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Transcript

Election 2004: The Morning After

Robert G. Kaiser
Washington Post Associate Managing Editor
Wednesday, November 3, 2004; 11:00 AM

Associate Editor Robert G. Kaiser took your questions and gives his analysis the morning after the election.

The transcript follows.


Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Robert G. Kaiser: Good morning. I'll try to respond to questions and help explain where the election stands for the next hour or so. It appears to me at this hour that President Bush will win reelection, and will be able to claim a much clearer mandate than he had four years ago. Republicans have made significant gains in the House and Senate. 2004 has proven to be a Republican year.

But trying to explain exactly how this happened will not be easy, because our best available tool for doing so, the exit polls taken this year by the Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, is broken. I'm not sure how this can be sorted out in the future, I assume we'll have a good story about it in Thursday's paper. Essentially, the problem is that the exit poll's number don't add up.

Here is one example of the problem. It's a little complicated, so bear with me. The exit poll breaks down results by religion. It says that John Kerry did better than Al Gore did in 2000 among Protestants (43 percent for Kerry vs. 34 percent for Gore), Catholics (50 percent vs. 45), non-religious people (69 percent vs. 57) and those belonging to "other" religions (75 vs. 53). Only among Jews, a tiny fraction (three to four percent) of the electorate, did Bush do slightly better this time than last (22 percent of the Jewish vote in 2004, vs. 17 percent in 2000).

Since Protestants, Catholics, "other" and the non-religious constitute more than 96 percent of the population, these numbers suggest Kerry should have beaten Bush handily yesterday. But in fact, Bush won the popular vote by about 3.5 million votes, whereas Gore beat Bush in the popular vote by just .5 million last time. To say it another way, the exit poll claims that Kerry did a lot better than Bush with every major religious group in America, including the non-religious, yet he clearly lost the popular vote to Bush. Go figure.

I could cite a number of other such examples that I have found this morning by comparing the 2000 and 2004 exit polls. This makes me really nervous about some of the most interesting findings in the new exit poll—for example, the conclusion that "moral values" were more important to voters this year than terrorism, the war in Iraq or the state of the economy. Is that really plausible? I just don't know. Similarly, I have to wonder about the finding that young people did not participate this time in substantially higher numbers than they did in 2000. The number of young voters did go up this year, the exit poll says, but only as much as the total number of voters went up, so their share of the electorate, about 17 percent, was the same this time as last.

However it happened, Bush cleanly beat Kerry in the popular vote, a politically important fact. Indeed, Bush was the first candidate for president in many years to get more than 50% of the popular vote. His father, George H.W. Bush, was the last one to do so, in 1988.

The election-eve polls four years ago were significantly wrong, but this year they were right on the money. Only the exit polls (again) were wrong. We were seeing exit poll numbers during the day yesterday that suggested Kerry was winning a decisive electoral college victory. They were just wrong. This explains the tone of coverage during the day and early last night on television.

OK, that's a long windup. Now to your questions and comments.


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Cupertino, Calif.: What will happen to Terry Mcauliffe and the other Democratic leaders who were supposed to bring the party victory? The Democrats lost in '00, '02 and now suffered a massive loss in '04. Are heads at the top of the Democratic Party finally going to roll?

Robert G. Kaiser: This is a much bigger question that Terry McAuliffe. Who will lead the Democratic Party? I asked that question four years ago, assuming that someone would, but, amazingly, no one did. Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, the Senate and House Democratic leaders, disappeared from the field of play. Bush ran with the ball. Then came 9/11, and Bush kept the ball in his pocket. Only Howard Dean, in my view, rescued the Democrats this year and showed them how to begin to fight back. But of course he couldn't capitalize on his own achievements.

Now the Democrats face a gigantic problem. And it is compounded, in my view, by the identity of the putative front runner for their 2008 nomination, Sen. Clinton. Would a country that rejected John Kerry embrace her?

