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
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.