Wednesday, November 03, 2004
POLITICS AS USUAL: PART I--THE PUNDIT
I have decided that I would like to express my thoughts in two seperate posts, as they will be two distinct ways of looking at last night's election. The first will be "pure punditry", where I will provide my thoughts and analysis on the events of the night. The second will be what I call "pure partisanship" where I spout off on why last night's victory for Dubya was so great. But first, lets get to the punditry.
There is no question George W. Bush has won re-election. The question will be by how much. As I write this, the good folks in Ohio are still counting ballots (provisional and otherwise) and a decision has not been reached. I will get to that ina minute. First I wanted to go through the evening in chronological order.
Having watched the news tickers all day at work (don't tell the boss) I was obviously keeping tabs on the progression of the vote, as I have done in the past. The interesting part of this evening was how I was able to gather intelligence on the ground. For the first time, members of the "Blogosphere" were providing a real sense of what was happening across America--in real time. I have to admit, I was refreshing my browser repeatedly on a number of site to get the most current updates. It was an amazing feeling to hear from individuals their experiences and feelings leading up to this (supposedly) tight election night.
I had also had to endure the nervous chatter from various bloggers on the exit polls that were showing such a heavy return for Kerry. The concerns spread like wildfire on various sites. So much so that numerous GOP officials needed to weigh in to tell them not to panic and concentrate on their GOTV effort. Regardless of the distraction they inadvertantly caused, I think bloggers really came into their own during the election and last night. Just by the response they received from the Main Stream Media and campaign officials (on both sides) it shows that the Blogosphere IS being taken seriously. In fact, GOP officials were commenting on the exit polls on blogs before they were commenting on CNN.
It was interesting--but not suprising--to watch the results come in. I find it funny that the MSM was spending so much time talking about how the results were so much up in the air and they were not able to predict what would happen. Well, if you looked at the wide crop of polling that was done leading up to election night, it should have been obvious: Bush was leading Kerry 51% to 48%. With 1% undecided, what was to guess? Both teams got their vote out. The Dems just didn't have enough votes.
Anyway, I could babble forever, so here are my thoughts:
- Karl Rove's strategy obviously paid off. His plan was to expand his base on the right and he did so--in convincing fashion;
- This election was a referendum on leadership. While major issues such as Iraq had a specific dynamic that played for and against Bush, leadership was the overall "ballot question". Bush polled high on leadership. His win should be no surprise;
- The GOP brilliantly placed same-sex marriage on various ballots in battleground states to help drive their votes (they all went down to defeat);
- Kerry underperformed as a candidate. If you had a strong canadidate from a Gubernatorial background who had a clear and decisive track record (from the Midwest and on the rigth side of the party), Bush could have been beaten. The Dems chose a serial waffler with no real record of substance to stand on and the results speak for themselves;
- Once you get passed the "horserace" popular vote spread, predicting the results becomes much easier. Kerry's favourables were low and his numbers on the number one issue for Americans (terror and Iraq) were also low;
- Americans don't vote out a President in Wartime. This was NOT a referendum on Iraq itself;
- Americans don't vote for legislators. Only 3 Senators/Congressmen have been elected. In total they only served 5 years in the history of the Presidency;
So, the question now becomes what does Bush do now? My view is that he should use this strong victory to bury the Democrats--but not in the way you might think. Bush will not be running for reelection. He was to start thinking about his legacy and his predecessor. For the last 4 years, Bush has been acting on behalf of his base on the religious right: he has stood against the popular Stem Cell research initiatives, he strongly went on the record against same sex marriage and he has put through policies that were pro-family. Some might say that Bush's base delivered for him last night. I would say it has been the other way around for the last four years.
Now Bush needs to use his majority in the House and Senate to not push through his own narrow agenda--he needs to use it to expand the GOP base. That is not to say he should abandon his base or his principles. Far from it. But he does need to focus on issues that affect everyone: the war on terror, the economy, social programs, etc. If he was smart, he would spend less time on banning abortion and more time ensuring the budget is balanced and people have jobs.
I believe he has proven to his base that he is there for them. If he uses his majority to crush the Democrats and forward an agenda that appeals to only a small section of the population, then he could tarnish the GOP for decades. Remember--the U.S. won't be in Iraq in 4 years. There won't be a "wartime president" to support. Bush, his advisors and the GOP need to start thinking beyond Iraq. The question isn't who will be Presdient FOR the next 4 years--the question is who will be President IN 4 years.
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