On those vote totals again. At the moment, Obama has 62.4 million votes, while McCain has 55.4 million. In 2004, Bush won 62 million votes, and Kerry 59 million.
So if there wasn’t this vaunted through-the-roof turnout, what do the numbers say about McCain’s supporters? I’ll have to look at this more closely, but if 2004 was, as everyone says, a base election, and Bush got 62 million votes, my guess is that McCain didn’t do as well with the Republican base as Bush did.
It appears that finally, on election night, McCain’s long-time problems with the GOP base caught up with him. He did a lot to alienate that base back in 2000, and he began this race knowing that he would have to patch things up. He accomplished some of that, but not all of it. I can’t tell you how many Republicans I met out on the campaign trail who expressed a marked lack of enthusiasm for McCain’s candidacy. Just last week, I met a very loyal Republican in Chillicothe, Ohio who said he felt a “Carter malaise” after McCain won the GOP nomination — and he wasn’t re-energized until McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. So from Super Tuesday through the Republican convention, this normally active Republican sat on his hands.
In this sense, I don’t think the choice of Palin hurt McCain. His problem was that he had to use a decision as momentous as his choice of vice president to shore up the support of a group, the GOP base, whose support he should have already had. At the end of August, McCain was already in a hole with the base, and he never got completely out. Things just catch up with you.