Skip to comments.Michael Barone: Obama's numbers went down, but Romney never inspired voters to vote
Posted on 12/26/2012 9:21:54 PM PST by neverdem
In combing through the results of the 2012 election -- apparently finally complete, nearly two months after the fact -- I continue to find many similarities between 2012 and 2004 and one enormous difference.
Both of the elections involved incumbent presidents with approval ratings hovering around or just under 50 percent facing challengers who were rich men from Massachusetts (though one made his money and the other married it).
In both cases, the challenger and his campaign seemed confident he was going to win. and had reasonable grounds to believe so.
In both elections, the incumbent started running a barrage of negative ads defining the challenger in the spring. And in both elections, the incumbent had at least one spotty debate performance.
In both elections, each candidate concentrated on a more or less fixed list of target states, and in both elections the challenger depended heavily on outside groups' spending that failed to achieve optimal results.
The popular vote margins were similar -- 51 to 48 percent for George W. Bush in 2004, 51 to 47 percent for Barack Obama in 2012.
The one enormous difference was turnout. Turnout between the 2000 and 2004 elections rose from 105 million to 122 million, plus 16 percent. Turnout between the 2008 and 2012 elections fell from 131 million to 128 million, minus 2 percent.
Turnout is a measure of organization but also of spontaneous enthusiasm.
In 2004 John Kerry got 16 percent more popular votes than Al Gore had four years before. But he lost because George W. Bush got 23 percent more popular votes than he had four years before.
Kerry voters were motivated more by negative feelings for Bush than by positive feelings for their candidate. They disagreed with Bush's major policies and disliked him personally. The Texas twang, the swagger, the garbled sentence structure -- it was like hearing someone scratch his fingers on a blackboard.
Bush voters were more positively motivated. Political reporters had a hard time picking this up. His job rating was weak, but Bush voters tended to have a lot of warmth for him.
He had carried us through 9/11, he had confronted our enemies directly, he had pushed through with bipartisan support popular domestic measures like his education bill and the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
His criticism of his opponents was measured and never personal, and he blamed none of his difficulties on his predecessor (who had blamed none of his on his).
This affection evaporated pretty quickly, in the summer of 2005, with scenes of disorder in the streets of Baghdad and New Orleans. But it was there in 2004 and you can see it in that 23 percent turnout increase.
The 2012 election was different. Barack Obama got 6 percent fewer popular votes than he had gotten in 2008. And Mitt Romney got only 1 percent more popular votes than John McCain had four years before.
In retrospect, it looks like both campaigns fell short of their turnout goals. Yes, examination of election returns and exit polls indicates that the Obama campaign turned out voters where it really needed them.
That enabled him to carry Florida by 1 percent, Ohio by 3 percent, Virginia by 4 percent, and Colorado and Pennsylvania by 5 percent. Without those states he would have gotten only 243 electoral votes and would now be planning his presidential library.
But the conservative bloggers who argued that the Obama campaign's early voting numbers were below target may have been right. If Mitt Romney had gotten 16 percent more popular votes than his predecessor, as John Kerry did, he would have led Obama by 4 million votes and won the popular vote 51 to 48 percent.
Romney, like Kerry, depended on voters' distaste for the incumbent; he could not hope to inspire the devotion Bush enjoyed in 2004 and that Obama had from a diminished number in 2008.
But, to continue this counterfactual scenario, if Obama had won 23 percent more popular votes this year than in 2008, he would have beaten Romney by 85 million to 69 million votes and by 54 to 44 percent.
In reality, Obama's vote and percentage went down. Considering what happened in Bush's second term, that suggests a course of caution and wariness for the re-elected president and his party.
Yep! And who, the morons tend to think and express freely and often, "care about me!"
Romney had an absolutely massive turnout of evangelicals - more than Bush, more than McCain. Ralph Reed called it an astonishing result. He was right.
I’m saying if he had actual credibility as a Conservative instead of being a complete phony and a caricature of what the left lampoons Republicans for being, he would not have lost. Put up a piss-poor RINO and don’t act shocked when he loses. The election was over as soon as he was nominated. It was a total joke from jump street.
Michael is being cautious this time. This is nothing more than analysis-lite of numbers.
It was a Communist vs. a Socialist. How’d you like the major party picks ?
oops.....that didn’t come out right
I kinda thought obama inspired Republican people, whether they hated him or mistrusted or just had a pretty darn good idea where obama would lead and do to The United States of America in these next 4 years!
ADD in.... to not want obama anywhere near the White House.
That source seems to have gotten the numbers wrong, most sources, including Catholic sources, use the numbers of 57% of Catholics who go to church every week went for Romney, with 42% going for Obama.
