Why did the Democrats run Bob Casey Jr. in Pennsylvania in 2006 against Sen. Rick Santorum?
Why did President George W. Bush win a higher percentage of the African-American vote in Ohio in 2004 than he won nationwide?
Why did Proposition 8 win in California in 2008, while Sen. John McCain was losing the state in the presidential election?
The answer: The middle in American politics is not where the liberal media or establishment Republicans want you to think it is.
When Santorum beat liberal Democrat incumbent Harris Wofford in 1994 to win a seat in the U.S. Senate, the Allentown Morning Call ran a story analyzing the outcome. It betrayed a certain befuddlement.
"Earlier polls showed Santorum doing well with female voters despite his anti-abortion and pro-gun views," the paper said.
Eight years later, in a bad election cycle for Republicans, the Democrats retook the Senate seat Santorum had occupied for two terms. Their candidate that year was the son of the most famous pro-life Democrat in recent history -- and in keeping with his family name, Bob Casey Jr. claimed he wanted Roe v. Wade overturned and most abortions prohibited.
In a Democratic state, the self-professed pro-life Casey won.
When George W. Bush ran for re-election in 2004, Ohio was a must-win state -- as it often is in presidential elections.
African-Americans made up 10 percent of Ohio voters that year, according to the network exit poll. Sixteen percent of them voted for Bush. That was 7 points higher than the 9 percent of the black vote Bush won in Ohio in 2000 and 5 points higher than the 11 percent he won nationwide in 2004.
Considering that Bush beat Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, by only 2 points in Ohio, the 7 additional points Bush picked up among black Ohio voters in 2004 was an important part of his margin.
But why did more African-Americans come out to vote for Bush in Ohio in 2004 than had nationwide or had in Ohio itself four years earlier?
In the 2004 election, Ohio voted on whether to amend the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages and same-sex unions that approximate marriage. The amendment was far more popular than either Bush, who was viewed as a pro-marriage social conservative, or Kerry, who was not. The amendment won 62 percent to 38 percent -- with black voters supporting it 61 percent to 39 percent.
Without Ohio's 20 electoral votes, Bush would not have been re-elected. On the margin, an increase in support from socially conservative black voters helped put Bush over the top.