The only comfort I can see for Democrats here is the fact that the Grand Old Party is also in a crisis, well hidden by yesterday's results. It has no heir apparent to Bush, unless his brother Jeb comes into the game, and that would only work if Bush's second term is more successful than his first, in my view. The Republicans in fact are riven on many fronts, starting of course with fiscal responsibility, of which they have demonstrated none in the last four years. As Sen. Hagel has said, Republicans have "lost our moorings" on this and other issues.

These will be four fascinating, tumultuous years in American politics.

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Atlanta, Ga.: Does the Post have any clue who cast Ohio's provisional and absentee ballots? Any historic or demographic information that can illuminate the issue?

Robert G. Kaiser: It appears that only a fraction, less than a quarter, of the ballots come from overwhelmingly Democratic Cuyahoga County (Cleveland); the rest are spread across the state. Norman Ornstein, the careful analyst at the American Enterprise Institute (a Republican think tank, but Norman is a liberal), said this morning that the odds against Kerry finding the 137,000-odd votes he needs in those provisional ballots (and the unknown number of overseas and military ballots still to be counted in Ohio) is overwhelming. I don't think it's going to happen.

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Springfield, Va.: Isn't time for the Democrats to re-think what their party stands for. The Democrats have lost the national security issue and the cultural values issue. Can't win national elections when you give up that much to the Republicans. The Democrats need a new game plan and some new players.

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for the comment.

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Lake Ridge, Va.: Let's pretend the year is 1996 and the crazy election of 2000 never happened. Would the networks have already called the election for Bush?

What is the general feeling in the newsrooms about the outcome of the election? Is the media agreeing with the Bush camp and are just too gun-shy to say, or is there a feeling that the White House is jumping the gun?

(Sorry for the multiple gun cliches in one question!)

Robert G. Kaiser: Yes, before 2000, I think these results would have led the networks to call the election for Bush.

I also expect the matter to be settled by the end of the day. But I could be wrong, as I am so often!

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Chevy Chase, Md.: Bob,

You always said that the election would be determined by events that were still about to unfold. Kerry ran a strong campaign in September and October but got side-armed in August by the Swift boat controversy. How pivotal was that in retrospect?

Robert G. Kaiser: I really don't know. I think it is indisputable that Kerry failed miserably to capitalize on his good convention in Boston. He failed more miserably to anticipate, and try to take preventive action against, the attacks of his opponents. Democrats got wind of the Swift Boat guys' intentions early in the year, but the import of it never sunk in in the Kerry campaign. The Bush campaign did succeed, largely, in defining Kerry as a flip flopper with no convictions.

But Democrats have to face the fact that Kerry, like Bill Clinton, has been a poll-driven politician whose deep convictions, if he has them, have been well hidden from all of us. This hurt him too.

But I'm not sure you're right about Sept and Oct, in retrospect. Did he do as good a job as he could have in explaining to Americans what a mess we have on our hands in Iraq? Or how bad the fiscal situation is? His own fiscal promises made the latter impossible; he was nearly as unrealistic about the federal budget as Bush was.

These are preliminary thoughts. There will be many months for post morta.

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McLean, Va.: Yesterday, in his on-line answers, Newsweek's Howard Fineman seemed to suggest that President Bush may have cost himself the election by supporting bans on gay marriage, especially if they were to be enshrined in State Constitutions. But he and virtually every other pundit seemed to miss the fact that moral values were the number one issue in most of the country (liberal bastions like New York and California excepted), and my reading is that Bush's stand on gay marriage and other moral issues may have won him the election. What do you think?

Robert G. Kaiser: I think you may be right. I wish I understood what voters mean when they check off " moral values" better than I do.

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Washington, D.C.: If Kerry-Edwards were to concede the election today but a subsequent counting of votes in Ohio revealed that they had actually won that state's electoral votes, would Kerry-Edwards be bound by their concession or would they be able to claim those electoral votes and thus victory in the election?

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't think there is any way to make a concession statement legally binding. Ohio still has to certify a result and cast its electoral votes in the Electoral College. If lighting were to strike in the way you suggest, I hope and believe the actual result would be recognized.

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New Brunswick, N.J.: Hello,

It baffles me that the exit polls suggested Kerry had the edge, when the result is the other way around. Has this happened before?

Robert G. Kaiser: Often, but never so uniformly. Exit polls have misled us in some way every four years, in my experience. But this time they were universally wrong, in every big state virtually. That was a new wrinkle.

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Hong Kong, China: It seems that in Hong Kong, the worry among American voters is that there was no clear mandate from the people, because the election is just too close.

How do you think Americans in the United States might feel a lack of a clear mandate will affect the world?

Those in Hong Kong who are not Americans have looked at this election and voiced surprise that, even with the strife in the world, the Americans could not gear together a huge voter turnout, a solid decision on keeping the president, or a clear challenge to the incumbent.

What does a narrow victory mean for the US involvement in the world?

Robert G. Kaiser: Given that American opinion is do evenly divided in these early years of the 21st Century, I'd argue that yesterday's result actually gives Bush a clear mandate, a clearer one by far than he got in 2000.

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Dorking, UK: Reflecting on your original statement which I find very perceptive -- but then I find everything that write perceptive -- how do the poll estimates match the voting figures? Has every vote been counted?

Robert G. Kaiser: Flattery will get your question answered! Thanks. (not always, I should warn...)

The exit polls change throughout the day; they report results in "waves." The mood in America's political circles yesterday was set by early exit polls that seemed to signal a decisive Kerry victory was coming. Those polls proved wildly wrong--by several percentage points, though, not by big margins.

Nearly every vote has been counted. You can click on each state on our map on the top of the home page and see where the vote count stands in each one.

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Washington, D.C.: As a Democrat I think our party is grandstanding at this point... how do you respond? Is party leadership disconnected with politcal reality if they don't have Kerry concede soon? Almost all of the Ohio provisional votes would have to be for Kerry, and of course they are not.

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't see anyone grandstanding yet; I see silence. But I agree with your general point.

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Vienna, Va.: Some people, I am sure, will stress the wartime nature of this election and suggest that this election doesn't represent a turning point. I am not so sure. These conditions, like those of 2000, were pretty much ideal for the Democrats and yet they lost.

It seems to me that the Democratic party has become of the party of the minority because they will not accept the social values of middle America, and because they project an attitude that suggests they are better than the people they serve.

Anything to this?

Robert G. Kaiser: Could be. But I'd dispute the idea that conditions were ideal for Democrats in either of these elections. Bill CLinton did serious damage to the Party for 2000. Arguably, his failure to use his two terms effectively to counter the huge strides Republicans made from 1965 to 1980 and beyond was a mistake that Democrats are still paying for. Under Clinton the Democrats lost the Congress, and lost their way. They have a lot of recovering to do.

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Detroit, Mich.: Hi Mr. Kaiser,

I long agreed with you that this election would break one way or the other in the final days -- any thoughts as to why it didn't?

Robert G. Kaiser: I just don't know. Maybe it did break -- for Bush. We know there was deep gloom in the Bush camp yesterday morning; a lot of them thought they had lost. The Democrats certainly agreed. As I have pointed out here repeatedly, my reading of the historical yardsticks, most especially Bush's low approval rating, relatively, and the high percentage of Americans who thought, even yesterday, that the country was off on the wrong track, meant this should have been a Democratic year, all else being equal. Obviously, all else was not equal.

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Marblehead, Mass.: Fox news has the electoral count at 269 to 242, CNN has it at 254 to 252 and the Wash Post has it at 254 to 242. Can you shed some light on why these descrepancies exist?

Robert G. Kaiser: I'm sure it has to do with the allocation of states like Iowa, New Mexico and perhaps Nevada? One way or another, these organizations have made different "calls" on the small number of smallish states where the vote was closest.

