Sailer Strategy Wins Another For GOP—But How Much Longer?
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"President Bush's campaign won re-election through the strategic gamble that there was more to gain from galvanizing conservatives and stressing moral issues than from reaching out to centrist voters… Rove's decision to largely ignore independent voters at the close of the election was a strategic gamble. But by early Wednesday morning, Rove looked to have hit the jackpot – yet again." ["Bush's Strategic Gamble Pays Off" By David Paul Kuhn, Chief Political Writer, November 3, 2004]

It took four years, but the conventional wisdom has finally accepted the "Sailer Strategy"—my oft-repeated argument (which got banned by Free Republic) that the simplest way for the GOP to win national elections is not outreach to minorities, but inreach, to its white base.

No doubt my check is in the mail.

We ridiculed Karl Rove's widely celebrated minority outreach initiatives—such as Bush's misbegotten promise in the 2000 campaign to weaken anti-terrorist efforts in pursuit of the Muslim vote (which turned out to only make up 0.3 percent of the electorate anyway).

And we applauded when, in the crunch before the 2002 midterm election, Rove abandoned trying to broaden the tent in favor of turning out the base, with excellent results.

Bush got his 2004 re-election campaign off to a potentially disastrous start by calling for Open Borders last January. But Congressional Republicans quickly hushed it up. Indeed, Bush benefited from a bit of his patented luck—his proposal to allow unlimited numbers of the world's six billion foreigners to move to America to work at minimum wage jobs was so insanely beyond comprehension that it simply didn't register with the media or the public. John Kerry never even attacked him for it.

That almost nobody could grasp that their President wanted to open the borders to hundreds of millions of aliens reminded me of that 1996 Simpsons' election episode where Kodos, the green space monster, kidnaps and impersonates Bill Clinton, but the public can't bring themselves to notice the hideous truth about their President:

Kodos [disguised as Clinton]: "I am Clin-Ton. As overlord, all will kneel trembling before me and obey my brutal commands." [Crosses arms] "End communication." 

Marge Simpson: "Hmm, that's Slick Willie for you, always with the smooth talk."

Indeed, by the end of the campaign, Bush, who never lacks for effrontery, was scoring points by denouncing Kerry for advocating amnesty for illegal aliens!

As the campaign wore on, the Bush campaign mostly stopped even bothering to claim that they were broadening the Republican tent. The battleground states were primarily around the Great Lakes, where immigrants were few and African-Americans were alienated beyond wooing. Bush and Rove concentrated on mobilizing the base, getting whites who don't typically vote to turn out, and winning back some Catholics who had voted for Reagan.

The victory Bush won was not particularly large—the typical margin in a Presidential election is nine points, three times what Bush enjoyed. Bush earned 51.0 percent, up 3.1 points from 2000's 47.9 percent. In percentage terms, that's a 6.5 percent increase in his share.

Not bad, but not terribly good either. The essential shortcoming of the Bush campaign was that while it appealed to the patriotism and family values of the working and middle classes, it didn't offer them bread and butter benefits—such as relief from illegal immigrants.

Remarkably, despite all the tumultuous events over the last four years, few regional or demographic shifts were visible. All that happened was that Bush slightly expanded his support almost everywhere. Bush's share of the vote grew in 45 states. A map of the counties Bush won in 2000 is almost identical to the same map in 2004, suggesting that Rove's various strategic initiatives to seduce particular blocs faltered.

Here is a table comparing Bush's share of the vote in 2000 and 2004 by state. It shows his performance growing the most in three highly disparate states: Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Alabama. His share shrunk only in Vermont, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Eyeballing the whole list, I can't see any particular pattern to explain why Bush did better in some states than others—it simply looks like he did about three points better overall, with random dispersion around that number.

The more I look at the results, the more I get the sneaking suspicion that, despite all the sound and fury of the last couple of years, all that has happened politically in the U.S. since the 2000 election is that 9/11 nudged the country three points to the right.

Now, though, Dick Morris, Clinton's old campaign consultant, who became a pundit after a toe-sucking scandal, has been going around saying:

"George W. Bush was re-elected on Tuesday because the Hispanic vote, long a Democratic Party preserve, shifted toward the president's side… Since Hispanics accounted for 12 percent of the vote, their 10-point shift meant a net gain for Bush of 2.4 percent — which is most of the improvement in his popular-vote share."

Personally, I like ol' Dick, even though no commentator is more consistently wrong. (Just ask Senator Rick Lazio, R-NY!) You have to admire how loyal he is to his old client Vincente Fox, President of Mexico. Dick has been spouting lies for years about the size of the Hispanic vote to advance the interests of the Mexican government.

Back in July 2002, he proclaimed, "In 2000, [blacks & Hispanics] accounted for 24 percent of the ballots —equally divided between blacks and Hispanics."

In reality, instead of 12 percent, in 2000 Hispanics made up 5.4 percent in the gold standard Census Bureau survey and 6.5 percent in the iffier VNS exit poll.

And what's the deal with Dick's arithmetic? He multiplies his supposed Hispanic 12 percent of the vote times a 10 point gain (sic) in share by Bush among Hispanics and gets not 1.2 percentage points, but 2.4.

In reality, even this fictitious 1.2-point estimate is less than half of Bush's 3.1 percentage point improvement in the overall electorate since 2000.

