Love is stronger than hate. That is the lesson of the 2004 election results. Millions of Democrats and leftists have been seething with hatred for George W. Bush for years, and many of them lined up before the polls opened to cast their votes against him -- one reason, apparently, that the exit poll results turned out to favor Democrats more than did the actual results.
But Republicans full of love, or at least affection, for George W. Bush turned out steadily later in the day or sent in their ballots days before. They have watched "old media" -- The New York Times, the broadcast networks CBS, ABC and NBC -- beat up on Bush for the past year, and they have listened to the sneers and slurs directed at him by coastal elites for a long time. Now they had their chance to speak. They did so loudly and clearly, giving Bush the first popular-vote majority for president in 16 years.
The line among political insiders was that turnout would increase from 2000 and that higher turnout would favor John Kerry. Right and wrong. Turnout was up 11 percent, but Bush's total votes were up 18 percent from 2000, while Kerry's were up just 10 percent from Al Gore's.
The Democrats relied on labor unions and billionaire-financed 527 organizations for their turnout drives. They depended primarily on paid workers, some of whom were very good and some very poor; some signed up Mary Poppins, and one in Ohio was paid with crack cocaine. The Bush campaign built its own organization and relied primarily on volunteers, some 1.2 million of them. Volunteers were given varied tasks and numeric goals, and were repeatedly tested. They delivered on Election Day.
On election night, most observers were focusing on central cities to see how many votes the Democrats would roll up. Working for Fox News, I concentrated on smaller counties in Florida, Ohio and other target states in which all or nearly all the precincts had reported results. I found a clear pattern in state after state. In small and medium-sized counties, turnout was up, by 10 percent, 20 percent, even 40 percent in fast-growing areas, and the Bush percentage was up as well, by 2, 4 or even 8 percentage points. Aggregate those increases, and you have more new Republican votes than new Democratic votes in Cuyahoga or Broward counties. That, repeated over and over again, is the story of this election. Karl Rove's strategy of concentrating on increasing Republican turnout worked.