Swing Voters Becoming a Myth
by Chris Bowers, Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 04:42:21 PM EST
But if Kerry was the least liked Democrat among rival party followers, George W Bush did him one better in 2004. Bush emerged as the least liked opposition-party presidential candidate, ever, of either major party. Democratic identifiers bestowed upon Bush a mean score of 29 - - a full 12 points lower than the score Democrats gave him four years earlier.
The larger story here is that in 2004, Democratic and Republican identifiers appeared more dramatically polarized than at any time in the past 36 years. The normal respect reserved for American leaders of the opposition party seems to have eroded nearly completely among followers of both major parties. What distinguishes this particular circumstance is its partisan symmetry. Hostility toward the leader of the opposition party is mutually shared by Democrats and Republicans alike. The implications are also magnified by the nearly identical sizes of these blocs of partisan voters (48% Democratic, 47% Republican).
The final bit of data that goes some distance toward explaining Bush's relative advantage over Kerry in terms is also unprecedented. Of all the candidates who secured their parties' nominations since 1968, George W Bush was the candidate most revered by his own party. His mean score of 84 surpassed even Reagan's 1984 thermometer of 78 among Republican identifiers. And in so doing, Bush also bested the previous high rating for candidates from their partisan followers, Bill Clinton's mark of 80 from Democrats in 1996. In 2004, Kerry attained ratings from Democrats that were typical. Bush generated ratings from Republicans that set records.Whatever the reasons, the middle is dead. After the flight of the Dixiecrats, the possibility of significant crossover from either party is now dead. Kerry lost this election primarily because the Bush campaign recognized this from the start and thus had the better strategy: rev up and turn out the base. We spent way too much time going after the mythical middle, and I say this from a strategic rather than an ideological standpoint. This is a mistake we cannot make again.