A Post Mortem From One Who Was in the Trenches

We’ve spent some time trying to analyze what happened on November 7, around the country and here in Minnesota. Yesterday I got an email from Mark Kennedy’s campaign manager, Pat Shortridge. Pat has graciously allowed us to share it with our readers:

As you might imagine, we’ve spent a bit of time analyzing the data ourselves. The key empirical data point so far is in the overall turnout.
This chart shows turnout as the % of the previous election. In both 98 and 02, turnout was over 90% of the preceding Presidential election. In 94, it was only 76%, as demoralized Democrats and liberals stayed home. This year it was 78%. From a turnout standpoint at least, this appears to have been a Republican ’94. Will need to review more precinct data to get more info, but from some of my initial reviews in Republican areas, numbers are down. It’s also clear from the polling on how Independents voted that the conservative independents stayed home.
Turnout289.jpg
Why? (1) People were mad about the War. (2) People were mad about the scandals in Washington. (3) Our base was demoralized by 1 and 2, but also by Republican failure to address key issues, ie spending. I think it’s impossible to argue that conservative Republicans won and moderates and liberals lost. All Republicans of all stripes got beat, some totally out of the blue.
Republicans said all along that we needed to make it a choice between competing worldviews and competing candidates rather than a referendum. Clearly, our side failed in that. For too many voters, it was a referendum.
Our side wins when elections were about big issues and big differences. For too many voters, that was lost. We need to reinvigorate our movement and get back to focusing on activism and ideas.
Also, you can only go to well of “we-may-be-bad-but-they’re-worse” so often. I think voters said to Republicans “we don’t believe you any more. You’re both lousy. I may have a horrible case of buyers remorse in two years, but I’m giving them a try.”

Let’s hope for that buyer’s remorse. Elections are awfully blunt instruments; it makes no sense, for example, that conservative-leaning independents would stay home out of unhappiness with Congress’s spending habits, rather than turn out to vote for Mark Kennedy, one of the true spending hawks in Congress. Yet that is, in part, what happened.
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