Sunday, December 05, 2004

Why Kerry Lost

Steve Rosentha, CEO of ACT,l has a fairly decent article in the Washington Post exposing several myths about the Ohio results. These findings are the result of a post-election poll and feel better than any of the earlier explanations that were being reported. Unfortunately, he ends it with a swipe at the Republicans and us "exploitable" Ohioans.

Among the myths...

The first myth: Many more churchgoing voters flocked to the polls this year, driven by the Bush "moral values" and the gay marriage referendum.

Reality: In Ohio, the share of the electorate represented by frequent churchgoers actually declined from 45 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2004.

I agree. According to my own analysis, Bush netted an additional 1,000 or more votes (when compared to his 2000 performance) in 41 of Ohio's 88. There were another 19 counties where he had a net increase of between 400 and 999 votes. There may be sections of Ohio where the "moral values" issues drove turnout, but Ohio is too diverse and Bush's increases too broad to believe this drove the Bush voters to the polls in 60 counties at all ends of the state.

Second myth: The Bush campaign won by mobilizing GOP strongholds and suppressing turnout in Democratic areas.

Reality: Turnout in Democratic-leaning counties in Ohio was up 8.7 percent while turnout in Republican-leaning counties was up slightly less, at 6.3 percent.

I agree that election wasn't won by surpressing Democratic areas. The turnout percentages just don't reflect that.

I disagree slightly that the mobilization of the GOP strongholds didn't make a difference. Bush won Ohio in 2000 by 165,000 votes. In 2004, Kerry netted an additional 170,000 votes across 10 primarily urban and college-based counties. Without those extra Bush voters in the 60 other counties, Bush would have lost.

Third myth: A wave of newly registered Republican voters in fast-growing rural and exurban areas carried Bush to victory.

Reality: Among Ohio's rural and exurban voters, Bush beat Kerry by just five points among newly registered voters and by a mere two points among infrequent voters (those who did not vote in 2000).

Again, I agree. Bush's largest net gain over his 2000 results was an additional 13,000 votes in Butler county. He won Ohio by having an average net increase of just 2,000 votes over his 2000 results across 60 different counties in Ohio. Bush won not because of a large increase in support in any one particular area, but because of a slight increase across most of Ohio.

Compare that to Kerry who netted an additional 59,000 votes in Cuyahoga county and 44,000 votes in Franklin county. The problem for Kerry was his gains in the other counties dropped off sharply from those numbers. Looking at final results, I would guess that Kerry focused on turnout in Cleveland, Columbus, and college campuses. In the end, it wasn't enough to make up for Bush's small increases across the rest of Ohio.

Fourth myth: Republicans ran a superior, volunteer-driven mobilization effort.

Reality: When we asked new voters in rural and exurban areas who contacted them during this campaign, we learned that they were just as likely to hear from the Kerry campaign and its allies as from the Bush side.

Here, all I have is antedoctal evidence which suggests this is true. Friends and relatives from all parts of Ohio reported getting calls and offers to drive them to the polls from Kerry supporters. Clearly the phone calls and ride offers weren't enough to swing votes.

His conclusion...
The reason Kerry lost the election had much more to do with the war in Iraq and terrorism than the political ground war in Ohio. Terrorism trumped other issues at the polls -- including moral values -- and anxious voters tended to side with Bush...

The other major factor was our side's failure to win the economic debate. Despite an economy that was not delivering for many working people in Ohio, the exit poll results show that voters in Ohio did not see Kerry providing a clear alternative...

The GOP put on a strong mobilization effort, but that's not what tipped the Ohio election. They did not turn Gore voters into Bush voters by offering a ride to the polls. Instead, it was skillful exploitation of public concern over terrorism by the Bush team -- coupled with Democrats' inability to draw clear, powerful contrasts on the economy and health care -- that pushed Bush over the finish line.

I agree that terrorism trumped other issues in Ohio and Bush ran stronger on it than Kerry. I also agree that economic issues didn't play a big role, and even if they would have, Kerry didn't provide a clear vision of how he was different.

I just don't know why he had to end his article with a swipe at the Bush team and and a backhanded slap at us "exploitable" Ohioans. Hmmm, you think tranparent attitudes like that may have had any impact on the results? I'm thinking there might be approximately 2,000 voters in 60 different Ohio counties that think so.