The Airing of Grievances
Friday, November 05, 2004
How Did Karl Do It?
So, I think it's fair to say that a lot of folks were surprised that Bush won over 50% of the popular vote. (As for winning the most votes ever, I don't put much stock in that for reasons that Frank has pointed out here. As some blogger noted, George McGovern won more votes than Abe Lincoln. So?) Like I said though, it is pretty damn surprising that the president did so well. Going in, the general consensus was that the more folks who voted the less chance Bush would have of winning a second term. As a few folks noted, "Folks don't wait in line six hours to vote for more of the same." And I must admit I wholeheartedly agreed with that sentiment. But you know what? I was wrong. Turns out that folks did want more of the same. Turns out that folks did not want change. Turns out that folks were mortified by the notion of homosexuals having equal rights. And you know what else? Turns out that Karl Rove manipulated this fear in virtuoso fashion. Check out Josh Marshall's entry on it here. The closing:

As many other have already noted, Rove and Co. cleverly managed to get anti-gay marriage initiatives and referenda on the ballot in a number of key swing states. And that seems to have played an key role in mobilizing 'peripheral' evangelical and culturally conservative voters.

Once they were at the polls, of course, they voted for George W. Bush.

Looking back over the week before the campaign I realize that I should have been more attentive to the reports I was picking up from readers about a wave of push-polls or robo-calls on the gay marriage issue -- some hitting the issue itself while others dug deeper and insisted that the issue was really whether homosexuality would be 'taught in schools' and so forth.

This issue clearly had potency without a phone-call campaign. But that added to it. The decision to get the initiatives on the ballot, followed by a carefully orchestrated campaign of push-polls and the like amounted to a effective campaign pincer movement. And it was one that, to be honest, I think fairly few on the Democratic side even saw coming. Gay marriage -- and the whole cluster of issues that surround it -- became the sub rosa issue of the campaign.

It may have provided Bush with the crucial turnout boost on the right that allowed him to remain in office.
I really don't think there's much "may" about it. Seems to me this is the number one reason why Bush got things done. Credit where credit is due. Well done, Mr. Rove. Incredibly well played.

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