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The Five Myths of Campaign 2008

In a piece for tomorrow's "Outlook" section, The Fix explores -- and explodes the five biggest myths of the 2008 campaign.

We don't want to ruin the surprise but here's a sampling:

Myth #2: A wave of black voters and young people was the key to [Barack] Obama's victory.

Afraid not. Heading into Election Day, cable news, newspapers and blogs were dominated by excited chatter about record levels of enthusiasm for Obama among two critical groups: African Americans and young voters (aged 18-29). It made sense: Black voters were energized to cast a historic vote for the first African American nominee of either major party; young people -- following a false start with former Vermont governor Howard Dean in 2004 -- had bought into Obama in a major way during the primary season, and they finally seemed on the cusp of realizing their much-promised potential as a powerhouse voting bloc.

Or not. Exit polling suggests that there was no statistically significant increase in voting among either group. Black voters made up 11 percent of the electorate in 2004 and 13 percent in 2008, while young voters comprised 17 percent of all voters in 2004 and 18 percent four years later.

The full piece is already on line and reaction is flowing fast into the Fix inbox. Keep it coming in the comments section below.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 15, 2008; 12:18 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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Comments

I think the biggest myth that was shattered is an obvious one. Everyone I know, myself very much included, was intensely relieved to see large numbers of white people, especially working-class white people, voting for a distinguished man of color. There were two myths shattered here, actually. The first is that working-class whites, especially labor union members, wouldn't vote for a black (actually biracial) presidential candidate. Well, they did. Second was the tiresome "Bradley effect" myth. Thank goodness that one went down! That's not to say that race was not a factor in some people's minds. I think that Bill Schneider of CNN put it most succinctly when, a week before the election, he looked at the polls and said, "Well, basically, the race factor has already been 'baked in' to the poll results." In other words, Barack Obama's margin might well have been 10 or 11 points (leading to an unbelievably massive Electoral College differential) rather than what it ended up being--6 points--had he been white. But the plain fact is that many white people voted for now-President-elect Obama who had not been expected to, particularly in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and even West Virginia. As I say, I was intensely relieved to see that myth shattered.

Posted by: newdadchicago | November 17, 2008 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I misread qwerty's premise about the youth vote... he was discussing a "swing" in the entire "youth vote", not just the increase in the size of that vote compared to the last election, as I thought.

And it looks like he's right on.

Posted by: Iconoblaster | November 17, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

I think qwertybnm (Post below at 3:50 pm)has a pretty good general point about the significance of the numbers, but it seems to me that its overstated a little.

An increase in the "black vote" equivalent to 2% of the electorate, 90% or more of which went to Senator Obama plus a similar 1% increase in the "youth vote", 75% going to Obama, amounts to of 2.65% of the total vote... maybe a little more. Make it 3%. That's significant (just as qwerty suggested), but it isn't 6%, so Senator Obama's margin of victory nationwide can't be completely explained by increases in these two groups of voters.

Posted by: Iconoblaster | November 17, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

"there has to be something behind the money disparity and an investigation is in order."

Wahwahwah, watta crybaby.

If you really believe the advertising budgets of tese campaigns was the deciding factor in this election, you must have been sleeping for the past 8 years.

Posted by: JEP7 | November 17, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Chris, you've been drinking draws from the wrong pitcher again. You need to find a more world-wise collction of peers to pressure you.

Try a "Democrats Drinking Liberally" party sometime, you may start writing realistic articles instead of these wistful Republican wish lists.

Posted by: JEP7 | November 17, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

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Mark

Our side was getting overwhelmed by the money disparity - Obama had 300 paid bloggers on staff - to our rag-tag band of volunteers - we had to employ copy-and-paste to keep up with the numbers.


It was that simple.


The advertising budget was amazing - there has to be something behind the money disparity and an investigation is in order. If it is true that a simple computer function could VERIFTY THAT THERE IS A MATCH BETWEEN THE NAME GIVEN AND THE NAME OF THE CREDIT CARD then it makes sense that Federal Election Laws call for that function to be TURNED ON.


IF that function was PURPOSELY TURNED OFF and therefor a dilberate act committed to NOT VERIFY THAT THE INFORMATION ENTERED INTO OBAMA'S COMPUTER FILES WAS CORRECT, LEGAL AND FROM DOMESTIC SOURCES, well then.


