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Why Bush won

by Siv Palm, opinion editor

 

George W. Bush just won the presidential election, securing himself and the Republicans, four more years in The White House. This surprised a lot of people, because Bush’s main supporters were thought to be limited to the Bible belt of southern states. Why did he win so many Midwestern states? The answer lies in the campaign, and how it put the war on terror on the front pages, and used moral values to increase voter turnout on November 2nd.

 

All the analysts predicted voter turnout to be the win or lose factor in the election. Kerry needed to turn out young voters to win. Bush focused on a different group.

The campaign was dirty, with accusations and lies going back and forth between the two camps. A total of $750 million was spent on advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts. Movie and music stars like Bruce Springsteen, Brad Pitt, and Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs supported Kerry, and even Osama bin Laden made a surprise video appearance that may have affected American voters.

According to The Economist, young people between 18 and 29 did vote for Kerry (54 percent to Bush’s 45 percent), but they only comprised the same share of the total vote, 17 percent, as in 2000. The overall voter turnout, 119.8 million votes, was at 59.5 percent, the highest since 1968. But the high percent voter turnout was not caused by young voters; it was caused by independent and Midwest evangelical voters.

White Protestants, who describe themselves as born-again or evangelical, make up a quarter of the electorate. That is more than African Americans and Hispanics combined. In the Midwest swing states, this group was especially important because it, as the president’s campaign strategist, Karl Rove, said “could have voted for Bush in 2000, but did not.” In 2000, these voters were too disillusioned by the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, and by Bush’s attempt to hide his 1976 drunk-driving conviction. This time, Rove’s job was to get them to the polls.

Rove’s strategy was to mobilize the missing four million evangelical voters by emphasizing moral values. He succeeded in putting the controversial issue of gay marriage on the ballot in 11 Midwest states. All 11 states voted to ban gay marriage. Moral values became the top issue of the campaign, as exit polls showed people saying morality was more important to them then the war on terror, Iraq, or the economy. Overall, four-fifths of those who put moral values first voted for Bush. For example, the swing state, Ohio, which in the end secured Bush’s victory, lost 200,000 jobs in the past four years. Still it voted for Bush and banned gay marriage at the same time.

The United States is split in half on the economy and how the war in Iraq is going. Bush won despite, and not because of these issues. He went back to basics, stuck to the same message, and found a way to get the moral conservatives to the polls.

Four million evangelicals didn’t vote in 2000, when Gore achieved a 0.5 million supremacy in the popular vote. Bush achieved a 3.5 million supremacy in 2004. You do the math.

Source: The Economist, 8 and 10, 2004.

 

 

 

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