To win future elections, Republicans will need more than better get-out-the-vote software.
By KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
To win the next presidential race, the GOP will have to understand what went wrong in 2012. To do that, they’ve got to come to grips with what did, and did not, happen with turnout.
Even as Republicans have engaged in some agonizing over their candidate and agenda, many have sought comfort in the notion that a big part of the loss came down to simple mechanics. President Obama had a stunning Election Day operation, which turned out his base. Mitt Romney‘s shop, by contrast, failed to get people to the polls. That explanation is soothing because it suggests that, in the future, all the GOP needs is a slicker piece of get-out-the-vote software.
It’s also broadly wrong.
The turnout myth comes from a statistic that has been endlessly repeated: Mitt Romney got fewer votes than John McCain in 2008. This isn’t quite true (Mr. Romney this week eked past the McCain totals), and in any event it is somewhat irrelevant.
The Romney vote count reflects a nationwide voter turnout that was down nearly five percentage points from 2008. What matters is how the GOP did in the battleground states.
And there? Mr. Romney beat Mr. McCain’s numbers in every single battleground, save Ohio. In some cases, his improvement was significant. In Virginia, 65,000 more votes than in 2008. In Florida, 117,000 more votes. In Colorado, 52,000. In Wisconsin, 146,000. Moreover, in key states like Florida, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia, Mr. Romney turned out even more voters than George W. Bush did in his successful re-election in 2004.
By contrast, Mr. Obama’s turnout was down from 2008 in nearly every battleground. He lost 54,000 votes in Virginia, 46,000 votes in Florida, 50,000 votes in Colorado, 63,000 votes in Wisconsin. Ditto Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio.
The only state where Mr. Obama increased his votes (by 36,000) was North Carolina, and he was still beaten by a Romney campaign that raised its own turnout by a whopping 147,000.
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