Bush Wins Ohio and the Election: Nader Did Not Cost Gore The Election in 2000; but may have cost it to Kerry in 2004: Undecideds Did Not Vote: Iowa Caucuses May No Longer Be Relevant
George W. Bush was elected President by carrying Ohio in a close race. With 155,337 provisional ballots still uncounted, according to unofficial returns, Bush received 2,796,147 to Kerry's 2,659,644. Bush's margin was 136,483.
In 2000, Bush's margin was 166,735 on a turnout that was lower by 900,000. The provisional ballots will split the same way as the general vote. Bush ran 445,784 votes ahead of his 2000 total of 2,350,363 while Kerry ran 476,036 votes ahead of Gore's 2,183,628. Independent candidates received 25,988 compared to 168,007 four years ago.
In other words, the 2004 race was a rerun of the 2000 race. With Nader off the ballot, Kerry was able to close the gap with Bush by only 30,252; about what could be expected from splitting Nader's 117,799 votes of two years ago. According to these numbers, a Democrat can expect to get 59.1% of Nader's support. It is significant that Nader's 2000 election total in Ohio of 117,799 is still smaller than the 136,483 Bush margin of 2004. In other words, Nader would not have cost Kerry the election if he had been on the ballot, and in fact, may have cost Kerry the election by alienating the independent voters for whom fair play is an important issue in politics and elections. If the Democrats had put the resources they spent challenging Nader's candidacy into promoting Kerry, he might easily have prevailed. The Democrats are trying to win elections in the court room, rather than in the voting booth.
Even in New Hampshire in 2000, a state Gore lost to Bush by 7,211 votes; Nader's 22,188, when split according to the 59.1% proportion demonstrated in Ohio, would only yield Gore another 4,038. Not enough to have given New Hampshire to Gore. The split would have had to be 2 to 1 to get a tie. In Florida in 2000, too, it was the vote suppression in the black precincts, the poorly designed butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County, the unprecedented intervention of the Supreme Court and Gore's partisan decision not to fight for his popular vote mandate all the way through the Electoral College that cost him the state, not the 97,422 votes Nader received. Nader was on the Florida ballot this year. He got 31,858 votes; 65,564 fewer than in 2000; but there were 1,557,573 more voters in Florida this year. The presidential race got 1,360,048 more votes. Bush beat his 2000 total of 2,910,492 by 903,296; while Kerry beat Gore's total by 534,687. Bush's margin in Florida this year was 368,909 which is far more than the 65,564 that Nader lost.
Another reason Bush carried Ohio is because he moved to the center of the political spectrum by getting California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger, who was had spearheaded a Bond Issue to fund stem cell research, anathema to the right-to-life base of Bush's constituency, to campaign for him in Ohio in the closing days of the campaign. Kerry campaigned with singer Bruce Springsteen.
Undecided Voters - Why Exit Polls Can Not Be Trusted
All the polls showed a heavily polarized electorate, with few undecided voters. The turnout was a record, over 115,000,000 an increase of 9 million from 2000. The voters were passionate. Lines formed early and voters flooded polling places throughout the nation.
In a normal election, half the vote comes in in the morning, and the other half comes in at night. The last minute, post dinner rush, is a staple of the election worker's diet. These last minute voters are predominantly the undecided voters. They spend all day asking themselves whether or not they should vote for candidate X or candidate Y, or whether they should even bother to vote at all. Then, after dinner, they take the kids and run down to the polls asking, "Am I on time?" "Is it too late to vote?"
This year, something unprecedented happened. With long lines and heavy turnout from the moment polls opened, election workers labored furiously all day long. People waited hours in line in order to cast their ballots. The voters were passionate and determined. But then, as if someone had turned off the tap, the flood stopped or was reduced to a trickle beginning at about 5:00 p.m. The undecided voters were failing to make their customary appearance.
The long lines in the morning and afternoon were because the voters who cared, cared a lot and were careful to get their votes in early. The undecided voters could never make up their minds and didn't appear at all. That is why the exit polls were inaccurate. The Bush and Kerry voters did not vote in equal numbers throughout the day. Kerry ran well with the young voters, who could vote early and during the day. Bush ran better with the older, working voters, who tend to vote later and at night.
The Iowa Caucuses Become Irrelevant
Iowa is a small state where presidential candidates have to meet the voters in person. The Iowa caucuses are the first test of the presidential nominating season, in freezing February. Voters assemble in local schools and halls to declare their support for different nominees. Caucuses are the opposite of general elections, and with intermediate primaries. Votes are public, and only people who publicly declare party affiliation can participate. Only passionately devoted followers willing to publicly declare party and personal preference participate in party caucuses. So, a small committed group of voters has a disproportionate influence on the selection of the presidential nominee. In primaries, voters must declare their party affiliation, but cast their ballots in secret. In General elections, both party affiliation and the ballot may be secret.
The validity of this process hinges on Iowans then supporting in the November general election the candidate they nominated in the February caucuses. This year, Iowa and New Hampshire gave an early and definitive boost to John Kerry's candidacy, as they did to Al Gore four years ago. In 2000, New Hampshire voted for Bush. If New Hampshire had voted for Bush again this year, the first in the nation primary would have lost its influence. New Hampshire is the only Bush state from 2000 to go for Kerry in 2004. But Iowa looks like it is going for Bush, even though it went narrowly for Gore four years ago.
The number of participants is too small and the public nature of the process too antithetical to the political principle of a secret ballot for the process to have validity if the favored nominee in February loses at the ballot box in November. The Iowa caucuses are too subject to the national ambitions of the state's Governor. If, in the end, Bush carries Iowa, then the caucuses will have significantly diminished value for the 2008 presidential nominating process.
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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf