It's a little after midnight Eastern time as I start, and from the sounds of it George W. Bush has survived to win re-election. All night the two most telling indicators were the rather solid leads he opened up and maintained in Florida and Ohio. In normal times, everyone would have called those two for Bush much earlier. But these aren't normal times, haven't been since 2000 when Democrats refused to accept that a near dead heat could amount to a loss for them, and the greatest robbery in the history of civilization. So instead of telling it like it is the networks had to pretend all evening that the pro-Bush Ohio-Florida numbers were an aberration that wouldn't stand.
Think of it another way: Bush has just destroyed another 10,000 or so jobs -- all those Democrat lawyers sent into Florida and Ohio to wreck our electoral system suddenly are left with nothing to do except run up expense accounts. Perhaps they and the unemployed John Edwards can now go into business together.
Given how election day went, surviving must seem a huge relief. It's disconcerting to spend a day among Republican-leaning folk, all of whom where preparing their concession remarks in the face of a looming Kerry victory. Their defeatist reaction to the weird afternoon exit polls betrayed a deep unease with Bush himself -- a sense that he ultimately proved no improvement on his father, that he's been cavalier on issues far too many issues that matter to the right, and let's not even start about the wisdom of going into Iraq so late in the game with no particular concern of what would happen after Mission was Accomplished.
But whatever Bush's limitations, he has one strength that few Republicans match: an appetite and aptitude for politics as such. The energy he committed to this campaign was remarkable by any standard. In Pennsylvania (the one place the maligned exit polls got right) perhaps it backfired. His people will say the president's frequent trips their forced Kerry to spend their instead of elsewhere. But it also reminds conservatives of the rather cynical effort the White House made to support Arlen Specter at all costs instead of investing in a rising GOP star in Pat Toomey. The one-sided results in PA suggest Republicans in the state paid Bush back, Big Time.
On the other hand, I knew Bush had won Florida when the incomparable Michael Barone on Fox explained how Republicans there had increased their turnout in remarkable ways -- a feat apparently emulated in Ohio.
A few moments ago on CNN -- it's now 1:03 a.m. -- a forlorn James Carville was licking his wounds, calling it a bad night for Democrats. He seemed to hold out no hope that the remaining numbers could break Kerry's way. Fox already is giving Bush 269 votes, guaranteeing reelection if only via the House. Carville, of course, was also reacting to the numerous Republican Senate and House gains. Nothing in this year's election suggested an anti-Republican trend. It's ironic that a relatively weak incumbent president didn't prevent his party from consolidating its congressional majority.
About time Carville was chastened. Momentarily forgotten in the fatigue of a long, still uncompleted night is that Carville's wild man, vulgar style -- which in decades past would have earned him and his adherents lock-up in solitary confinement -- is what set in motion a politics that culminated in the Democrats' Bush hating.
It would have been bad enough for Bush to lose for falling short as a statesman conservatives could genuinely admire. But it would have been terminally demoralizing to lose to the Michael Moores, Dan Rathers, Paul Krugmans, and Bush-Cheney sign stealers of our fair planet. As luck would have it, not nice guys don't finish first.
UPDATE: It's now past 3:00 a.m. Eastern time, and Kerry-Edwards have decided to extend their classless campaign another day or week or month or presidential election cycle. Go ahead, guys, make the Republicans' day. Most revealing is that Kerry-Edwards aren't acting alone, but with the full support of major networks. As this night ends, Fox and NBC have Bush at 269 electoral votes; ABC, CNN, and CBS have him at 249, refusing, along with the Democratic ticket, to concede Ohio, even though statistically Bush has soundly won that state. This is an unprecedented outrage, certain to drag the ticket and the colluding media and whatever Democrats join in to ever lower lows none of them has yet experienced.
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