August 3, 2005

PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW what I think about the Hackett / Schmidt election in Ohio. Not much (though this was amusing). Pundits and press always try to turn these by-elections into big leading indicators of the next election, but they’re usually one-offs of no enduring significance. I think this was one of those. And no, my “silence” didn’t mean that I was covering things up, or in denial (about what?) or, well, anything except that I didn’t have much to say.

As Bob Somerby said to one of his critics: ” A column doesn’t become ‘disingenuous’ if it doesn’t address ‘the main issue’ for you.” Or a blog. Jeez.

UPDATE: Jason van Steenwyk, on the other hand, has an opinion or two.

ANOTHER UPDATE: So does the now-blogging Michael Barone, whose opinions on this sort of thing are worth a lot more than mine. He agrees that partisan swings in by-elections don’t mean much, but he does suggest bad news for the Republicans nonetheless:

The reason is that in the present state of polarization of politics, turnout is the key to winning elections. Turnout in 2004 was up 16 percent over 2000—a historic rise. John Kerry got 16 percent more votes than Al Gore, but George W. Bush got 23 percent more votes in 2004 than he did in 2000. That’s why the Republican percentage for president rose from 48 to 51 and the Democratic percentage dropped slightly.

The results in the Ohio 2nd go the other way. According to the latest results I have before me, 112,375 people voted in the special election. That’s just 34 percent of the 331,104 who voted in the district in 2004. Republican Jean Schmidt’s vote total was only 27 percent of Bush’s. Democrat Paul Hackett’s vote total was 46 percent of Kerry’s. Democrats did a better job of turning out their vote. . . .

In this week’s election, Democrats apparently were able to motivate their Bush-hating core to go to the polls. Republicans, who demonstrated such prowess at turning out their voters in November 2004, did not do nearly as well in motivating their base. Turnout will be much higher in November 2006. But this result will give heart to the Democrats who argue that all they need to do is to turn out Bush-haters. And it should give pause to Republicans and raise the question as to whether the Republican base—much larger in this district than the Democratic base—will turn out in record numbers in November 2006 as it did in November 2004.

Judging from what I read in a lot of blogs, I think that Bush’s fair-weather federalism and general lack of enthusiasm for small government means that a lot of the base is less motivated. And I can see why.

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