The Voters Have Their Own Campaign Strategy: Massive Turnout set to Yield Split Government; The Senate as a Gyroscope; Everyone Distrusts the Media, So The Decision is Being Left to Small States: A Rerun of 2000
Voters have registered in record numbers for the 2004 election, about 170 million, about 7 million more than 2000. This is significantly faster than the rate of population growth. For example, in Ohio the voter registration went from 7.5 million to 7.9 million, a 400,000 increase, or about twice the rate of population growth. In New Jersey, too, the number of voters topped 5 million, up from 4.7 million in 2000, or about twice the rate of population growth.
Usually, absentee ballot applications are a perfect predictor of turnout. In Mercer County, New Jersey, voter registration increased 5% from 2000, but the number of absentee ballot applications has increased 16%. If the turnout increases by 16%, 120 million voters will cast ballots.
In 2000, 106 million voters went to the polls. In 2004, the turnout will definitely exceed 110 million; 115 million or more is into uncharted territory. The winning candidate will get at least 55 million votes.
The Senate Gyroscope
As in 2000, the Senate is set to counterbalance the presidential race. In 2000, the voters split the senate 50-50 between the Republicans and Democrats in the event of a Bush victory; with Republican control 51 to 49 in the event of a Gore victory.
This happened because Joe Lieberman, the Democratic candidate for vice-president ran simultaneously for the U.S. Senate from Connecticut. So, if Gore had become the president, Lieberman would have had to resign his Senate seat. Then, Republican Governor John Rowland of Connecticut would have appointed a Republican replacement.
In 2004, the same dynamic is at work. The Democrats look set to reclaim the Senate. They seem assured of capturing the Republican Senate seat in Illinois. They stand a chance in Pennsylvania, Alaska, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Colorado and perhaps North Carolina, while looking vulnerable in South Dakota. That the Democrats even have a chance to win in Oklahoma, where Bush leads Kerry by 30%, shows how discriminating the voters are being this year.
If Bush wins the presidency, and Tom Daschle loses in South Dakota (a top Republican priority) a second Bush term could face a Democratic Senate lead by none other than Senator John Kerry. If Kerry becomes president, his seat in the senate will become vacant. A special election will be held 145 to 160 days after the vacancy happens. The seat could be won by a Republican, trimming the Democrats' control of the Senate, assuming it happens.
Just as in 2000, the senate is set to tilt toward the Democrats in the event that Bush wins the presidency, and toward the Republicans if Kerry wins. Clearly, the closely divided country is looking for split government, forcing both parties to take responsibility for the situation and solutions.
Distrust of the Media Means Voters Are Working Together To Leave the Decision In The Hands of the Small States
One thing everyone agrees on is that the broadcast and print media have become unreliable. So, as in the 2000 election, voters are pulling together to leave the decision in the hands of a few small and big states.
By lining up early for one candidate or another: Texas, California, Illinois and New York (notice the neat geographical distribution, one in the west, one in the south, one in the midwest and one in the east) the voters in the big states have passed the decision to voters in the small states. Voters in big states have to decide on second hand information from newspapers and broadcast media.
By leaving the decision to small states like Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona and the big Ohio, the voters in the big states are trusting people in the small states to make the final decision. When a small state is in play, both Bush and Kerry have to spend a lot of face time, person to person, meeting the voters. Because a lot of people get to see them in person, the power of newspapers and broadcasters over the final decision is diminished. If a lot of people in one family or a bunch of friends gets to see both Bush and Kerry in person, they will make a much better decision than those of us who have to judge second hand.
Why the Polls are Even
Keeping the race tight until the end is a good campaign tactic by the voters, especially after the 2000 election was decided by 527 votes in Florida. It is a way of encouraging voters to register and vote by saying to each other, "come on, we have a difficult decision to make, we need all the help we can get." This part of the plan is working well. The voters need a high turnout, because one thing the voters want is a clear outcome which takes the decision away from the partisan politicians, lawyers and judges and puts the selection of the most powerful office in the world back in the place where it was intended by the framers of the Constitution, in the hands of the people of the United States.
Another reason the polls are close is because the difference between Bush and Kerry as people is very small. Both are privileged sons of wealth and power who went to Yale. Both have shown no compunction about killing people far less privileged than themselves in order to advance their political careers. Bush executed mentally retarded inmates in Texas. Kerry killed Vietnamese in order to build a political resume.
The American people, who are smart and perceptive, know that the nation is in serious trouble and the alternatives are not appealing. Everyone agrees the system is broken. But there are serious divisions and uncertainty about what needs to be done to fix it. The task of the voters on Tuesday, November 2nd is to figure out how to express itself as one nation, united, basically, against the political classes and leadership that has made the current mess.
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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf