Voter turnout was huge on Election Day 2004. Although the final numbers aren't compiled yet, sizeable numbers of first-time and lapsed voters visited the polling booths.
Initially, that looked like a good sign for John Kerry. Indeed, in exit polls, these first-time voters seemed to be strong Kerry supporters.
But let tonight be a lesson to political pros and pundits everywhere: It really is all about turnout. And when it comes to getting out the vote, the Republican Party remains undisputed champion. Even after the extraordinary efforts by Democrats this year to register new voters, like with Charlie Brown of Peanuts fame, the Lucies of the GOP snatched the ball away again.
With Florida won convincingly by Bush (it was supposed to be close, remember?), the only way Kerry can win is by eking out a narrow victory in Ohio and winning the Upper Midwest, Nevada, and Hawaii (a Democratic state which shouldn't even be close). Whatever happens, it looks certain that the Senate will remain in Republican hands, thanks to heavy Republican turnout.
The initial turnout numbers that looked so hot for Democrats will look less tantalizing in the light of day. Young voters, for example, were expected to make a big difference for Kerry. Yet, they turned out in the same overall percentages of the total electorate as in 2000. A CBS News poll of Midwestern voters found that "moral values" was their No. 1 concern. Those are Republican voters, friends--evangelical Christians and socially conservative voters concerned about abortion and gay marriage. It was the Republicans, not the Democrats, who best expanded and mobilized their base. Lesson: The GOP are masters at this game. The party of the donkey gets a kick in the head.