Friday, June 19, 2009

Analysis of the Declining State of the Republican Party

Chuck Todd and Sheldon Gawiser. How Barack Obama Won: A State-by-State Guide to the Historic Presidential Election. New York: Vintage Books, 2009.

The end of the Cold War cast the political center adrift. Ross Perot had some popular appeal and even led some polls during the 1992 Presidential elections. 1994 brought Republicans to hold a majority of Congressional seats for the first time in 40 years. No candidate won a majority of votes in 1992 or 1996, something that hadn’t happened in two consecutive Presidential races in eight decades. In 2000, the winner of the Electoral vote failed to win the popular vote, something that hadn’t happened in over a century. The 2008 election may have established political coherency.

Tom Vilsack was the first candidate to announce for President. Hillary Clinton was seen as an early front runner for the Democratic nomination. The Republican reaction to Clinton’s candidacy made Rudy Guiliani the early front runner for the Republican nomination.

The anti-Clinton vote searched for a candidate. A number of candidates, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, and Chris Dodd sought to fill that role. Obama, who had only become a Senator in 2005, was considered a long shot.

Republican voters like order. Bush couldn’t run for reelection. Vice President Cheney didn’t wish to run. Jeb Bush declined to run. Normally, the previous runner-up John McCain would have been the presumptive front runner. Republicans activists preferred an alternative to the maverick McCain. McCain’s campaign run out of money and made major cuts to its efforts. Mitt Romney attempted to become the conservative alternative and changed some of his positions to be more conservative.

Giuliana faced stories regarding his personal life, being married to his third wife, and questions about his disgraced business partner, Bernard Kerik; Giuliani decided not to run in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Michigan and developed a strategy of focusing on Florida and then the Super Tuesday of multistate primaries.

Fred Thompson was hailed by several conservative as an ideal candidate. When Thompson decided to run, he seemed unenthused. Alternatively, Mike Huckabee was an enthusiastic social conservative candidate.

Huckabee upset Romney in Iowa. McCain won New Hampshire. The split of conservative candidates gave a plurality win to McCain. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist endorsed McCain and helped McCain win Florida. The Republican field collapsed to McCain on Super Tuesday. Huckabee kept campaigning until McCain won a majority of delegates.

Obama and Clinton announced forming their exploratory committees on YouTube. Obama directed his campaign to young voters. Dodd’s attacking Clinton’s not answering a question on immigration hurt Clinton. Clinton sought popular appeal that she felt would lead her to the nomination. The Obama campaign focused on winning delegates. The Obama campaign was sidetracked when tapes of his minister Rev. Jeremiah Wright delivery controversial sermons condemning American actions. Race became a factor, which Obama had tried to avoid. Obama is an African American with few mainland Black political roots. Obama quit as a member of Rev. Wright’s church.

Obama won Iowa, damaging Edwards’ strategy that had him focusing on winning Iowa. Clinton began coming across as “more human” and won in New Hampshire and Nevada.

Polls showed, among Democrats, Obama was preferred among African Americans, Caucasians with college degrees, and young voters. Clinton was preferred among Latinos, females, and Caucasians without college degrees. The early primaries and caucuses had electorates titled towards supporting Obama. Clinton’s campaign probably would have done better had states where voters favored her more had been held earlier.

Obama easily won South Carolina. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) did not sanction the Florida and Michigan primaries. Obama’s name wasn’t on the Florida ballot. Clinton won both states. The DNC later awarded Florida half of its delegates and gave both Clinton and Obama nearly equal number of delegates from Michigan.

The Clinton campaign ran low on campaign funds while the Obama campaign did much better raising money. The Clinton campaign successfully targeted campaigns in New York, California, New Jersey, and Arizona. Obama ran in every state. Thus Clinton won big victories while Obama was acquiring more delegates. Since DNC rules gave delegates winning at least 15% of the vote in a Congressional district, Obama kept close to Clinton in delegates even in states where he lost.

Obama won 11 contests in a row. Clinton then won in Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Clinton argued she could better win the larger states with more electoral votes and thus she had a better chance in the general election.

The long campaign for the nomination assisted Obama in getting his message heard in every state. This helped him win in North Carolina, Indiana, and Virginia in the general election.

McCain, by winning the nomination earlier in the process, received less attention. The focus was on Obama versus Clinton.

McCain, the champion of campaign finance reform, criticized Obama for changing his position on not taking public financing and instead could receive greater amounts from contributors.

