In the aftermath of the 2004 election, there was a great buzz in the media about the efforts of Rove and the GOP to turnout religious conservative voters and Bush’s inraods into traditional Democratic areas like urban, Jewish, and minority voters. It appeared Bush had pulled off a great victory by increasing his base AND appealing to Democratic groups.
The GOP did do a superb job of increasing its base turnout. According to non-partisan analyst Charlie Cook, turnout increased 14.9 percent in the traditional Republican “red” states. The rest of the post-election claims are less based in reality. Initially it was reported Kerry had only won 55% of the Hispanic vote, 7% less than Gore. Re-evaluation by Hispanic analysts at the William C. Velasquez Institute discovered that the Hispanic polls were out of whack. In Texas for example, it was initially reported that Bush won Texas Hispanic voters 51%-49%. Actually Kerry won Hispanic Texans 59%-41%. Kerry won 64% of the Hispanic vote, 2% more than Gore, while Bush’s 35% of Hispanics was the same as in 2004.
Kerry’s 88% of the black vote was very close to Gore’s 90%, and higher than Clinton’s in 1992 and 1996. Contrary to initial reports, Kerry did not get 5% less of the Jewish vote than Gore, in fact his 80% of the Jewish vote was 1% more than Gore and equal to Clinton’s 1996 total, while Kerry’s 58% among Asians was better than both Clinton and Gore. Kerry’s totals among urban voters was at least 60%, 10% less than Gore, but still around the Democratic average post-WWII. Given the upward revisions of Kerry’s totals among Hispanics and Jews, it was probably higher than 60%.
Most important, while turnout in the “tossup” states was up a whopping 17.3% over 2000, Kerry actually WON the popular vote in the tossup states but didn’t proportion it out correctly, i.e. it would’ve been better to have lost Florida by a wider margin and transferred 100,000 or so votes to say, Ohio. Kerry also won independent voters 49%-48% (a better percent than Clinton or Gore) and won self-proclaimed “moderate” voters 54%-45%.
So where did we go wrong? Well, for one thing Kerry only won women voters by 3%, where Gore won them by 11%. Cook blames this on Kerry not talking about the economy more, and criticizes Kerry for criticizing Bush over the missing cache of weapons in Iraq the last week of the camapign rather than talk about the economy. Of course, Kerry won 75% among voters among voters who rated the economy/jobs as the most important issue in exit polls. Had Kerry neglected defense, we’d probably be hearing about Kerry’s ignoring “terrorism” and “not living in the post-9/11 world” and forgetting about “security moms.” Well, at least Cook didn’t claim that Bush won because voters thought he had a superior economic plan.
But the biggest shock and what hurt us most: Turnout in the “blue” states was only up 1.9% over 2000. Sure it’s important to win swing voters and make inroads into traditional GOP areas (e.g. rural areas, where Kerry’s 40% of the vote was 3% better than Gore). Dems did a good job in increasing turnout in swing areas (but can always improve here, as the GOP will try to improve).
Still, given that there are GOP Senators in blue states like Pa., NH, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, and RI, and GOP governors in states as blue as NY, Ct., Vt., California, Hawaii, and (my homestate) Maryland, doesn’t it behoove the Democrats to sharpen the turnout machine in states that already favor them? The percent of eligible voters who voted in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia was never higher than it was in 2004, even though there was little to no chance of Bush losing these states. Why can”t the same be true in states there was no chance for Kerry to lose? Given the fact that most very populous states (i.e California, NY, NJ, Illinois, Mass., Pa., Mich. ) are either solid blue or at least blue leaning, this lack of turnout probably cost Kerry the popular vote. No states with 15 or more electoral votes are real red states except for Texas, NC, and Georgia (59 EVs). Meanwhile California, Pa., Illinois, Michigan, and NY (145 EVs) are either blue or blue leaning and have 15 or more EVs. Ohio and Florida (47 EVs)were the only swing states with 15 or more EVs that Bush won.
I can’t prove this beyond a reasonable doubt, but if turnout is up big time in blue states come 2006 like it was in red states in 2004, won’t Dem numbers in Congress and among governors be a helluva lot better? Had turnout been up in blue states, might Bush be the only two-term president to never win the popular vote?
The Cook lecture can be seen here.