BY PETER LEROE-MUNOZ
For Napoleon, the final battle was Waterloo. For Lt. General Cornwallis, defeat came at Yorktown. For John Kerry, the 2004 presidential campaign ended in Ohio and Florida.
In accordance with most predictions, both Senator Kerry and President Bush secured the states that they had long expected to win. Kerry won the entire West Coast, a large swath of the Upper Midwest, as well as New England and the Mid-Atlantic Region. In opposition, Bush garnered the entire South, and a majority of Midwestern and Western states. This result was almost a mirror image of the Republican/Democrat split in the 2000 election, with the only changes being that New Hampshire went for Kerry, and that Bush has a lead in Iowa and New Mexico, as of the time of this printing.
As a result of the almost equal electoral split, only a handful of swing states were competitive on Election Day, and among those, it was really the “triumvirate” – Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida – that ultimately decided the presidential race. True to many projections, results from these states were exceedingly close. Kerry amassed 51% of the votes cast in Pennsylvania compared to Bush’s 49%, but the Senator trailed the President in Florida and Ohio, 52% to 47%, and 51% to 49%, respectively. The narrow margin of Bush’s victory in Ohio, 136,000 votes, initially led Kerry to postpone conceding defeat on Tuesday night. However, after a meeting with advisors on Wednesday morning, the Senator decided that the uncounted absentee and provisional ballots would fail to deliver the state’s 20 electoral votes. At the time of his concession, Kerry had 252 electoral votes to the President’s 274.
Exit poll statistics offer some insights into why the President succeeded in his bid for reelection. First, Bush had increased electoral support among all racial minority groups when compared with the 2000 election. Among Caucasians, he garnered 58% of votes cast, up four percent. From African-Americans, he received 11% of votes cast, an increase of two percent. Among Latinos and Asians, he acquired 44% of votes from both groups, and increased his support by nine percent and three percent, respectively.
Despite several well-publicized efforts among celebrities and activists to increase participation among young voters, the much-anticipated surge of this population never materialized, and this may have been another factor contributing to Bush’s victory. While voters between the ages of 18 and 29 were more likely to support Kerry by a margin of 54% to 45%, an MSNBC survey found that levels of participation remained constant with those of the 2000 election.
Another statistic that might explain Bush’s victory is his high level of support among members of the military, a population that constituted 18% of the electorate. Despite a highly controversial war in Iraq, and the often-divisive military operations associated with the War on Terror, the President amassed 57% of the military vote.
Finally, surveys among the electorate revealed that two of the issues most important to voters were those of moral values and the terrorism. On these issues, Bush won overwhelming support from voters: 80% of voters felt the President had stronger moral values than Kerry, and 86% of voters felt safer with Bush leading the country in its anti-terrorism efforts.