Michael Barone

 Four years ago, I wrote that this was a 49 percent nation. In the 1996, 1998 and 2000 House elections, Republicans led in the popular vote by 49 to 48 or 48.5 percent; the 2000 presidential election was a 48 to 48 percent tie. Americans seemed evenly divided, mainly on cultural and religious lines. In 2002, that changed a bit: Republicans won the House vote 51 percent to 46 percent, while Bush's job approval hovered around 65 percent.

 This year his job rating has hovered around 50 percent or below. He has been the target all year of vicious and biased coverage from old media, many if not most of whose personnel saw their job as removing this scourge from the presidency. The "60 Minutes" story about Bush's Air National Guard service, which was based on obviously forged documents, is only the most egregious example. Old media have headlined violence in Iraq and reported almost nothing about positive developments there; they highlighted the charges of self-promoter Joseph Wilson and spoke nary a word when they were proved bogus; they have given good economic news far less positive coverage than they did when Bill Clinton was in office.

 Yet the results of this election closely resemble the 2002 House results. Bush beat Kerry 51 percent to 48 percent; the popular vote for the House appears to be about 51 percent to 47 percent Republican. Voters knew the stakes -- polls showed majorities thought this was an important and consequential election -- and both candidates had plenty of opportunity to make their cases. Thanks to the 527s, more money was apparently spent against Bush than for him. So the results cannot be dismissed as an accident. We are now a 51 percent nation, a Republican majority, as once again in America, love has proved stronger than hate.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM