Thursday, November 06, 2008

Final Thoughts on the Election


I really thought we'd pull PA out, even with the registration disadvantage. Since I spent Election Day as a poll watcher/striker I have some insights on turnout - and I was stationed in a majority Republican district. I'm going to be real curious as to what the final turnout numbers are when the canvassing reports are released. I was absolutely shocked that there was no late-day rush in either of the precincts in the polling place I was present at. I know that the turnout at mid-day in my own precinct was way up, but I don't know how it closed. Republicans and conservatives came out, but unfortunately it looks like a lot of people sat out, or voted for the other side or a third-party in protest.

I'd really like to know what the McCain and Republican internal polls were actually telling them. It's a somewhat accepted fact that campaigns don't lie to themselves, because they can't. Clearly the race didn't tighten as much as they had thought or hoped. I was really surprised that Bill Russell lost to Jack Murtha so badly also.

Sarah Palin

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the only reason I was excited about the McCain Campaign, the only reason I put up a McCain yard sign and stuck a sticker on my car, and the only reason I volunteered the time I did to the campaign was Sarah Palin's presence on the ticket.

I have no time whatsoever for the folks purportedly on our own side who have done and are still doing nothing but dump on this rising conservative star.

Had Sarah Palin not been on the ticket, McCain would have lost by 20% at least since a lot more folks would have sat out or voted for the other side in spite.

It is abundantly clear now that McCain's only point in selecting Governor Palin was to throw a little bone to folks like myself. The campaign mishandled, mispresented, and misused her from the very first day.

Exit Polls

I've chewed through some of the exit polling data, and frankly, it presents a real mixed bag of results. Here are some of the highlights I've found in CNN's national exit poll:

39% identified as Democrat, voted 89%/10% for Obama
32% identified as Republican, voted 90%/9% for McCain
29% identified as Independent, voted 52%/44% for Obama

Both candidates retained about the same percentage of their self-identified voters, so that's a wash. There's no argument that certainly Obama's campaign was more uplifting and inspiring in its rhetoric than McCain's - and that's where "independents" broke. This is further borne out further by the next set of responses.

22% identified as Liberal, voted 89%/10% for Obama
44% identified as Moderate, voted 60%/39% for Obama
34% identified as Conservative, voted 78%/20% for McCain

Here is where John McCain absolutely lost the election. Twenty percent of his base voted for Obama. The good news is that voters not in the vast middle still identify as conservative by a 1.5:1 margin. The McCain strategy to play to the vast middle by being the "I'm not as liberal" candidate failed absolutely. I am convinced that self-described "moderates" do not base their voting decisions on actual positions and issues; they base almost entirely on the presentation of those positions and issues and the feelings of confidence that the presentation generates. McCain didn't - make that, couldn't - inspire voters because he did not present a valid alternative on the issues until too late in the campaign, and then was simply not dynamic enough to drive his points home. McCain's plays for the center turned off conservatives completely until the nomination of Sarah Palin and he couldn't sell the differences between himself and Obama because, at least rhetorically, they weren't significantly differentiable.

17% of folks who said they voted for Bush/Cheney in 2004 said they voted for Obama. Not a surprise based on the previously cited data and the overall drop in popular vote count that McCain suffered vs. 2004.

67% surveyed support more off-shore drilling for energy, and they broke 59%/39% for McCain. Energy policy will make or break the early months of Obama's Presidency.

74% surveyed said Supreme Court appointments (and by extension other judicial appointments) were a decision factor, and those voters broke 53%/45% for Obama. This is very, very troubling. Paramount in the new Conservative movement will be to push home at every opportunity that laws must be made by the people's elected representatives and not dictated by jurists.

71% said that taxes would go up under an Obama presidency, regardless of income bracket. So much for people thinking that only the "rich" are going to face higher taxes. These voters broke 55%/43% for McCain.

93% responded that the economy is either "not good" or "poor" - 55%/44% for Obama. The same sample returned 23% who said that the economy will be worse in a year, and they went 54%/43% for McCain. This does not compute logically. If the economy isn't good now, and is going to be either the same (still bad - 25% response, 52%/46% Obama) and McCain has the best policies to handle a worse economy, how does it work out that Obama's policies work in a still suffering one? This, I think, goes directly to the inspiration factor I previously described - content didn't matter.

The inspiration gap is verified again by this last data set that I'll discuss; which candidate quality matters most:

30% said "Shares my values", voted 65%/32% for McCain
34% said "Can bring change", voted 89%/9% for Obama
20% said "Experience", voted 93%/7% for McCain
12% said "Cares about people", voted 74%/24% for Obama

When Obama voters are asked why they voted that way a common answer is, "He'll bring change." When asked "what change?", the same voters mostly can't qualify their desire for change or specify what should change. Voting for a liberal candidate is based solely on emotion for all but the die-hard supporters. More folks said that values and experience said were the most important qualities than change and caring, but yet Obama won. It's all about the presentation and delivery.


In the end, I believe that Barack Obama will be our 44th President on force of personality, not ideas. An honest debate on the issue was never had because conservatism wasn't on the ballot and was never a hallmark of the McCain campaign. The American electorate was presented with a choice of a dynamic candidate and a boring one. Since there was not a clear, black-and-white differentiation of philosophies and policies (and even if there had been, McCain probably was incapable of delivering it), the electorate went with the candidate who inspired.

The 2006 mid-term and 2008 general election results are George W. Bush's legacy. The loss of the Presidency and dwindling representation in the Congress can be laid squarely and fairly on his plate. This isn't the time for the post-mortem on our 43rd President - that will come on January 20, 2009 - but suffice to say for now that, "This is Bush's fault."

May God guide and strengthen our President-elect and may He continue to bless the United States of America.

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