No Major Increase In Voter Turnout

Experts said voter turnout this year would be the biggest ever, but reports as of two days after the election are that there was no major increase in voting over 2004. Barack Obama exceeded the historic number of votes that George W. Bush got in 2004, but not by much. The problem was turning out voters for John McCain.

I started digging in Orange County, Calif. and Northeast Georgia and Minnesota and found traditionally conservative precincts had lower than expected turnout. And before you start blaming Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain has had a problem with the Republican base long before Palin came around. In fact, without Palin, even more of the base would probably have stayed home.

New voter turnout was about 10 percent this year, which about the same as 2004. The African American vote and the women’s vote stayed about the same as a percentage to 2004. Finally, the coveted youth vote did increase from 17 percent in 2004 to 18 percent in 2008, but, with a smaller than expected overall increase in votes cast, that doesn’t win the election for Obama.

Obama got between 1 and 2 million votes more than George W. Bush did in 2004, but McCain received about 7 million votes less than George W. Bush did in 2004. That’s a swing of 9 million votes. There’s still a few to count around the country, but Obama won because he played on all the fields available to him, and, with lower turnout in conservative precincts around the country, he sufficiently suppressed the vote for McCain. He had plenty of help from a disgruntled conservative movement, but Obama won this presidential election.

My state of Georgia stayed red, but the poor turnout in conservative districts and moderates that voted for Obama reduced the traditional lead that a Republican would get by about 5 points and put Senator Saxby Chambliss into a runoff. The final word on the runoff is still to come, but at this writing, Sen. Chambliss and Mr. Martin are both in runoff mode. This will be an important state for Democrats to win for three reasons. First, it brings them closer to the magic number of 60 Senate votes, and since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is going to strip Lieberman of his power in the Senate for being a bad boy and supporting McCain, they need the seat. Secondly, they want to make Sen. Chambliss pay for perceived “dirty tricks” in his win over former Sen. Max Cleland six years ago. Third, they’ve been waiting for an opportunity to get back at former Senator and Governor Zell Miller for his “spitballs” remarks at the Republican National Convention in New York.

The Democrats are always looking backward, not forward. Even in this historic election of “Hope Springs Eternal,” they are looking to settle old scores. It’s the Chicago Way, and it’s just the beginning in an Obama administration.

While Georgia may not be the only Senate runoff when the dust settles and all the votes are counted, it is the most important. It adds to the numbers for Democrats if they win and it rubs in the face of the South that “we are the majority.” Every 527 and party member will be here from both sides fighting for a win. We might even see President-Elect Obama for Martin and Governor Palin for Chambliss. The test of Palin will be how Republicans use her in future elections. I think we’ll be seeing a lot of her.

But it will all be for naught. Chambliss will either win this seat by a hair when all the absentee ballots are counted or will win in the runoff. African Americans won’t get out and vote in a runoff without Obama on the ticket, and Jim Martin is a two-time loser in statewide runs. He’s not the candidate to win this race.

When it is all said and done, this runoff will not be the election of change. This is the election where a sufficient number of conservatives stayed home or didn’t vote for president. The youth vote will be touted again, the new vote will be touted again and stay about the same, but if you can’t get your base out, you can’t win elections.

I proudly supported McCain, I support Chambliss — but they both would have been better off to vote against the “bailout bill” so they could take the higher ground in fixing the economy, being against earmarks, and differentiating themselves from Obama. Obama did many new and wondrous things to get out the vote, but, in the end, the best thing he did was voting the same way McCain did on the “bailout bill.” Having a few bucks didn’t hurt either.