More Evidence Democrats Were Out-Hustled in 2004

In a recent post at EDM, David Gopoian examines Kerry’s performance in swing states and comes up with some interesting numbers. He examines different regions in the swing states and shows Kerry’s performance in those different regions compared with the Expected Democratic Vote (EDV) in those areas of the swing states.

The swing states in question are: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin. Looking at the statistics, it’s clear to me that the GOP just outhustled the Democrats in 2004. Specifically, Bush did better in already GOP regions than Kerry did in some Democratic regions.

In only two regions-Tampa Bay Region in Florida and NE and SE Missouri- did Kerry win a minority of votes where he should’ve won a majority. The EDV for Tampa Bay was 50.6%, while Kerry’s vote was 48.2%. North and Southeast Mo. had an EDV of 50.2%, Kerry won 39.6% there. The one place where the EDV was exactly 50.0%, Kerry won 50.6% (Arapahoe/Jefferson Colorado). In at least three regions the EDV was below 50% but Kerry won a majority there:

In Central Iowa (Des Moines) the EDV was 49.4%, Kerry won 50.1%. In Washoe County (Reno, Nevada) the EDV was 48.2%, Kerry won 52.2%. Most impressive was The Philadelphia suburbs. With an EDV of 46.9%, Kerry won 54.1% there.

What caused Kerry’s loss of some of these states (and what caused other Kerry states to be close) was not that Kerry did not do well in Democratic regions of a state. Nor did Kerry perform poorly in most swing regions (where EDV was right around 50%). The problems were mostly in the regions that Bush was expected to win anyway.

Take Ohio and Missouri. In St. Louis City, St. Louis suburbs, and the Kansas City Area Kerry not only won a majority of the vote, but he performed about as expected for Democrats, if not better. In the place where Dems were not expected to do well-SW Missouri where EDV was 42.4%-Kerry won only 31.4%.

In Ohio, there was only one area where the EDV was below 45%. That area was Central Ohio, home of Columbus. As Gopoian describes this region: “More than 90% were white, and three-fifths were white Protestants. Approximately 40% were rural residents. But nearly half (45%) of the region’s voters were college graduates and their household median income approached $60,000.” The national median income is just over $43,000.

“The best-fitting model of the presidential vote for the Central Ohio region includes just two predictor variables: party identification and overall Bush approval ratings. Republicans outnumbered Democrats by 45% to 28%. Conservative Republicans outnumbered liberal Democrats by a ratio of three to one. Overall, 60% approved of Bush’s performance in office.” So this is hardly Democratic territory. The EDV in Central Ohio is 44%. Kerry won 41%, costing him Ohio and the election.

The pattern of Bush running up huge totals in Republican leaning areas repeated itself in battleground states Kerry won. In Oregon, the region with the lowest EDV is South and East Oregon with 43.5%. Kerry won 35.6% there. In Washington State, the region with the lowest EDV is East Washington (home of Spokane) where EDV is 46.1%. Kerry won just 39.1% there. Of course there are exceptions to this pattern in the 15 states, but nearly all the places where Kerry scored more than 1% less than EDV were in regions where Bush was expected to win a strong-if not overwhelming-majority. Meanwhile, most regions where Kerry performed as well as EDV or better were in regions where EDV was 49% or more. Did Republican turnout in Republican regions cost Kerry and the Dems?

To me it seems that Karl Rove’s strategy of playing to the base worked. Not only in helping red states like Alabama and Georgia have higher turnout rates than blue states like Illinois, Maryland, and California. It also played an important part in making sure that Bush would win BIG in regions he would win anyway. Kerry won the total popular vote in the battleground states, he just didn’t proportion them out correctly, i.e. better to have won Michigan by a smaller margin or lost Florida by a larger margin and transferred those votes to say, Ohio? But of course that’s not possible. But what if Republican regions saw high turnout? What if Central Columbus had been 18% rather than 20.2% of the total state turnout? Even if Kerry still only won 41% there he still probably wins Ohio.

Of course, its a cinch to assume that Republican regions of swing states had high turnout rates, just like red states did. Remember Rove’s almost monomaniacal focus on “the base, the base, the base?” Remember also that Bush had a higher following among base Republican voters than any other Republican president before him-including Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Turnout Republicans in Republican areas and the GOP wins larger margins than expected in those areas. No, I’m not saying Democrats and/or Kerry did a poor job turning out Democratic base votes or turning on and turning out swing voters. But the bottom line is that the GOP outhustled us in voter turnout both among swing voters disposed towards us and Democrat base voters. The GOP turnout machine is an extremly well-oiled, experienced machine. Dems are gonna have to work real hard to overcome this.

But there is an opening here: 34 (58%) of the 62 regions in the swing states have EDVs of 49.5% and up. Kerry performed up to EDV or better in 25 of these 34 regions, and in only a few of the 9 regions of 34 where Kerry performed below EDV, was the gap more than -1.0%. Also remember there were at least three regions where Kerry won a majority where he should not have.

Bottom line: Rove and Company must have known that outhustling Democrats among GOP base voters was the only way to win. They couldn’t do it in swing regions or Democratic ones. There were simply too many regions where Kerry/Democrats were expected to do well or do better than expectations (and ended up doing so). There were also a number of areas where Kerry was overperforming in nominally GOP regions.

If there had not been high GOP turnout in already safe GOP areas, there’s no second term. Get over the hump of high GOP turnout in GOP areas and the sky-along with the House speakership and Senate Majority- are the limit.

Coming Soon: How the 2004 election outcome was not punishment for mistakes in 2004- but for mistakes committed since 1981.

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About Nick

Teacher of Social Studies. Born in the 1970s. History major, music minor. Big Baseball fan. Economic progressive.
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3 Responses to More Evidence Democrats Were Out-Hustled in 2004

  1. Marjorie G says:

    With all due respect to turnout, Dem database weakness, and Nick’s great way with numbers, all this creates theory as if every vote intended and counted.

    Just enough suppression of vote, in many ways, to reduce our edge. They needed a popular win to prevent a challenge.

    I’m knee deep in the electronic voting mess, and there are some very determined GOP wanting to push equipment that is now oblitereated as unsound and vulnerable by the non-partisan GAO. Wonder why?

    California just got a GOP favorable to Diebold and conditionally certified machines that failed 30% in tests, an unheard of high, and were turned down by the former Dem.

    We said after the election that creation of red state voters went beyond Ken Mehlman’s excellent grassroots building. Maybe that bridge to nowhere in Alaska is payback for 100,000 phantom voters, among other things.

    Ron may still be a skeptic, but tin foil hats have become dress of choice among many.

  2. Nick says:

    Marjorie says

    “California just got a GOP favorable to Diebold and conditionally certified machines that failed 30% in tests, an unheard of high, and were turned down by the former Dem.”

    Amazing. These GOPers will go to anything to turn the tables.

    All the same though, your point just underlines how inportant it is for Dems to modernize their turnout-we know the GOP has a great operation AND it will try to suppress the Dem vote, so we’ve got to redouble efforts.

  3. Marjorie, Nick

    There’s a post here on the CA Diebold issue.