more moderate views of integrating immigrants and supporting the Dream Act - but the party chose Romney, who was more radical on these matters.
Regarding the upcoming "fiscal cliff," Shields spoke about the problems John Boehner faces, with 107 of his members from the conservative South. "The question is what he can do and what they will do to him. Especially with Eric Cantor waiting in the wings." He wonders if Boehner is strong enough to bring a bill to the floor without the majority support of his own caucus. "It's important to find a way for Boehner to retain his dignity."
Strong leadership is required to get things accomplished in Congress, Shields said. "We would not have had a health care bill without Nancy Pelosi. She showed leadership and toughness."
This spills over into electing more women in Congress. Shields said that two assumptions are made about women: They are more honest, and not as tough. He encourages women to first become mayors or governors so they can demonstrate their toughness through situations such as strikes.
On the question of the Electoral College, Shields was pessimistic that three-quarters of the states would ratify a bill to replace it with the popular vote. But he believes the present system is undemocratic. For example, one electoral vote in Wyoming covers 170,000 people, while in California it represents 680,000.
"Politics is nothing more or less than the peaceable resolution of conflicts and differences among competing opinions." Compromise is required, Shields emphasized, adding that he respects and admires those who run for political office.