Note to GOP. I had an opportunity to have lunch with Michael Barone in 2006 and I vividly remember him telling me then that church attendance was the clearest predictor that a person would vote Republican. He said if a person attended church in the past week, there was at least a 70 percent chance that person would vote Republican. This year, according to early exit polls, that number fell to 59 percent. The moderate Mormon simply did not energize conservative evangelical churchgoers. Lots of people will be looking for messages from the election. One message I hope the GOP gets is this: If you keep sending us Gerald Fords, Bob Doles, John McCains, and Mitt Romneys, you will keep losing. Send a true conservative who can articulate conservative values from his heart, and not from a teleprompter, and America will rally around him.
Math matters. One other thing we learned in this election was the difference between a prediction, a guess, and a hope. Conservative pundits such as Karl Rove “predicted” not just a Romney win, but a Romney landslide, right up until the polls closed yesterday. We now know the value of Rove’s predictions. He was and is a paid cheerleader. Nothing wrong with that, but let’s call it what it is. Gary Bauer sent out an email last night at about 10 p.m. that read, “The 2012 election is turning out to be the cliffhanger we had expected. The good news is that none of the key swing states have yet gone against us. And there is reason to be hopeful that by the time the sun rises we will prevail.” As it turned out, Bauer and Rove—among many others—were coming to us from the Land of Magical Thinking. It ended up being not much of a cliffhanger. The wins in most states were decisive. And the pollsters that conservatives mocked were remarkably accurate. Real Clear Politics final average was President Obama by .7 percent. The final tally will be closer to a 2 percent Obama advantage. If anything, the polls over-counted conservatives.
Silver streak. Perhaps the big winner Tuesday evening was New York Times blogger Nate Silver. In 2008, Silver called all 35 senate races, and 49 out of 50 states in the presidential election. Lots of people, though, said it was a fluke. Conservative pundits dismissed him as an Obama partisan (he is). Some even launched into ad hominemarguments about his sexuality (he’s openly gay). I had studied his methodology enough to know that he was on to something. So even though I have a strong distaste for his politics and his lifestyle, I like his projection model. Silver projected that Obama would win 313 electoral votes. As I write this, he has 303, with Florida in the balance. He said the Democrats would end up with 52 Senate seats. The final tally was 51. (Still trying to figure out which one he missed. Check back on Friday.) The bottom line: 2008 was not a fluke. Silver’s streak is still alive.
Third-party irrelevance. I heard some talk in the last weeks before the election that third parties might upset the balance of power. That didn’t happen, either. Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode, a former U.S. representative from Virginia, had polled as high as 2 percent and could have hurt Romney in that state. But even if 100 percent of the third-party votes went to Romney, Obama would still have won Virginia. (Third-party candidates there got 1.4 percent, and included Goode as well as a Libertarian and Green Party candidate.) New Mexico, home state of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, paints a similar picture. Third-party candidates got 4 percent of the vote there, but Obama beat Romney by such a wide margin (53 to 43 percent) that even if 100 percent of the third-party votes went to Romney, Obama would still have won.