Unfortunately, we'll be arguing over the Hispanic vote in 2004 for some time because the main exit poll was badly botched. After the collapse of the old Voter News Service exit poll consortium following the debacle in 2002, the big news outlets organized a National Election Pool. Unfortunately, it proved as incompetent as most monopolies, notoriously predicting a sweeping three point victory for Kerry. In contrast, the much-derided pre-election telephone polls had, on average, ended up predicting a Bush victory of about two points.

Having stayed up all election night, around dawn I noticed that the exit poll data had been quietly rejiggered to show Bush winning narrowly. By Wednesday evening, it had been fiddled with again to give Bush a bigger margin.

This doesn't leave me with a lot of faith in the exit poll.

The big difficulty with an exit poll is coming up with a representative sample of polling places. Apparently, the NEP failed to do this.

Most of the exit poll data, as it currently stands, seems not too implausible. It shows Bush's share of the crucial white vote growing from 54 percent to 58 percent, which almost accounts for Bush's three point overall rise by itself. Among blacks, Bush's share grew from 9 to 11 percent, among Asians from 41 to 44 percent, and among American Indians and others from 40 to 41 percent—i.e. it's trivial.

What stands out glaringly, though, is the exit poll's claim that Bush's share of the Hispanic vote rose from 35 percent all the way to 44 percent.

Of course, that's still a decisive defeat for Bush—56 percent of Hispanics voted against him. But in fact this alleged Hispanic share seems dubiously large on several grounds.

  • First, Rove and his pollster Matthew Dowd didn't talk much about any expected successes among Hispanics during the last few months of the campaign. Their focus was on white evangelicals and the like. The key to the Electoral College was the Great Lakes states, where there are few Hispanics.
  • Second, the two non-partisan polls of Hispanics just before the election predicted almost 2-1 Kerry victories. The Washington Post poll found Kerry up 59-30, and the Miami Herald poll found Kerry up 61-33. As we saw in the overall prediction of who would win, telephone polls this year tended to be more accurate than the exit poll.
  • Third, an independent exit poll of Hispanics conducted by the Velasquez Institute found Bush with only 31 percent of the Hispanic vote. I can't attest pro or con to the accuracy of this exit poll, but then the media consortiums' exit polls' aren't much to brag about.
  • Fourth, there's little real world evidence in vote totals of a big Hispanic surge for Bush. Bush's performance was not noticeably better than average in heavily Hispanic states. For example, in New Mexico, California, Texas, Nevada, Colorado, and Illinois, all states with significant Hispanic populations, Bush's growth in share was less than his national norm of 3.1 percentage points.
  • Fifth, if you drill down into the state data, while most of the Hispanic numbers pass the smell test (for instance, in the predominant Hispanic state, California, Bush's share is said to grow from 29 percent to 32 percent), one big state does not: Texas, which has the second-largest Hispanic population.

The exit poll claims Bush's share of Texas Hispanics leapt from 43 percent to a staggering 59 percent. (My recollection is that this Texas figure was originally something like 52 percent, but in the rejiggering, it was inflated to an unlikely 59 percent in the final numbers.) Texas is what's driving this 44 percent national figure.

This is particularly odd because you would think such a shocking improvement with an important bloc in Texas would lead to a much better overall performance by Bush in his home state. Yet, Bush's growth in his share of the total vote in Texas was only 1.9 percentage points, below his national average of 3.1. The exit poll tries to explain this by claiming that—while Bush's share of the white vote grew by four points nationally—in Texas it shrank by 1 point, which seems odd, to say the least.

If 59% of Texas Hispanics supported Bush, then Bush should have carried just about every county in the state. But most of the heavily Hispanic Rio Grande Valley remained firmly in Kerry's grasp. Of the 15 Texas counties lost by Bush, 13 had Hispanic populations of 75.0% to 94.3%. The other two were Travis County (Austin), a college and government town, and Jefferson County in the East, which is 32% black.

El Paso went for Kerry this year, and he won the Hispanic parts of Dallas, where Hispanics voted 2 to 1 against Bush.

My conclusion: I can't find much evidence in the actual vote totals to support the idea that Bush won even a majority of Hispanics in Texas, much less 59 percent.

If the Texas number is much too high, this suggests his national share of Hispanics was something more like 38 to 41 percent. And that would be in line with the historic pattern—the Hispanic vote tends to rise and fall in the same cycles as the white vote, just much more heavily skewed toward the Democrats.

One more point: Election 2004 showed that immigration liberalization is simply not a winning issue.

  • First, Bush ended up going around lying about how Kerry's immigration plan was amnesty and his was not, which shows that even he knew immigration liberalization was a loser.
  • Second, the one big battleground state with lots of Hispanics was Florida, but the Cubans and Puerto Ricans in that state don't care much about immigration. All Cuban nationals who set foot on dry land in America are legally refugees, not immigrants, and all Puerto Ricans are born citizens.
  • Third, Proposition 200 in Arizona, which cracks down on illegal immigration, apparently got 47% of the Hispanic vote, showing once again that Hispanic voters have distinctly mixed feelings about illegal immigration.
  • Fourth, Hispanic voters who moved to Bush appear to have been more motivated by his opposition to gay marriage.

Of course, this won't stop Bush pushing his suicidal amnesty and expanded immigration programs.

Which in turns means that his Republican majority, essentially the result of the minority-dominated Democratic Party "tipping" like a housing project and being abandoned by whites, will itself be overwhelmed by immigrant-descended voters in the fairly predictable near future.

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

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