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Montreal, Canada: Now that Bush's victory is all but confirmed, what are your predictions for Supreme Court vacancies in the next four years? Rehnquist is very likely to retire, and some analysts have suggested that up to three more slots may be vacated during the next term. Could this mean another two decades of conservative domination in the Supreme Court?

Robert G. Kaiser: Yes it could. The Democrats in the Senate will face a daunting challenge in trying to figure out how to use their 44 votes (if they stick together, which isn't guaranteed) to try to influence Bush's court appointments. 44 are enough to make a difference, since 41 senators can sustain a fillibuster and block any nomination from being confirmed. But blocking multiple Supreme Court appointments would be politically difficult, and perhaps practically difficult too.

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Washington: Mr. Kaiser, I think that what emerged last night is that America is, fundamentally, a very conservative nation. Would you agree with this, despite the "progressive" image that we give to the world with our movies, music, etc.?

Robert G. Kaiser: Too simple. We are a very complicated society. We are progressive AND conservative, tolerant AND intolerant, fearful AND adventurous, selfish AND magnanimous. I could go on and on.

But politically, I do think it's a reasonable conclusion to say that today's Democratic Party has not found a viable formula to sell progressive policies to a majority of Americans.

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Washington, D.C.: Bob,

Thanks for taking our questions! I'm sure you're very tired. So here's my question? What the heck just happened? The exit poll running on the front page of your Web site this a.m. shows Kerry (if you do the very basic math) winning the popular vote by about the margin that Bush appears to have won it. I know it's just a poll, but I'm very confused right now.

Robert G. Kaiser: Me too. See my introductory comment.

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London, U.K.: Do you believe that a Kerry victory would have improved US relations with the rest of the world and if elected can you see Bush turning around the current negative feeling?

Robert G. Kaiser: No point in speculating on what might have been. Who knows how competent a diplomat Kerry might have proven to be? But Bush has big choices before him now. In 2000, and especially after 9/11, the president made choices that surprised me. Though elected by a minority of voters, Bush did not reach out to the center or try to lead a bipartisan administration, he became an aggressive conservative leader. He also pursued an aggressively unilateralist foreign policy, to the dismay of many foreigners and old allies.

EJ Dionne wrote a good column published yesterday about these choices. I know many Republicans would would agree with EJ's analysis. Here's a link.

But Bush has a new chance now to reach out, at home and abroad. Sen. John McCain predicted last night that Bush will exploit this opportunity in order to win for himself a better place in history. McCain knows Bush better than I do, but I'm not betting on this one.

washingtonpost.com: What Bush Threw Away (Post, Nov. 2)

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Columbus, Ohio: The AP is reporting the Kerry is conceding. How strong will the president's mandate be? Will he try to bring the parties together, or continue to play to his base?

washingtonpost.com: Kerry Concedes Defeat; Bush Wins Second Term (Nov. 3)

Robert G. Kaiser: Yes, Kerry has conceded. Here's the story.

As I just suggested, I have no idea how the president will use this moment.

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Toronto, Ontario: Assuming the results give the Republicans the needed electoral votes -- did the Bush camp win this election or did the Kerry camp lose it?

Robert G. Kaiser: As always, both.

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Baltimore, Md.: Please elaborate on your tantalizing but, to me, somewhat unclear comment that Clinton failed to effectively push back the Republican gains in his two term presidency and did damage for which the party is still recovering.

Similarly, do you agree with Dean that the Democrats drew the wrong message from Clinton, in not recognizing that he is a political savant and instead thinking that he signalled a need to shift to the center/right to win?

Robert G. Kaiser: I think it will become clearer and clearer as time passes that Bill Clinton's terms produced none of the benefits for Democrats that, for example, Ronald Reagan's two terms did for Republicans. Intead of becoming an icon of the party himself, Clinton became an embarrassment. Instead of using the White House for eight years to build up the party, he worried mostly, if not entirely, about himself. His (and his wife's) disastrous failure dealing with the health care issue undermined the Dems seriously in numerous different ways. This is obviously a complicated subject; I am treating it superficially here, as this medium requires! But I think it's important to understand how the Democrats got where they are today.

