Here’s something I think is really, really interesting, as long as you understand that the methodology isn’t so much science as a rough way of measuring the impact of something that might be more accurately measured if you had accurate exit polls. Turnout was up across the country, such that Bush got more votes everywhere than he did in 2000, and Kerry got more votes everywhere than Gore did in 2000 (except California in each case, as far as I can tell, although there may be a bunch of absentee ballots yet to count).
The conventional wisdom was that increased turnout would help Democrats. If this were true, one would expect that, at least in contested states, the marginal voters would break for Kerry – i.e., that when you subtract out the 2000 returns from each side, what’s left should lean Kerry. This would be true unless Bush moved so many Gore voters to his column (above and beyond the number of 2000 Bush voters who abandoned him) to negate the benefits of new Kerry-leaning voters. (My own suspicion is that, in general, the people who voted last time and switched sides were close to a wash, although they likely broke for Bush in some places like NJ where he lost decisively last time but closed the gap significantly).
But if you run the calculations of marginal votes, what you get is Bush majorities in the marginal numbers in a lot of places. In some states by big margins – in Connecticut, for example, Bush wins about 88% of the marginal vote. Ohio was an exception, but Bush takes 48% there, enough to hold a state he won by a few points last time. Of course, in New Hampshire, which he lost, he drops to 43%.
I’ll run a state-by-state table of these later on when we’re closer to having final tallies (including absentees) to provide a good comparison. But let’s at least run the table on the national popular vote. Here’s the equation I used:
((Bush 2004 votes) – (Bush 2000 votes))/(((Kerry 2004 votes) – (Gore 2000 votes)) + ((Bush 2004 votes) – (Bush 2000 votes)))
For these purposes, I ignored third-party candidates, since people Kerry won over who had voted Nader last time are, in many ways, equivalent to bringing new people into the process. Looking at the official FEC tabulations from 2000 and the latest tallies so far, I get the following:
|Bush 2000||Bush 2004||Bush +||Gore 2000||Kerry 2004||Kerry +||Bush Share of Increase|
When you put the numbers in that context, you see that Bush was actually hugely more successful at the margins in his combination of bringing new voters to the polls and convincing more people to switch to him than away from him. Remember that next time you hear that high turnout always and everywhere favors the Democrats.