As a wrap-up to Election 2004, it should be noted which election “myths” helped shape each party’s strategy. Not surprisingly, the losing party held to the losing myths, and vice versa. Here are some that failed to hold up on Nov. 2:
Anger is a platform. Ever since the 2000 election, Democrats rallied around their mutual disdain for President Bush. The Democrats should have remembered that Republican anger at Bill Clinton didn’t work, either.
It’s the money, not the message. The myth is that the candidate who raises the most money in the year leading up to the election would surely win. Throughout 2004, the Democrats outraised Republicans by several million dollars. Yet it took only the very straightforward message of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and their measly $250,000 in initial funding, to do more damage to John Kerry than all the liberal 527s combined did to Mr. Bush.
High voter turnout favors Democratic candidates. The grassroots efforts of both parties to get out the vote should be applauded. More Americans participated in this election than ever before, but the idea that somehow this would favor Mr. Kerry failed to hold up. In Ohio, Mr. Kerry won more votes than any Democrat in state history; it’s just that Mr. Bush got 136,000 more.
The legions of youth voters would tip the balance in favor of Mr. Kerry. The polls never agreed with this myth. Though the youth vote came out in record numbers, as a percentage of the electorate, their turnout was almost identical to 2000.
There were, however, some election myths that will live to see another election:
It’s still the economy, stupid. Despite the Democrats’ efforts to claim that this was the worst economy since Herbert Hoover, in several areas this economy met or outperformed the one that helped Mr. Clinton win reelection.
Money talks. Two popular election betting markets, the Iowa Electronics Market and TradeSports.com, had been saying the good money was on Mr. Bush all year. When in doubt, check the Vegas odds.
Collectively, the pollsters were right. A RealClearPolitics average of all the national polls had Mr. Bush winning 50 percent to Mr. Kerry’s 48.5 percent, which was only about a point off the actual results. Also, the pollsters had predicted that the race would ultimately come down to Florida and Ohio.
September 11 did decide the election. Despite the recent emphasis on “moral issues” among voters, the truth of the matter is that combined the issues of Iraq and the war on terror proved more important by 12 points.
Even with these in mind, it’s safe to assume that the American electorate is not bound by the half-baked presumptions of the political elite and their deterministic fantasies.