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Washington, D.C.: How is the Chairman of the DNC chosen? As a Democrat, I can't say I'm too upset that Daschle lost his race, since I think he's been an utterly ineffective leader. Now I'd like to see Mcauliffe go as well.

Robert G. Kaiser: when there's no president of the party (who can chose the chairman at will), the Democratic National Committee has the power to name a boss.

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Syracuse, N.Y.: In view of the debacle of Terry McAuliffe and the Clintonites, is it even possible that Hillary Clinton, a northeatern liberal, will be considered as the front runner instead of a more palatable candidate from the midwest, west or south? The Democrats seem to be longing for the past glories and ignoring where the country is headed.

Robert G. Kaiser: I'm sure it's possible, but I don't think it is inevitable.

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. Kaiser: I think there's a very strong possibility that exit polls won't work any more. For whatever reason, more of the populace either won't respond (skewing the results) or lie (skewing even further)

Robert G. Kaiser: could be.

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Washington, D.C.: I think you are absolutely right about America being a very complex nation (and I'm not an American) -- I found it extremely interesting that a heavily red state like Montana should vote to legalize medical marijuana. Not exactly a core conservative issue.

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for posting.

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Washington, D.C.: I have felt for a long time that there are a significant group of Americans who would ultimately support Bush on election day who did not want to admit it. It is my opinion that this is the reason we are seeing the exit poll results not matching the actual vote. I would appreciate your comments.

Robert G. Kaiser: I'm sure that anxiety--in some cases, unarticulated anxiety--about changing leaders in the middle of a war played a part here. Whether it worked the way you describe I just cannot say.

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Salt Lake City, Utah: Where did the democrats go wrong? Were their efforts to turn out voters just plain inferior to the Republicans'?

Robert G. Kaiser: Interesting question. Yes, the Republicans clearly matched and bested the heavily-financed Democratic Get Out The Vote efforts, especially in key states like Florida and Ohio. (In Wisconsin and Iowa, however, it looks like the Dems did better. Minnesota and New Hampshire, too.) The Republican effort was mostly volunteers; the Dem effort was mostly paid staff and union employees. From my visit to Wisconsin and the experience of acquaintance of mine who volunteered to help the pro-Kerry effort in Pennsylvania, I had been very impressed by how well it was organized. But I didn't have to whole picture, obviously.

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Springfield, Va.: Regarding the question of a mandate, it is difficult to see a "clear" mandate. The administration's controversial policies caused a record turnout and what is clear is that people were divided along many fault lines.
Certainly, this election favored Bush more than the 2000 election, but only marginally so when one considers the built-in advantages for an incumbent President. A mandate? I don't see it.

Robert G. Kaiser: Well, I predict with confidence that the people around Bush will see it--clearly.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think Kerry ran a sensible campaign for a challenger. He rarely made appearances in TV interviews (Dr. Phil, Katie Couric and Jon Stewart don't count) and only seemed to make public appearances at Democratic campaign rallies. How could he expect to pick up votes if you are only preaching to the choir?

And why didn't he have a straightforward explanation of what he would do in Iraq? There seemed to be a lot of talk about how had he been in Bush's seat he would have done things differently, but I was very confused as to what he would do in the future.

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for posting. Iraq was an albatross for Kerry, for sure.

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Richmond, Va.: Do you believe that Bush's victory reflects more discipline in the Republican base versus the Democratic one, or undecided voters going to Bush in the last days?

Robert G. Kaiser: The first for sure; the second may have happened too.

