It’s 1948 again?

Jay Cost:

it borrowed a page from Harry Truman’s 1948 campaign, accomplishing two goals simultaneously. First, it played to its base with a level of intensity rarely seen in the modern era. “The war on women” was a prime case in point. The idea was to maximize turnout for the president’s core groups by focusing on identity politics, encouraging them to come out and vote against a fictitious GOP bogeyman who would suppress their rights to vote, deport their friends and neighbors, deny them Medicare, ship their jobs overseas, raid their pensions, and eliminate their access to contraception. And it worked.

Second, among voters that he could not win – namely, lower-to-middle class, socially conservative whites who have disapproved of the president for four years – Team Obama worked assiduously on turning Mitt Romney into the “other.” The message to these voters was essentially: you don’t like me, but this guy is worse. They got the point, and a shockingly large number stayed home. My back of the envelope estimate, assuming 2008 turnout levels and steady population growth, suggests that almost 10 million white voters did not show up this time around.

I honestly did not think this approach would work, because unlike Truman, Obama had no FDR. There was nobody he could point to as a beacon of hope, a reminder that though the current nominee may be a disappointment, he nevertheless follows in the footsteps of a beloved leader. But I was wrong: in the end, that was the purpose that Bill Clinton served this time around; George W. Bush, naturally, played the part of Herbert Hoover.

Larry Sabato noted the lack of turn-out enthusiasm from swing voters back in June. You’d need a massive and unprecedented turn-out machine to make up for that, and there apparently were a few problems with that.

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