The Obama Campaign had a LEGAL OBLIGATION to verify that all contributions are from DOMESTIC SOURCES - if they were purposely ignoring that legal obligation there is a problem. In addition, I believe the Federal Election Commission should take a pro-active stance with the credit card companies and see to it that a means is created to verify that credit card payments are in compliance with federal laws. It is not that difficult to have the computer match a credit card with an address.


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Posted by: 37thOSt | November 17, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Without doing the numbers rigourously, my quick reaction to Chris's intro to the piece is that he's wrong:

An increase of 2 points in black turnout WAS significant since they all voted for Obama: that's two more full points in the popular vote.

And the negligible increase in youth turnout masks the MASSIVE shift in the youth vote preference--to something like 75 percent from Obama: If 18 percent of the electorate swings from a fifty-fifty preperence to 75-25 preference, isn't that another four-and-a-half points for Obama

So that's 6 and a half points swing in my back-of the envelope calculation, which is pretty much the election, isn't it Chris?

Posted by: qwertybnm | November 16, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

An increase in black turnout from 11% to 13% of the entire electorate while the numbers of blacks in the general population has declined as a percentage is extraordinary. It also amounts to a 20%+ increase in the black vote. And because the presidential election is actually 55 jurisdictional elections [50 states, DC, CDs in NB and ME].

We think, do we not, that NC voting D was attributable to black turnout? That alone would be enough to declare "No Myth".

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 16, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

It would be a fortuitous day were Obama to ask Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, “Mr. Dean…What about the Abenaki?”

I’m certain the sinking pit Mr. Dean would get in his stomach could not be hidden by his poker face.
Civil Rights means not putting up with racism. There’s no place in a fair and decent administration for anyone who has so actively waged a campaign against such a trodden minority.

I hope a reporter asks Obama (before he hands out jobs) if he has any idea about Dean’s historical mistreatment of these people.


K.B.Richard
Shelburne, Vt

Posted by: kbrichard | November 16, 2008 10:51 AM | Report abuse

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I would say the reason no one is here now is that there were many paid bloggers from the Obama campaign - not real readers or real people who care about the issues.


you popasmoke still have a negative attitude.


Still an angry liberal.


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Posted by: 37thOSt | November 16, 2008 6:25 AM | Report abuse

Let's see Obama's birth certificate - why is there such a discussion about it ?? SHOW IT NOW.


Clearly you nuts are hiding something.


The document on the internet is the same document issued by Hawaii for births outside the country - so that document DOES NOT PROVE that Obama was born in Hawaii - so let's see the birth certificate.

Pretty simple.


Let's see the birth certificate.


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Posted by: 37thOSt | November 15, 2008 9:19 PM | Report abuse
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Just looked at this blog for the first time since the election and no one is here anymore. There are less then 2 posts an hour and they are almost all you. Time to get a life. Maybe you can just send emails to yourself, this blog is dead now.

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Posted by: popasmoke | November 16, 2008 1:16 AM | Report abuse

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Let's see Obama's birth certificate - why is there such a discussion about it ?? SHOW IT NOW.


Clearly you nuts are hiding something.


The document on the internet is the same document issued by Hawaii for births outside the country - so that document DOES NOT PROVE that Obama was born in Hawaii - so let's see the birth certificate.

Pretty simple.


Let's see the birth certificate.


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Posted by: 37thOSt | November 15, 2008 9:19 PM | Report abuse

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There is something fundamentally wrong with the Obama campaign keeping Ayers held back for the election - and now Ayers comes out and talks - the public deserves to have all the information BEFORE THE ELECTION.


There is something fundamentally wrong with the Obama campaign keeping Rev. Wrigtht held back for the election - and now Wright comes out and talks - the public deserves to have all the information BEFORE THE ELECTION.


There is something fundamentally wrong with the Obama campaign keeping Joe Biden held back for the election - and now Biden comes out and talks - the public deserves to have all the information BEFORE THE ELECTION. - well we all sort of knew he was a nut all along.


GO JOE !!!


Find that Kenyan Birth Certificate yet???


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Posted by: 37thOSt | November 15, 2008 9:07 PM | Report abuse

# 1: Depends on how the GOP will deal with this loss. If they decide they weren't extreme enough and Obama isn't a disaster, then yes, they did suffer a crippling blow. If Obama holds true to his team of rivals and post-partisan rhetoric, he could find himself in a position to create a coalition that will dominate politics for decades. If social conservatives prevail in the GOP inner power struggle, the party is in for a long spell in the wilderness (unless things get REALLY bad over the next couple of years of course). A sort of libertarian-light GOP on the other hand might work.