Obama picked Biden as his Vice Presidential running mate. This was a conventional choice that had little effect on the election.

McCain picked Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. This was an unconventional choice that received much attention. Her lack of experience hurt the ticket. McCain made energy a major topic but failed to use Palin as a voice on energy issues. Two third of voters preferred Biden over Palin.

When an economic downturn happened, the Obama campaign criticized an earlier McCain statement that the economy was sound. The Obama campaign moved into the lead in polls.

McCain responded by working on a Congressional bailout and by having Joe the Plumber symbolize his concern for the working class.

Obama showed that campaigning can make a difference. TV ads are overemphasized. Radio and Internet ads were more important than pundits realized. Obama’s campaign volunteers were very connected to the campaign and to each other, campaigning early that led to advantages later on. Obama kept a media focus that helped his campaign, demonstrated coherent message and presented a salable for reason for why he was running. Obama also showed that having more funds than an opponent is important to putting together a campaign.

The authors do not yet know if the 1008 election is the beginning of political alignment favoring the Democratic Party. They do observe the higher agreement that young voters have with Democrats that could create a 53% to 55% of voters over the next decade as composing a Democratic coalition.

In 2008, 26% of the voters were non-Whites. In 1976, 10% of the voters were non-Whites. In 2008, Obama won 43% of the White votes. In 1976, Carter won 47% of the White votes.

McCain’s supporters were 61% Caucasian, 23% African American, and 11% Hispanic. McCain’s supporters were 90% Caucasian.

Hispanic turnout increased in 19 states. They are an important voting block in many states.

Voters under age 30 supported Obama by 66% to McCain by 31%. This is important as young people tend to develop brand loyalty while young. This may be very important to future elections if the Democratic brand loyalty remains.

Obama led among women by 56% to 43% for McCain. Obama received 49% of the male vote compared to 47% for McCain. A gender gap, seen in previous elections between the two political parties, continues.

White college educated voters voted 51% for McCain to 47% for Obama. This traditionally Republican leaning group has been trending Democratic over the last decade.

Obama won moderates by 60% to 39% and Independents by 52% to 44%,

Catholics voted for Obama by 54% to 45% for McCain.

McCain was more popular with white Protestant Evangelicals, who compose 23% of the all voters, senior citizens (voters age 65 or more who compose 16% of al voters), and white voters without a college degree, where “Joe the Plumber” symbolized them. A future problem for Republicans is that senior citizens and whites without college degrees are forecast to be less of the proportion of the electorate.

Obama was the first Democrat since Clinton in 1966 to win a majority of suburban voters with 50% to 48% for McCain.

McCain won rural voters by 53% to 45% for Obama. This eight point margin compares to Bush’s 15 point margin in 2004 and Bush’s 22 point margin in 2000.

In most states that went from Bush to Obama, the significant change was seen in more suburban voters switching from Republican to Democrat.

Voter dissatisfaction was important in the 2008 election. Two thirds of voters did not approve of Bush as President.

Obama and McCain differed on the Iraq War. Of the 63% of voters who opposed the Iraq War, Obama was favored by 76% to 22%. Of the 36% of voters who approved the war, McCain was favored by 86% to 13%.

Obama made “change” his issue. McCain ran as a maverick and reformer. Of the 34% of voters who chose “change” as the most important qualify for a candidate, Obama led by 89% to 9%. Of the 30% of voters who chose “values” as the most important quality of a candidate, McCain led by 65% to 32%. Of the 20% who chose “experience” as the most important quality of a candidate, McCain led by 93% to 7%. Of the 12% of voters who said the most important quality of a candidate is that he “cares”, Obama led by 74% to 24%.

In 2008, 39% of voters identified themselves as Democrats, 32% as Republicans, and 29% as Independents. In 2004, 37% were Democrats, 37% were Republicans, and 26$ were Independents.

The Republicans faces becoming a party than can only win in Southern states and rural areas. The conservative base politically limits contrary ideologies that could appear to a larger base. Republicans best hopes may rest in hoping the Democrats fail and Republicans can present themselves as the alternative.

The battleground states are Colorado (the Obama primary campaign continued operating and Obama received 53% of the vote there), Florida (the most populated of the battleground states), Indiana (a historic Republican state that Obama won by 50% to 49%), Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.

Receding battleground states now mostly tilting more Democratic are Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Emerging battleground states are Arizona, Georgia, Montana, Nebraska, and Texas.

The other states appear to be solidly leaning either Democratic or Republican.


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