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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Late Break to Bush

I know that you, like me, are probably tired of reading post-election analysis, but there’s one more you should check out: Democracy Corps’ final interpretive memo. What’s most interesting about this piece is that it documents from its own polling data how late-breaking voters actually broke.
Like just about everybody else in politics, I thought late-breakers would move to Kerry, because (1) they generally do break against incumbents, and (2) all year long, undecided and shaky decided voters were showing very high “wrong track” numbers, which normally indicates they are likely to move away from the incumbent if they move at all.
Yet DCorps says a surprising array of voters moved towards Bush in the last 10 days, including white rural voters, older non-college-educated white voters, and white senior voters. As the memo’s subtitle–“Why Americans Wanted Change But Voted for Continuity”–indicates, those “wrong track” numbers did not translate into votes to change the track by firing Bush.
The memo strongly suggests these voters got focused on cultural issues down the stretch. As Ruy Teixeira notes: “Lacking, however, is much of an explanation for why this cultural surge at the end of the campaign took place and what, if anything, Democrats could have done to forestall it.”
Democrats will undoubtedly disagree about that, with some saying Kerry should have re-distracted these voters towards their pocket-books by relentlessly pounding Bush on the economy, and others (like me) saying you have to meet the cultural issues head-on instead of perpetually and insultingly trying to change the subject. But it’s increasingly clear that the weight of informed opinion, despite many efforts to claim otherwise, is that Democrats can no longer rationalize away cultural issues as a big part of the systemic political problem we now face. Unless we prove otherwise, no matter who runs Washington, we are part of the “wrong track” when it comes to cultural concerns.

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