# 2: That's actually good news for the Democrats and bad news for the Republicans. The AA vote and youth vote are always solidly Democratic. If they managed this victory without a significant increase in voter turnout among these two demographics, they have the basis to build a lasting coalition. A lot will depend on how President Obama plays his cards.

# 3: Again, a good thing for the Democrats. Parties dominated by the wings don't stay in control for very long. It also allows Obama to bypass some demands of the far left and get things done with more moderate voices in his party. On top of that, Sen. Graham's response to the Emanual appointment seemed like an obvious overture. If Obama can get moderate Republicans on board, the GOP is in trouble. Divide and conquer in pure Machiavellian terms, but also a path to a centrist and moderate approach to the massive challenges awaiting Obama.

# 4: I still think that if he had been more McCain 2000 than McCain 2008, he would have done better and might have won. That being said, McCain never got away from his tacking to the right during the primaries. Ironically, he lost in 2000 for not being enouhg like Bush and in 2008 for being too much like Bush (I doubt he sees the humor in that). With Palin in place, he should have focused on the center. I don't think that there is a single Republican out there who would have done better (or less bad). Obama would have had a Johnson or Reagan '84 mandate...

# 5: I don't think so, she got the base fired up (something McCain should have done in the primaries). He went made a mistake in trying to follow her to the far right while he should have been courting independents and moderates from both parties.

Posted by: CohtR | November 15, 2008 9:04 PM | Report abuse

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There is something fundamentally wrong with the Obama campaign keeping Ayers held back for the election - and now Ayers comes out and talks - the public deserves to have all the information BEFORE THE ELECTION.


There is something fundamentally wrong with the Obama campaign keeping Rev. Wrigtht held back for the election - and now Wright comes out and talks - the public deserves to have all the information BEFORE THE ELECTION.


There is something fundamentally wrong with the Obama campaign keeping Joe Biden held back for the election - and now Biden comes out and talks - the public deserves to have all the information BEFORE THE ELECTION. - well we all sort of knew he was a nut all along.


GO JOE !!!


Find that Kenyan Birth Certificate yet???


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Posted by: 37thOSt | November 15, 2008 8:54 PM | Report abuse

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Myth # 1 Obama was born in Hawaii


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Posted by: 37thOSt | November 15, 2008 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Many commenters have written this already, and I agree.

I'm not so sure that the significance of the youth vote (18-29) had to do with increased turnout (+1% from last year). The reason why the youth vote was a huge key to the victory was its Obama tilt. The spread (approximately 7.4 million votes) is nearly the 8.2 million popular votes by which Obama won the entire election.

Posted by: MorelliArt | November 15, 2008 8:49 PM | Report abuse

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The Conservatives actually appear relieved this week - they were sick of the constant sniping by the angry left when the Republicans had to do what they thought was in the national interest.

The Angry left is still angry.


The Conservatives I have spoken to almost seem to be looking forward to a chance to snipe at the democrats - to have the opportunity to slam them for everything that happens and for acting in any direction.

The Conservatives are confident.


The Angry left people are either completely out of it - unrealistic - or angry and quiet. The ones who are out of it appear to not realize that the hype was just that - crazy hype. The others who are angry and dejected - they appear to finally have realized that the air will quickly come out of the liberal ballon and they will be quickly discredited.

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Posted by: 37thOSt | November 15, 2008 8:49 PM | Report abuse

The bottom line is that McCain lost youth 66-32 and Latinos 67-31. Republicans will win again... when they get 10 points back in those demographics.

I still see little sign that Republicans understand the under-30 generation. As a young swing Obama voter, I'm not particularly attached to voting Democratic forever. Every election, I will look for a pragmatic, intelligent, tempermentally conservative person on either side of the aisle. If the Republicans put up the talent and drop the intense ideology and dishonest scaremongering, I'll vote for 'em.

So far I've been interested in what I've seen out of Crist, Pawlenty, and Jindal. I would think about Jeb too if I could see him work a second political job. Hard truths: Gingrich and Romney are brilliant but sleazy. Palin is better than she showed but I think still a notch below what the position requires. Huck is all right, but not as good as the first group.

Posted by: Nissl | November 15, 2008 8:24 PM | Report abuse

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I was talking to a friend of mine who asked for unity now - I replied - if unity is so important to you why haven't we had unity for the past 8 years ???