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Mequon, Wis.: President Bush now has a chance to patch things up with America's allies such as France and Germany, and with political opponents in the U.S. He has four years and an ideal opportunity to be a compassionate conservative, with the emphasis on compassion. Do you see him going in this direction, or is it likely he'll become more isolationist and stridently conservative?

Robert G. Kaiser: Your guess is as good as (or better than!) mine.

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Bethesda, Md.: You say the Republicans have no one lined up for 2008 besides Jeb if "W" Bush does well in a second term (I can't believe we are thinking about that far out already but it comes in the context of your musing about what are the Democrats going to do going forward from here?). Actually, McCain and Rudy G have perfectly positioned themselves to run in 08. Neither one could be beaten by any Democrat out there right now.

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't agree with you, but won't start a debate here.

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McLean, Va.: I see three factions in 2006 for the Democrats:

Edwards will run with a Southern strategy

Gore will come back. (He must be kicking himself for not running this year)

Hillary will run and duke it out with the other two.

Thoughts?

Robert G. Kaiser: My gut says a newcomer will be the only potentially effective challenger to Sen. Clinton, but that's a guess.

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New York, N.Y.: Hello Robert,

A soothing voice in a tumultous time. Perhaps this is a naive question: Why is it that most big cities (outside of the deep south) and their outlying suburbs tend to vote Democratic?

City Mouse seems to be for Kerry. But Country Mouse loves Bush. Why? Education? Cultural Exposure?

Robert G. Kaiser: Fascinating question. Of course your generalizationis too sweeping: I haven't looked up the numbers yet, but I bet Bush got 40 percent of the vote in NYC yesterday, more or less. Our cities are no more unanimous in their political preferences than any other part of the country.

But they are indeed predominantly Democratic, liberal and tolerant. And I do think that is a reflection of the differences between life in big metropolitan areas, and life in the heartland. I spent several days traveling around Nebraska last month, visiting the picturesque small towns and cities of that heartland state, and was struck again and again by the differences between Nebraska and my hometown of Washington. But even in Nebraska Kerry got votes--about one third of those cast yesterday.

Americans are not strangers to one another. We all belong to the same great, complicated, rich national soup. But there are many, some profound, differences among us.

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Baltimore, Md.: Mr. Kaiser,
Would you agree with me that the Democrats simply nominated the wrong guy for President? When you look at states such as Montana and Arkansas which elected Democrats in gubernatorial and Senate races this year by fairly resounding numbers, it seems clear that voters in those states would not be averse to voting for a Democratic President. However, this Democratic president, given his "northern-ness" that he just can't seem to shake, and his perceived lack of ability to appeal to the common man, to me seems to have had no chance of winning in states like those. My take is that the states that went blue would have gone blue regardless of who the Dems nominated and that if the Dems had nominated a southerner, they might have cut into some of the more moderate red states in the Bush bloc.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for the posting. Problem is, your unnamed southerner is a hypothetical political formula, not a human being. Would John Edwards have filled your bill?

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Ithaca, N.Y.: It seems to me the Democrats' biggest mistake was the same one Rick Lazio made running against Hillary Clinton in 2000. You can't win an election merely by saying "I'm not the other person and you hate him/her." Kerry thought he could win by making it all about Bush, and not at all about him. It just doesn't work that way.

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks.

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Hartford, Conn.: Do you see the choice of Edwards for VP as a missed opportunity, considering that Graham and Gephardt were available from swing states?

Robert G. Kaiser: No.

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New York, N.Y.:
What do you think of the presidential prospects of Mark Warner of Virginia? A popular governer (good presidential launching pad) from a southern state (good location) with a moderate political bent?

Robert G. Kaiser: Interesting idea. Problem is, of course, few people have heard of him who aren't Virginians or Washingtonians.

