Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Election Wrap-Up

SANTA FE After the most painful presidential campaign ever, we were blessed with a merciful ending. Election day irregularities were at a minimum and President Bush’s lead in Ohio was enough to convince Sen. Kerry not to insist that all votes be counted.
Despite this being a very different world today than four years ago, the votes changed little. Few states switched from the Republican or Democratic columns.
It was expected that the electorate would be very different this time because of the massive voter registration drives among young people and minorities. But the 18-24 vote reportedly stayed at 17 percent.
And if Democrats were the ones registering most of the minorities, it did little good. Hispanics and Blacks both gave President Bush a higher percentage of their vote than four years ago.
Gov. Bill Richardson’s well-funded voter registration drive didn’t produce its intended results either, unless those young people and minorities are hiding in the votes yet to be counted.
Richardson’s PAC also did a lot of registration work in Colorado, where Democrats surprised by picking up both a U.S. Senate and House seat and by taking both houses of the legislature for the first time in many years.
We were told during the campaign that America has a new “Generation e,” standing for empowerment. Much is sure to be written about where that went after voter turnout efforts by Rock the Vote and pop music stars fizzled.
Had Kerry pulled out a victory in Ohio, we may have seen a situation similar to four years ago when one candidate took the popular vote and the other took the Electoral College. Since the results would have been reversed, it would have been interesting to see if the Republican Congress would have tried to abolish the Electoral College.
Much was said about the vagaries of the Electoral College again this year and Gov. Richardson was called upon by the national media to defend it on behalf of small states. Richardson argued that our founders intended small states to be protected, just as they are in the U.S. Senate.
In states with two senators and only one representative, the popular vote counts several times as much as the votes of large states. But without that, presidential candidates would completely ignore not only small states but also rural areas of large states.
Candidates would be forced to concentrate all their time in huge population centers. And that wouldn’t include Albuquerque. The special needs of small states and rural areas would be lost even more than they are now in any discussion of issues.
At this point, most New Mexicans likely would prefer not to be noticed by the campaigns. It was nice being able to see the candidates and their families in a very large number of the communities in the state. Many of the visits late in the campaign were to New Mexico towns that previously had been completely ignored.
But the flood of negative TV ads was sickening. Our household resorted to watching fishing shows on ESPN to stay away from the local ads. Albuquerque and Miami were reported to be the most heavily-saturated markets in the nation, while people in states such as Utah and Wyoming saw none of it.
Las Cruces reminds us again of a disadvantage of hosting a candidate’s entourage. The airport runway messed up by a heavy cargo plane during a presidential visit was originally estimated to be about $1 million. But outside engineers now put the cost at more like $2 million.
Early in the campaign, Arizona sometimes was included as a possible battleground state. But the first polls put an end to that. Thus Sen. John Kerry decided to stay an extra night in Santa Fe preparing for the last debate, rather than staying at a posh resort in Scottsdale. Arizonans were furious. Why stay in that little Podunk town?
At about that time, Conde Nast travel magazine issued its latest poll of most popular destinations. Santa Fe was second in the nation. Scottsdale didn’t make the list.


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