To say the least he was taken aback and quite shocked.


He realized immediately that the angry liberals have not been looking for unity at all - ever and that it was all a bunch of complete silliness.

Then we talked some more and it became apparent to him that all this talk about unity was only on THEIR terms, not anybody else's terms.

I told him to expect the kind of respect that the angry liberals had shown the President over the past 8 years and that was all that was fair for him to expect. Then I said the war has been won - and if Obama loses the war now he will look really bad - Obama has no other way - I actually feel a chill this week - the angry left is NOT HAPPY - THEY ARE ARE STILL ANGRY - THEY REALIZE THE BALL IS IN THEIR COURT NOW AND LIFE IS ALOT HARDER WHEN THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE.

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Posted by: 37thOSt | November 15, 2008 8:14 PM | Report abuse

LoneWacko, I think you've chosen your moniker well.

You're parroting lines first enunciated by Hillary and then by Palin, neither of which were paragons of honesty with their skewed pronouncements.

We get to see how Obama governs and that should lay to rest the notion that he's a far left politico, in the same category as Kucinich. I predict Obama will take over and own the middle, just as he did in the time between finally knocking off Hillary and 11/4.

Just you wait, Wacko.

Posted by: can8tiv | November 15, 2008 8:10 PM | Report abuse

The elections results should only that George W. Bush should be prosecuted for political malpractice. The results showed that many Republicans are unhappy with W.'s performance in the White House.

The only way W stayed in front of the War issue was by opening the government check book to all that would support the Iraq war in Congress. Both side were guilty of throwing the country in an economic tail spin.

The media will turn on the Presdient-elect this summer.

Posted by: ussmcdaniel | November 15, 2008 8:05 PM | Report abuse

PALIN DRAG WAS NO MYTH.

ELECTRONIC VOTING MAY HAVE SKEWED THE RESULTS.

#5: Huh? The "myth" is true. Other posters already have commented that Pawlenty or Romney would have attracted more independents (and possibly Democrats) to McCain.

For many voters, as evidenced by her overwhelmingly negative poll ratings, Palin seems to have been a disqualifying factor for the McCain-Palin ticket.

Here's another possible myth -- that the vote count was accurate, and that Obama received only 52 percent of the popular vote.


According to Time magazine, a third of the votes cast were recorded on electronic voting machines, only a small percentage of which produced a voter-verified paper trail (not merely a paper printed vote tally, but a system that provides each voter with a receipt showing their vote).

Because there's no way to verify the tally for this portion of the vote, it's quite possible that machine anomalies (either accidental or purposeful) caused some votes to be "flipped" from one candidate to another. Indeed, there were media reports of such machine vote flipping during early voting.

So it's possible that Obama's margin (and that of other Democrats) could have been greater than reported. But due to a lack of a voter-verified paper trail for nearly a third of all votes cast, no one will ever know -- what could be termed the "perfect" electoral crime.

And because much of the mainstream media has failed to raise the issue of the integrity of electronic voting, such anomalies could happen again, perhaps in 2010, when the party out of power will be desperate to regain ground.


TARGETING OF AMERICANS BY GOV'T AGENCIES
A ROOT CAUSE OF WALL STREET MELTDOWN?

Were lenders ORDERED to offer "easy credit" to people "targeted" by government agencies?

Is government "extrajudicial targeting" of American citizens a root cause of the mortgage meltdown that spawned the broader financial crisis?

http://www.nowpublic.com/world/targeting-u-s-citizens-govt-agencies-root-cause-wall-street-financial-crisis OR
http://members.nowpublic.com/scrivener

Posted by: scrivener50 | November 15, 2008 7:05 PM | Report abuse

can8tiv opines: "Look at it this way: if his name had been Barry O'Brien and he was Caucasian, Obama would have won far more actual votes than he did, given those historic circumstances."

Complete BS. If BHO were white, he would have been knocked out early, along with Kucinich. Unlike BHO, Kucinich didn't have the MSM in his corner, was only slightly further left, and didn't have BHO's long series of questionable associates.

And, of course, Kucinich wouldn't have been able to play the race card as can8tiv and thousands other sockpuppets and other surrogates did.

Posted by: LonewackoDotCom | November 15, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

well said, REClayton.

Posted by: can8tiv | November 15, 2008 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Reason #4 resonates with me but also creates a huge question:

If this was a year in which no Republican could have won because of the REAL fundamentals facing the GOP's candidate, with so many blunders, large and small by McCain and his team added on, why was Barack Obama's win so small? Yes, I said small.

