In the wake of Barack Obama’s victory last month, there was a lot of hand-wringing among Republicans about the strength of Obama’s turnout operation just as after 2004, Democrats were lamenting the smooth Republican organization and savvy microtargeting. But for the Georgia run-off, Obama kept offices open and was lending his turnout operation to Democrat Jim Martin, yet Saxby Chambliss still won handily. This is a good indication of what I’ve believed for a long time — that all of the emphasis on organization distracts us from facing the reality that candidates win when they give voters a reason to vote for them and/or against their opponent, not because of the superior use of the latest technology. The final national turnout numbers now confirm that this election did not produce the record turnout that was widely expected, and that the youth vote was widely exaggerated (yes, Obama did win a higher percentage of them than Kerry, but they didn’t go to the polls in the numbers that were anticipated). But at the same time, Republicans stayed home, because they weren’t given a good enough reason to vote for John McCain. In short, Obama did not win because his campaign was better at text messaging and using Facebook, but because his message had more resonance to the electorate in this political environment.
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