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November 08, 2012
"Devastating:" Jim Geraghty's Depressing Take
I'm not saying he's depressing. I'm saying the results are depressing, so any analysis will be depressing.
The American people voted Tuesday; reality votes in the weeks and months to come. The markets will take into account the fact that we’re likely to see similar gridlock in Congress for at least the next two years. The fiscal cliff and sequestration will have to be dealt with in one way or the other. Those who set the national credit rating will have to contemplate whether the outlook warrants another downgrade. The ticking time bomb of our entitlement programs will show less and less time before detonation. Taxes are probably going to go up.
If there is some good news, it's that there are early indications that our GOTV effort in Ohio was bad. I say that's good news because, if true, it indicates a mechanical problem that can be fixed.
There's also this: Obama's team targeted non-voters in a sophisticated system called NARWHAL which seems to have worked. Why is that good news? Because any technological advantage will be quickly ripped off, imitated, pirated.
The real campaign is startlingly simple: it is the Obama team's fanatical pursuit, behind the scenes, diagram by diagram, plan by plan, of what politicos call the "base vote." These are the Democratic leaners who will be deciding not between Obama and Romney, but between voting for Obama and not voting at all. Starting in the spring, the Obama campaign launched elaborate efforts to reach the different communities of such base-voters in every key state: African-Americans, Latinos, women, gay men and women—each is now getting bombarded with tailor-made messaging and organizing. A barbershop and beauty shop program for black voters, for example; visibility at Pride events for LGBT voters; Spanish-language radio ads for Latinos. As a strategy, it's a rabbit-from-the hat kind of move, trying to pull votes out of nowhere. During the long, lean months of summer, when anxious Dems were fretting about a reelect stuck in low gear, during the sudden reversal in the early fall when all of us were focusing on Romney's aimlessness and Obama's seeming invulnerability, and now again with everything tied up, this, just this, is what consumes the strategists in Chicago. Just the base vote. (Even a catastrophic super-storm hasn't altered their plans: "As we continue our daily updates on the state of the ground game, we want to turn attention to the African American vote," read a memo from the campaign, as much of the Eastern Seaboard remained without power.)
When I first read about NARWHAL, I was very skeptical. I thought it was the campaign spinning some Secret Magic Button that would allow them to win in the face of 8% unemployment. I'm not skeptical now.
On Jan. 22, a young woman in a socially conservative corner of southwestern Ohio received a blast email from Stephanie Cutter, a deputy campaign manager for Barack Obama. Years earlier, the young woman had registered for updates on Obama’s website, completing a form that asked for her email address and ZIP code. For a while, the emails she received from Obama and his Organizing for America apparatus were appeals to give money and sign petitions, and she responded to one that required that she provide her name. The emails kept on coming, rarely with anything an Obama supporter could disagree with, and certainly not the type of hard-edged political message that could scare one away.
It's creepy, and it seems like it should be illegal, but apparently it worked. It turned out a few million non-voters, turned them into Obama voters, and turned the election in Obama's favor.
Obama did lose ten million voters (actually, probably less, when all votes are tallied). But he turned out people who'd never voted before, or voted rarely, by figuring out just what provocative, scare 'em message to send individual non-voters.
One thing that strikes me is that Obama is, has been, and will continue to make more or less naked racial/gender appeals to his voters. The sort of appeals that Republicans are not allowed to make.
This appeal -- appeal to one's tribe -- is powerful. It's also racist, and divisive, and promotes an Us vs. Them mentality... all those things which are terrible if a Republican even hints at it.
But for Obama and the Democrats, it's Game On. They can sow the seeds of Hate -- always a strong motivating emotion in an election -- without any embarrassment and without being called on it by anyone.
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