The overall vote was down, perhaps ‘way down. As easy as we’ve made voting, with early voting and absentee and provisional ballots, the overall vote was down, and on our side, killed us. I like Sean Trende and Jay Cost, read their books, think they’re both pretty sharp fellows; Trende has some numbers over here. So again, why?
Yes, Hispanics. Yes, women. But something else has happened here.
And yes, fraud. But that’s baked in the cake, as they say, really has been in my lifetime since Mayor Daley pulled it out for Jack Kennedy back in 1960. Absent any evidence, courtroom style, of massive fraud, I don’t think that’s it. The losing side always mentions this, remember the DeBolt voting machines in 2004? (An aside regarding Illinois: gerrymandering pretty much did what it was supposed to do. Sorry, Bobby Schilling!)
Most of us are archetypical crawl-over-broken-glass voters, partisan political junkies. High-information voters and activists. And even amongst ourselves, myself included, we’ve been hearing (since the primaries ended) phrases like “although he wasn’t my first choice, (or second, or third) he’s now my guy”. Let’s face it, that’s the antithesis of curbing one’s enthusiasm. So if even we bitter-clingers preface our ringing endorsements with conditionals like that, imagine how the low-info, not-too-involved voters feel? In other words, support that might be a mile wide but about a quarter inch deep. Not quite an I’ll hold my nose and vote for you, but nearly so. Will that level of enthusiasm get you to the polls on a cold and maybe rainy day? Or lift a finger to vote early? Evidentially not.
Coupled with the onslaught of ‘kill Romney’ negative ads going back a good 6 months, largely unanswered, and you have a problem. Never mind the bafflegab about not being able to spend money before the primaries ended, that’s why we have outside PACs, and where were they, fundraising?
Add to this the promotion of I’m a nice guy (and so’s the other guy) style of campaining, without a rallying cry, without concrete specifics on policy (can’t do that, the opposition will nit-pick you to death) and you have the beginnings of a turnout problem. Unseating an incumbent President, even a SCOAMF, is a daunting task; it’s a war to defeat an enemy, not a he’s-a-nice-guy-but-I’m-better ad campaign. What became of righteous indignation? And if that won’t do, how about a conservative vision of Morning in America?
Another tiny tidbit I’m picking up on in various comment threads pains me. I’m just your average Joe Sixpack Lutheran schlub, but I’ve read a disturbing number of comments from (evidentially) WASP types along the lines of: I can never vote for a Mormon, my religion/pastor/congregation says it’s a cult. Although I saw nothing from the opposition playing the Mormon card, I think it may have been a factor, small enough to fly under the radar, big enough to hurt in the voting booth. For so many folks to mention that online, even anonymously, tells me there’s an undercurrent out there. Add a sprinkling of disaffected Ron Paul-ites, and the migraine begins. Just a data point.
Lastly, and this hurts big time, is the age-old principle of GOTV. I heard the vaunted ORCA crashed early on. Don’t place your trust in beta-tested systems when it’s time for the big show. Maybe instead of spending gazillions of dollars in ads in swing states, a party or PAC could shift a few bucks to a better GOTV effort. Why were PCs scrambling (and having to buy, when even available) to get simple yard signs and bumper stickers? Why are the databases so poorly maintained? Where are the boots on the ground? I have a sick feeling that this is where we lost it.
Finally, I’ve sworn off polls forevermore.