Eating crow, expecting trouble
Share with others:
Kudos and congratulations to the pollsters who accurately forecast the composition of the electorate, and to New York Times poll analyst Nate Silver, whose predictions were spot on. I apologize for having denigrated you.
I believed, as did most conservative analysts, that the composition of the electorate in 2008 was a fluke, the product of a once in a lifetime "perfect storm" for Democrats.
By the end of a president's second term, Americans tend to tire of governance by his political party. This was especially so in 2008. Americans were sick of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. President George W. Bush's popularity was in the tank. Conservatives were lukewarm at best about the Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, who was dramatically underfunded. And then the economy crashed.
Barack Obama was a fresh face, handsome and articulate. He had virtually no record to criticize. He sounded moderate. He had vastly more money than any previous presidential candidate and received the most adoring press coverage ever.
Young people were enchanted by Mr. Obama's message of hope and change, and noted the vivid contrast between his relative youth and Sen. McCain's age. Turnout among Americans aged 18-29 rose to 51 percent of eligibles, up from 49 percent in 2004, 40 percent in 2000.
African-Americans especially were excited by the prospect of the first black president. Turnout among them in 2008 was 4.9 percent higher than in 2004.
Democrats couldn't wait to vote. Republicans were discouraged. In 2004, both parties turned out in roughly equal numbers. In 2008, Democrats led 39 percent to 32 percent, more than double the average margin for the last six presidential elections.
Sen. Obama also won independents by eight percentage points. He got the highest percentage of the popular vote of any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. But it was only 52.9 percent.
This year, President Obama had a record. It stunk. His policies were leftist, not centrist. They fostered racial division, not racial healing. Hope and change had morphed into and fear and envy.
The only advantage Mr. Obama retained from the "perfect storm" was media bias, so the electorate would revert back to "normal" proportions, I thought.
Republicans now outnumbered Democrats, Gallup and Rasmussen surveys indicated. Mitt Romney was drawing Obama 2008 size crowds, while the president's crowds shrunk to McCain size. Partisan turnout would be close to even, I was sure.
I was sure wrong. Democrats outvoted Republicans 38-32, almost the same as in 2008, twice the Democrats' plus-3 average advantage in the last six presidential elections. Democrats may have stopped going to Mr. Obama's rallies, but they still turned out to vote for him.
The least of the consequences is that I must eat some crow, with a side of humble pie. The implications of what happened Tuesday are enormous -- and deeply distressing -- for both Republicans and for America.
There are always recriminations after a losing campaign. That's unfortunate. Mitt Romney was a good candidate who ran a good campaign. That he came as close to winning as he did with a D+6 electorate is testament to that.
It's that D+6 electorate that will keep Republicans awake nights. The change in the composition of the electorate in 2008 apparently wasn't a fluke. If the Democratic coalition can hold despite the worst unemployment since the Depression, it's hard to see how Republicans can win a presidential election ever again.
At least not with a white guy as their candidate. Mr. Obama won Hispanics by 44 percentage points. Republicans better look hard at Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., or Sen.-elect Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Or unless something really bad happens that shakes people up. I fear it shall.
After a campaign focused relentlessly on trivia -- Mr. Romney's record at Bain Capital, free contraceptives -- Americans chose, narrowly, the status quo. But the status won't remain quo for long.
In January, new taxes and regulations could send our economy back into recession. When, in a year or so, additional trillion-dollar deficits push us over the fiscal cliff, it may become a hair-curling depression. Economic collapse could be accelerated by war in the Middle East.
This would be a rude surprise for those who think the gravy train can never be derailed. I shudder for my country at what it is likely to endure. The silver lining for Republicans, I suppose, is that it will be hard to blame it on George W. Bush.
First Published November 11, 2012 12:00 am