I was wrong. No excuses, no whining – I was simply wrong. It was not Romney early and often. President Obama and the Democrats won a tough fought victory holding onto the Presidency and increasing their advantage in the Senate from a 53-47 starting point. I had been preaching for weeks that the key to the election was voter turnout and I was right about that – it just broke completely the opposite way that I had projected. All in all a very tough night for a conservative blogger that definitely did not think that he would be sorrowfully dragging himself to bed before 11:00 PDT on election night.
How could I have been so wrong? As it turns out, I was right about a number of things, I just missed a critical new dynamic that may alter campaigning for the next couple of decades. First, I was right that the raw data from the polls was correct. If you match the raw data from the polls to the election returns, there is a pretty close correlation. Second, I was right about voter intensity levels. Yesterday’s electorate was far more energized for the GOP than it was for the Democrats.
So if I got all of this right, what did I get so wrong? In past elections voter enthusiasm directly translated into voter turnout rates. In 2008 an electrified Democratic party turned out in droves to elect the first black President in American history. That electricity swept Democrats into office across the country and gave President Obama a clear path to adopt Obamacare and other key projects without any resistance from the GOP.
I simply missed the Obama “ground game.” Following the sweeping defeat of the Democrats in 2010, the Obama campaign correctly identified a weakness in its campaign machine. Given the mediocre performance of the Administration to date and the likely high levels of Republican enthusiasm in 2012, how could the Democrats keep the White House with tepid support from those within the party? The answer was an intricate grass-roots system of delivering uninspired and disinterested voters to the voting booths to offset Republican voter enthusiasm. The Obama campaign spent two years developing a complex network of vote delivery systems and it worked exactly as planned delivering the necessary vote.
I defer to my many friends in academia, but I am not aware of any program in past history in which an election has been won through the delivery of largely uninspired, unenthused voters in mass numbers. My biggest fear is that we have now reached the much discussed “tipping point” in which a majority of the electorate will continue to vote themselves benefits regardless of their excitement, or lack thereof, about a particular candidate.
Politics has changed and hopefully this is a much-needed wake-up call for the GOP.