Sunday, November 11, 2012

 

RAG's WSJ Election Wrap

The Wall Street Journal's Jason Riley and I had a feisty few minutes doing an election post-mortem.

First, we congratulated ourselves on predicting the Electoral College breakdown for President Obama fairly accurately. The final result was closer to my "likely scenario"  construct. In fact, with Florida at last being given to the president this weekend, he slightly overperformed on my prediction -- concluding with 332 EVs.  But, hey, my "likely" scenario of 303 votes for Obama was at least in the same universe -- as opposed to the forecasts of punditry all-stars like Michael Barone, Dick Morris (BWAHAHAHA!!) and George Will.

So there.

But Jason and I primarily wrestled over the import of the president's re-election strategy. Jason termed it "winning ugly" because of the negative campaign emphasizing the "war on women," blacks being disenfranchised over voter ID, seniors losing their benefits, etc.

While I partially agree with Jason that the Obama Campaign '12 was not the inspiring "hope and change" effort of '08, I take the argument that Republicans over the last few years gave Obama a number of swords that the Democrats used to great effect to attack the GOP -- and to inspire their base.

Personally, I think having to show ID when you vote is not necessarily a bad idea. However, was it such a good idea that Republicans at the state level almost uniformly decided that this would be a major goal as soon as they took power following the 2010 election? Did Eric Holder demagogue the issue suggesting that voter ID could potentially disenfranchise black voters? Yes. But did Republicans more than suggest that the a major intent behind the initiatives was pure electoral politics? Most definitely. The fact is that too many Republicans believe that not only is voter fraud rampant, but that Democrats can only win with it. Are there isolated cases of voter fraud. Yes. Is there any evidence that it is so wide-spread that it requires a partisan one-sided approach for voter identification laws? I would argue no.

The fact that many GOP voter ID plans also placed restrictions on use of college ID sent further signals (beyond that given by the above-referenced Pennsylvania House majority leader) that ballot integrity wasn't the motivating force on the drive to voter ID: It was solely about hampering the Obama base.

Indeed, I would then posit that by making voter ID such a cause, the GOP did more to inspire parts of that  base -- African-Americans in particular -- than anything that the Obama campaign or administration could have done by themselves. BREAKING NEWS: Voting is a big effing deal for black Americans. Learn from history. Combine that with the larger issue of immigration reform and GOP engagement with Latinos. So,  frankly, how hard a lift was it for Barack Obama to "win ugly" -- when Republicans effectively gave away a  menu of potential attacks to the other side?

In any event, here's Jason and myself:



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