Inside the Capitol

Monday, November 15, 2004

Were Exit Polls Correct About Morality?

SANTA FE Election day exit polls showing Sen. Kerry with a lead have been widely denounced as either poorly done or as some sort of Democrat conspiracy. But all the “experts” are accepting another finding of those polls showing that moral issues are the most important to American voters.
If the polls incorrectly predicted the winner, might it be possible they also messed up on morality? Various explanations were given for respondents saying they voted for Kerry. Most often heard was that Democrats were more willing to answer pollsters questions.
If that’s the case, maybe it means that Democrats are interested in moral issues too. Republicans did a good job of taking the issue all for themselves, just as they’ve done with patriotism.
But maybe it had to do with how the question was asked. Some respondents said there were too few choices for answers and that they were worried about sounding immoral if they didn’t choose that answer.
Anyway, all the talk about America becoming a theocracy may be jumping to the wrong conclusion. Admittedly, there is some evidence to back it up. In all of the states where a ban on gay marriage was on the ballot, it won. Even in liberal Washington State.
Republican strategists brilliantly got the issue on so many state ballots because it brought out long lines of likely Bush voters. When the Massachusetts court ruled in favor of gay marriage, it surely sealed the fate of its junior senator’s presidential chances.
John Edwards’ claims early in the campaign about two Americas was stifled soon after his selection as the Democrats’ vice-presidential candidate. But election results certainly demonstrate two Americans in at least some ways.
Republicans have loved flashing the map with election results by county. It is a sea of red, with blue lines along both coasts and the Mississippi. George Bush won rural America and John Kerry won the cities. It wasn’t much different four years ago when Al Gore was the Democrat nominee.
Ever since then, Republican readers have sent me an analysis by some college professor noting that the areas won by Gore had more poverty and crime. That’s likely to be the case again, but this time Democrats will have some ammunition to fire back.
Scientists from a Santa Fe complexity theory business have postulated that George Bush represents simplicity, which they associate with stupidity and John Kerry represents complexity, which they associate with intelligence. To back their claim, they presented studies indicating that Kerry won the states with the highest average IQs and the highest percentage of college graduates.
So maybe our two Americas aren’t the haves and have-nots, as John Edwards argued, but stupid country folks versus intelligent but poor urban criminals. It doesn’t appear America is coming together.
Everyone is talking about Sen. Kerry’s off-mike comment that Bill Richardson had better deliver New Mexico. Since we didn’t hear what preceded that comment, many interpretations are possible. Was he kidding or was he serious?
Was it in the context of Richardson insisting on so much of Kerry’s time, including that election day interview? Or Kerry and Richardson may have been hearing the optimistic exit polls at about that time and may have thought Kerry would be president. Could Gov. Richardson have asked for a major favor?
As this is being written, Gov. Richardson seems to still be trying to deliver New Mexico to Kerry, which seems unlikely. Being able to deliver would make Richardson a bigger player in the 2008 elections.
It won’t put Kerry over the top, but then that may not make the governor too sad because it leaves the Democratic presidential nomination up for grabs in 2008.
Not many Democratic governors were able to deliver battleground states. One of the exceptions is Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who held a joint news conference with Richardson the day after the election, concerning flu shots. No TV reporter dared to pronounce his name.


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