The answer is simple: R-A-C-E.

Look at it this way: if his name had been Barry O'Brien and he was Caucasian, Obama would have won far more actual votes than he did, given those historic circumstances.

The economy's meltdown right before the election, atop the trend in that direction that worried so many earlier on, the state of the world in general, especially the lowered regard for the US under Bush, not to mention the failing dollar during the primary season, the blame attached to the Republicans for Bush's leadership - they were enabling him in his quest for worst president ever, the plurality of votes should have been millions higher.

The Electoral College strategy put Obama in the President-elect category. He won over 6% more votes than McCain - but he would have won by a 9% or 10% margin if he had been the aforementioned Barry O'Brien.

IMHO

Posted by: can8tiv | November 15, 2008 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Myth #6: "America is still a Center-Right nation." As the recent Greenberg poll and other data confirm, this position can only be maintained if you acknowledge the "center" has shifted leftward -- which makes the assertion meaningless. The concerns that are most motivating the majority of Americans, and the solutions they favor, are concerns generally associated with the moderate Left. Yes, more people still identify as conservative than liberal. This is the result of a fundamental psychological truth -- change in identity lags actual change in opinion or belief. How many people call themselves Christian, for instance, long after they have abandoned the basic beliefs (not necessarily values, of course) of Christianity?

Does this mean America is now a "Center-Left" nation? Not at all. America is fundamentally a pragmatic, non-ideological nation. We have ideologues, of course, but they are not the mainstream. They (we, really, as I am one) serve an important function in developing and presenting to the practical center the values, ideas, and policies that we believe should animate our society. The practical center gets to choose, and keep us ideologues grounded in reality.

Posted by: REClayton | November 15, 2008 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Alot of tired old white people voted for Obama. Those that made lousy life choices and want to blame it on anyone but themselves. Boy are they in for a rude awakening.

Posted by: thebink | November 15, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Oh pluueeeez. At no point was McCain's campaign even credible. Same old rovian slurs, the only difference is due to the economy the non-lunatic press didn't pick it up. Simple, if the campaign is on issues, on policy, republicans lose. If the campaign is about the most likable beer swiller and filled with absurd personal smears and moral platitudes, the repuglicans win (nation loses).

Palin was a joke. Period. A bad joke, but a joke. Get over it.

Posted by: grbradsk | November 15, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

The exception to the Main Stream Media (MSM) is the Lunatic Fringe Media (LFM)

Posted by: citizenw | November 15, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

The idea that a Republican couldn't have won is ludicrous. The Dems selected a far-left cipher and the MSM helped him win through lies and smears. If the McCain campaign had been competent and the MSM hadn't been completely in the tank for BHO, McCain - or a better candidate - could have easily won.

For examples of the WaPo's smears and lies, see the partial list here:

http://24ahead.com/blog/archives/008329.html


Posted by: LonewackoDotCom | November 15, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Palin DID hurt McCain. Yes, she helped rally the conservative base, but there are other people McCain could have put on the ticket who would have done that as well. And there were certainly staunchly conservative options that could name a newspaper they read, or had non-geographically related foreign policy credentials, or some knowledge of the economy.

Posted by: ManUnitdFan | November 15, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Editos limited you to five? So you couldn't get to sixth myth: "The 'media' is biased" To hear some tell it, the Washington Post betrayed it's bias when investigating the events surrounding the Watergate Hotel some 30 years ago. The truth is that while Fox has a stated goal to sway public opinion - or to pander to those who already have the proper opinion - neither the Washington Post nor the vast majority of 'the media' set out to sway public opinion. The fact that 'the media' reflects public opinion will forever give fodder to those that think the last election was biased against them....

Posted by: DonJasper | November 15, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

"18 percent times a 25 percent increase in the Democratic margin equals 4.5 points, or a majority of Obama’s popular vote margin. Had the Democratic 18-29 vote stayed the same as 2004’s already impressive percentage, Obama would have won by about 2 points, and would not have won 73 electoral votes from Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, or Indiana.

Obama’s youth margin = 73 electoral votes."

Posted by: sjxylib | November 15, 2008 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Yes Young people did carry Obama to victory. They may have held constant in there percentage of total turnout. But Obama won them almost 66-34, compared to Kerry who won young people by single digits.

Posted by: sjxylib | November 15, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

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