We have just had an election in which it is clear that the Democratic Party made a highly disciplined effort to register and get to the polls every potentially supportive voter in the land. The strategy appears to have worked quite well. Polls, particularly close to the election, painted a confusing picture. Democrats insisted that the polls under-counted their base, and that was clearly true as we now see the outcome after the fact.
Republicans insisted the polls were right and, if anything, did not take into consideration that Republicans were finishing strong, implying that these positive polls were under-counting the majority by which Republicans would win. Unhappily for Republicans, this was a delusional prophesy. Now, two days later, Republicans and republican pundits are beginning to try to reassess the condition of the party — and the discussion is not pretty. It’s not the purpose of this post to try flesh out the direction these Republican Party discussions are likely to take. Let’s just say they are beginning, and could be difficult at times. In 1988 after losing three consecutive presidential elections Democrats had a similar epiphany and set about to make necessary changes in party organization and outlook. It seems that Republicans will now begin a similar process.
I leave it to the Republican Party to decide what, if anything, it will change going forward. The party did many things right, but the Democrats seem largely to have simply had a better plan. They were disciplined in their approach which was largely the same approach they used in 2008 when admittedly when results were even stronger than in 2012. The Democratic approach focused on voter registration and on strong, hands on contact with people in strongly Democratic precincts. They were able to pinpoint areas of potential for increasing voter participation based on census information and social media information and other various high tech approaches. The idea was to get everyone to the polls on election day or to assist some in early voting. Overall, this was a simple approached that worked quite well. It required strong, highly disciplined local organizations.
In fact, there were things that happened during the campaign that assisted the Democratic plan. First, Republicans focused on voter identification and challenges to democratic voters in some areas that backfired. These strategies were widely interpreted as voter intimidation, and had the affect of pushing even more voter participation in some areas than was seen in 2008. Second, the largely negative immigration message of Republicans sent large numbers of Hispanic citizens to the polls. They voted Democratic in record numbers (over 70 percent). Widely discussed comments on rape and abortion by two Republican candidates were viewed by many women as more generally as a Republican problem causing some blocks of women to vote Democratic by a wide majority. While it is widely reported that white man were heavily for the Republican candidate, it needs to be emphasized that large voting excess of white men favoring him were found mainly in states in the South. This was not true in the East, Midwest and Western states. This distribution had obvious effects on outcomes in both the presidential and congressional races.