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Alexandria, Va.: Thank you for your conscientious, hard work on election night coverage online. You were up till 11:00 PM and I respect that. I respect your providing the voice of reason as an alternative to Mr. and Ms. Soundbyte on Television, cautioning the public against the practice of prematurely calling elections on electronic media. Here is a new medium, the internet, relatively untried among news media, through which you have taken your newspaper's coverage into the 21st Century. You have provided a virtual general store, if you will, where an entire global town of participants could pitch you questions, as if you were the editor of a small-town paper, talking to the townspeople about the election of the mayor and town council. It is the vital immediacy of this medium that you have successfully exploited to its very best advantage. If there were Pulitzers awarded for online coverage, you would get one. My question is now that we have taken journalism into the 21st century what about taking the electoral system along with it? Can't we reform the electoral college? And how would you do it if you could reform the electoral college?

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for the nice words. As I wrote several times in last night's discussion, the individual states have the opportunity, and the legal power, to change the system right now. Maine allocates its electoral votes in party by Congressional district, in party by the statewide vote. I like that idea. But there are other possibilities; Colorado voters rejected one of them yesterday in a referendum vote.

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Bowie, Md.: Is it possible that the "Kerry voters" wanted their voice heard so much more so than the "Bush voters" cared in that regard that they (Kerry voters) just were out there to be picked by the exit pollsters in a way that the Bush voters were not?

Robert G. Kaiser: No, the exit pollsters are supposed to follow strict rules about who to approach (every 15th woman, stuff like that) meant to assure a random sample. They are firmly ordered to stick to these formulae. But of course some don't, one of many sources of exit poll error.

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Alexandria, Va.: Where does this leave John Edwards, who I voted for in the primaries? Toast? Or potential future candidate after all?

I don't think it helped to make him the point man last night on the Ohio matter.

Robert G. Kaiser: I have no idea.

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San Antonio, Tex.: The candidate I endorsed just conceded, but there was a very bright spot in last night's election for those in the rare disorder community or for those who have had a loved one suffer because of a kink, twist, addition or deletion in the human genome--the passage of Prop. 71 in California last night by a two-to-one margin.

Thanks to Califoria's moderate Republican governor, corporate leaders such as Bill Gates, former politicians such as George P. Shultz, and loving parents and children who fought the hard fight.

Q: How do you see the passage of Prop. 71 affecting President Bush's very rocky relationship with the scientific community over the issue of stem cell research--and his overall tempestuous relationship with scientists at large?

Robert G. Kaiser: You are referring to the $3 billion bond issue to fund stem cell research, passed overwhelmingly by California voters. I agree that this is a most interesting development. It means that despite the Bush administration's attempts to limit this scientific research, it will no flourish in our biggest state (which includes some of our finest medical research institutions). Might this actually help Bush, by in effect taking this issue off the table as a practical matter? Or does it just emphasize the gap between Bush and the scientific community? I don't know.

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Bogotá, Colombia: Did Osama's video have any efect on America's choice?

Robert G. Kaiser: apparently not. The exit poll says that those who considered it a serious matter tended to vote for Kerry, not Bush.

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Bowie, Md.: Prior to the election, I heard about record numbers of new voter registrations amoung young people (under 30), and predicitions from all kinds of pundits (including rappers) that of massive amounts of young people would head to the polls, likely favoring Kerry. How was the actual youth turnout compared to 2000? Did the much publiciized "vote or die" campaign make any difference?

Robert G. Kaiser: Because of the weaknesses of the exit poll, I'm not sure we'll ever know, but the poll's numbers are discouraging for those promoting a youth vote. The young did vote overwhelmingly for Kerry, but 18-30 year olds constituted just 17% of those who voted, the same percentage as in 2000.

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Minneapolis, Minn.: So do you think this silences the "stolen" and "illegitimate" claims since Bush is the first president since 1988 to win a majority?

Moral values = Pro-life, defense of marriage, leadership qualities

Robert G. Kaiser: Don't know, but it looks convincing to me.

I think your definition of moral values is your own, and too narrow.

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Arlington, Va.: Will this finally be the last campaign for Bob Shrum? He's never won; why do people still call him for help?

