An Analysis of Election 2002
"Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan," or so the saying goes. It is a reflection on the nature of this historic election that it has so many fathers. The election was shaped by many participants and various activities, particularly with in the business community. Indeed, business has reason to be both very pleased with the outcome and the role they played in its creation. BIPAC is certainly pleased on both counts. Still, not is all as it appears.
First, let's look at what really happened. Although pollsters may attempt to reinvent their forecasts, polling data simply did not project a GOP win of this magnitude. To the very end, polling forecast an evenly divided electorate and close races. Indeed, even in the outcomes, there is nothing to suggest the electorate has significantly shifted its political party allegiance. About four weeks ago, however, we pointed out an emerging disparity between the intensity of likely voters, with those tending to vote Republican about 6% more "intense" than those intending to vote Democrat. The weekend before the election, that gap jumped to 15%.
That GOP voter intensity advantage coupled with a relevant message personally delivered by the President of the United States in battleground states, motivated GOP and GOP leaning voters. Some Democrats contend it was their inability to focus the campaign on the economy that caused their defeat. Data would tend to disprove that. In the hours preceding the election, voters were 8% more comfortable with the GOP in charge of the economy than the Democrats.
More importantly, it is evident the voter turnout effort by the GOP and its allies had substantially increased. Simply put, the pro-business candidates enjoyed increased turnout among their supporters while the Democratic turnout in many key races was reduced. The combination of the two was enough to win a number of critical House and Senate races and it is difficult to pinpoint any group or effort. In this regard, there truly are many fathers.
Through the Prosperity Project alone, we can account for nearly 8 million direct employee messages and 1,700 participating companies. Through what we know our allies did, the total communications reached at least 11 million. That is more than five times the number of employee messages and eight times the company participation we had in 2000. In selected races, that effort was significant enough to have accounted for the difference. Still, the winning margins were relatively thin.
Both political parties seem to be concluding that the differences in resources also played a large part in the outcomes. The Democrats say they lost where they were outspent and the GOP hint their money advantage made the difference down the stretch. There is little evidence to justify either conclusion. Indeed, there is some evidence to suggest that television, particularly negative advertisements, became counter-productive to both candidates. This is certainly a subject for further discussion.
No doubt, the election results create an increased opportunity for positive consideration of the pro-business agenda. However, Republican control is still nominal, particularly in the U.S. Senate where sixty votes may be needed to pass substantive legislation and neither the Republican nor Democratic caucuses are monolithic on some fundamental issues. Tempered expectation is suggested and a continued focus on improving our tactical advantage advised. 2004 is not that far off.
About the Author
Gregory S. Casey is the President and CEO of BIPAC.