Elsewhere, Bush had a bigger edge. His popular vote was up 21 percent in safe Bush states and 16 percent in safe Kerry states, compared to 12 percent and 5 percent for Kerry. The Bush organization literally reshaped the electorate. The 2000 exit poll showed an electorate that was 39 percent Democratic and 35 percent Republican. The 2004 exit poll, which was tilted toward Democrats, found a dead-heat: 37 percent to 37 percent. That means that Republican turnout was up 19 percent and Democratic turnout up only 7 percent. This is the most Republican electorate America has had since random-sample polling was invented.
Re-elected presidents seldom do much for their parties; certainly Reagan and Nixon didn't. Roosevelt did, and Bush evidently intends to also. Look for Mehlman to continue engineering volunteer organizations to increase Republican turnout and further reshape the electorate. Obvious targets are New Jersey and Virginia, which elect governors in 2005. Neither was a battleground state this fall; Bush ran better in New Jersey and a little worse in Virginia than expected, and Mehlman would like to make Virginia safer and put New Jersey in play.
Then there are the 2006 Senate races in Pennsylvania, where Republican Rick Santorum could face a serious challenge, and in Michigan and Minnesota, where freshman Democrats are likely to face serious challenges. John Kerry carried all three of these battleground states with just 51 percent of the vote. Mehlman wants to change those numbers by 2008.
Sam Walton made his fortune by selling goods at low prices in downscale rural and exurban communities where other retailers saw little profit. Mehlman won the election for Bush by increasing the Republican vote in downscale rural and exurban counties where neither party used to think many more votes could be won.
Wal-Mart is now the most successful retailer in history. Mehlman seeks to be the most successful party-builder ever. No one made much money betting against Sam Walton. I wouldn't bet against Ken Mehlman, either.