Robert G. Kaiser: A lot of Democrats I know would welcome Shrum's demise as a silver lining in the cloud hovering over them this morning. But he obviously has some charm for presidential candidates that isn't affected by his record of losing every campaign he has been involved in.

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Washington, D.C.: Aren't demographic trends working against the Republican party in the long term? Hispanics are a large and growing minority, for example, while Whites make up a smaller percentage of the population every year. Non-White non-Hispanic groups tend to vote Democratic.

Robert G. Kaiser: I think you're right. The fact that young voters were so strongly for kerry is another such factor.

But I heard Cokie Roberts on NPR this morning say that of first-time Hispanic voters, the split was 50-50. I didn't see that factoid in the exit poll wepublished, so cannot confirm it. And because of the weaknesses of the exit poll, we can't be sure it's right. But I don't think the Hispanic vote islocked up for the Democrats the way the black vote is.

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Elizabethtown, Pa.: When was the last time a Republican President was re-elected with a Republican Congress?

Robert G. Kaiser: What a good question. There is not a 20th Century example. My memory of Congressional control in the 19th Century isn't good enough to say whether there was a case before 1900. Anyone out there know the answer?

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Bethesda, Md.: I'm very confused about all this. Put aside that the exit polls were "wrong." Turnout increased markedly in heavily democratic areas (based on anecdotal and media reports) but Bush easily won the popular vote. And, having used one of those Diebold machines yesterday, I must say (and I'm a pretty level headed guy) I don't trust the thing as far as I can throw it (which I would have preferred to do).

Perhaps I'm just on the wrong side of the results and haven't come to grips yet, but....

Robert G. Kaiser: I fear your self-diagnosis may be accurate.

We need to do more work on the turnout, but I note that according to our chart on the home page, about 114 million votes were cast. That's more than in 2000, but not as many more as some experts predicted. Some speculated on 120 or 125 million votes. If there had been that many, I suspect, Kerry would have won.

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Madison, Wis.: What, if anything, do you think Kerry, the Democrats, or the Democratic 527 groups, could have done differently to improve the outcome of the election for Kerry? I feel as though we did everything we could, and too many Americans simply favored Bush (for poor reasons).

Robert G. Kaiser: well, you had a very imperfect candidate, one to whom non-Democratic voters never warmed.

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Erlangen, Germany: Do you think that the war in Iraq and Mr. Bush's handling of it has had any impact on the outcome of this election? If yes, what kind of impact?

Robert G. Kaiser: Yes, the exit poll suggests that the increasingly unpopular Iraq war helped Kerry in the election.

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Fairfax, Va.: Is the Democratic Party essentially out of business for the foreseeable future; I can see the leaders blaming a populace motivated by prejudice against gays, confused by adamant distortions about Iraq and 9-11 and by fear of terrorists stoked by the administration rather than admitting their own unwillingness to confront their opponents directly, explicitly and all the time between elections to lay the foundation for people's thinking?A

Robert G. Kaiser: On the comparable Wednesday morning in 1964, Republicans everywhere wondered if their party had been permanently marginalized by Lyndon Johnson's crushing defeat of Barry Goldwater, accompanied by a massive sweep of the congress and governorships. Four years later Richard Nixon was elected president.

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London, U.K.: How will re-electing Bush improve the USA's reputation in the rest of the world?

I travel the world on business, and I cannot recall one good word said for America in the last two years -- not in the Far East, not in Africa, but particularly not in Europe.

Robert G. Kaiser: Initially, it won't, obviously. It's up to Bush to address this issues, if he wants to.

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Robert G. Kaiser: Out of time. This political season has been great fun for me, thanks to the stimulating dialogue with all of you. I am grateful for all the questions and comments in all of these discussions. And now I plan to go back to old-fashioned journalism for a while! But I'll come back as events warrant, I hope.

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washingtonpost.com: The post-election discussion continues with The Post's Managing Editor Steve Coll.

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