How can you say that in the face of record-smashing support from the religious right? By some measures he had more support from the RR - such as % turnout of eligible voters - than Obama did from black voters.
Whatever reason for the loss was, it wasn't due to lack of conservative support.
Romney got 79% of the Evangelical vote, the same as Bush in 2004.
For crying out loud, Romney’s support was weak, you can see that at FR.
The fact that Evangelicals voted for him like they did in 2004, is about all that he had going for him, there is no denying that Romney was a weak candidate.
If he got that “landslide” of support, Ken, he would’ve won. I don’t buy those numbers. They sound as suspicious as the pre-election polls which turned out to be wrong. Even Barone, who is rarely wrong, was taken in (as were a lot of people). I have to say as well, again, that Willard was the most unmotivating figure put up by the GOP in some time. I refused to vote for him because I found him to be viscerally offensive and decidedly non-Conservative. Of course, it didn’t much matter as my state will vote for any Republican (no matter how offensive) for President. The Dems have had such a calamitous situation in this state that the last 3 election cycles have each been like 2010 (to wit: going from a tie in the legislature to GOP supermajority). There’s almost nothing left for the GOP to win.
Yeah, Romney was a weak candidate.
McCain was a lame candidate running against history the economy, the hated Bush and the first black president, in an election that he couldn’t win, Romney was in the opposite situation, an election that he couldn’t lose, against Jimmy Carter’s second term.
Did Romney win in what should have been a landslide, picking up many millions of disgruntled voters? No, instead he did barely better than McCain in 2008.
That is why people have to compare it to 2008 and point out the barely larger numbers, Romney was a disaster.
The evangelical vote in 2004 was 24% of 122.3M votes. In 2012, it was 26% of 128.8M total votes. Using the 79% figure, that works out to 23.2M evangelical votes for Bush vs 26.5M for Romney.
In a declining demographic, those numbers are very impressive.
The GOP establishment got their candidate. They like, no, they love, big gubmint left-wingers. The whole race was sooo Illinois/Chicago-style corrupt. Two “Combiners.” No matter who wins, the establishment wins and the people lose. How hillarious that after pretty much whoring after the Presidency for his adult life, Willard’s kid claims NOW that he didn’t REALLY want to be President. Yeah. Face it, guys, you suckers were hoodwinked. I’ll bet in private that Zero & Willard were probably high-fiving each other.
I said last Spring we should’ve gone to Tampa and run that Slick Willard out of town on a rail if he tried to buy the nomination. What a joke.
So Ralph Reed, as well as other exit pollsters, are all wrong?
They sound as suspicious as the pre-election polls which turned out to be wrong.
Some pre-election polls were dead on accurate.
So you’re saying that of the percentage of evangelicals who voted, more voted for Romney than Obama. Alright. How about in numbers of evangelical voters compared to George Bush in 2000 and 2004? Even if 100 percent of the evangelicals voted for Romney, it would do him no good if only a few of them came out to vote.
Percentage means much less when fewer people turn out to vote. The truth is that with the exception of Mormons, Romney did not light a fire under any group. Liberals, who run as republicans, tend to have that problem.
Evangelicals did their duty like they always do, but that isn’t much for you to cling to, Romney was a disaster, and even against Jimmy Carter, he couldn’t win over new voters, or Catholics, or much of anything, much of his base didn’t vote for him.
In a complete reversal of 2008, when we were on the verge of depression, running against Carter II, and with millions of his 2008 voters refusing to vote for Obama , Romney only beat McCain’s vote totals, by 925 thousand.
Romney was a disaster.
I would love to see the comparative numbers for Florida and Romney’s massive evangelical turnout. If he had been a conservative, there would truly have been an amazing turn out.
Polls can be spun any way one likes, Ken, especially for those who have commissioned them. Exit polls can be just as wrong as pre-election polls. I'll say it again, if there was this enormous swing and ultra-motivated religious Conservative base for Willard (which doesn't pass the smell test on its face, btw), then were was his victory ? I'm telling you, Ken, this was a depressed turnout. If we'd put up a non-caricature with a real record of accomplishment (Gov. Scott Walker), the results would've been different.
"Some pre-election polls were dead on accurate."
Unfortunately, it turned out to be the ones for the Democrats. Then again, we'll never just how high a % of the Dem totals were fraudulent. I think 5% of their overall turnout might be a conservative estimate. They only had to do so in a few key states, anyhow (namely OH & PA).
Truth time? I was not crazy for Romney, but that does not mean I would even think of not voting the Republican ticket. (I did once tho, I voted for JFK, my very first time to vote)
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